|Conservation status||Extended its breeding range eastward during the late 19th century and early 20th century. In recent decades, eastern population has declined again, but reasons are poorly understood.|
|Habitat||Conifer forests; in winter, box elders and other maples, also fruiting shrubs. Breeds in coniferous and mixed forests; often associated with spruce and fir in northern forest, with pines in western mountains. In migration and winter, may be equally common in deciduous groves in woodlands and semi-open country.|
Forages mostly in trees and shrubs, sometimes on ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.
3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale blue to blue-green, blotched with brown, gray, purple. Incubation is by female only, about 11-14 days. Male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 or 2 broods per year.
Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 or 2 broods per year.
Mostly seeds, some berries and insects. Seeds make up majority of diet, especially seeds of box elder, ash, maple, locust, and other trees. Also feeds on buds of deciduous trees, berries, small fruits, weed seeds. Will feed on oozing maple sap. Eats some insects in summer. At bird feeders, very fond of sunflower seeds. Will eat fine gravel for minerals and salts. Huge bill allows it to crack large seeds with ease.
In courtship, male "dances" with head and tail raised, wings drooped and vibrating, as he swivels back and forth. Male frequently feeds female. In another courtship display, both members of a pair may bow alternately. Nest: Usual site is on horizontal branch (often well out from trunk) or in vertical fork of tree. Height varies, usually 20-60' above ground, can be 10-100' up. Nest (built by female) is a rather loosely made cup of twigs, lined with fine grass, moss, rootlets, pine needles.
Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds
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Winter range in East very irregular, large numbers moving far south in some winters, little apparent movement in others. Such invasions have become smaller and less frequent in recent years. In the West, occasionally invades lowlands from nesting areas in mountains.
- All Seasons - Common
- All Seasons - Uncommon
- Breeding - Common
- Breeding - Uncommon
- Winter - Common
- Winter - Uncommon
- Migration - Common
- Migration - Uncommon
See a fully interactive migration map for this species on the Bird Migration Explorer.Learn more
Songs and CallsSong a series of short, musical whistles. Call note similar to the chirp of the House Sparrow but louder and more ringing.
Learn more about this sound collection.