Bold black and white bird with a bright red chest

Robbikal Adlim Tuesday, May 1, 2012
This is the first time we had Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at our feeder. Two males, what a gorgeous bird. No pastures in our area, surrounded by vineyards, fruit trees, woods and the Niagara River. Don't know if they normally come this north. Adrian from Queenston, Ontario Canada.

Each spring the Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate north in April and May in search of breeding grounds in southern Canada and the northcentral and northeastern United States. They are a Neotropical migrant, and will return to Mexico, Central America, and South America as early as August.

Most are very hungry during migration and take advantage of food offered at feeders. It's quite a sight to see this distinctive black and white bird with a bright red chest! The females resemble a large brown sparrow with a white eyebrow. The name “grosbeak” is from the French word grosbec and means “large beak.”

They are very common feeder birds at the beginning of spring preferring sunflower, safflower, suet, fruit, and nuts. As the bird establishes its nesting territory and the weather changes, over half of their diet is made up of insects. But they always are attracted to the water in a bath.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak nests in deciduous and mixed forests. But the bird is still a bit of a mystery. Its life history has not been well-studied and little is known on their migration routes, dispersal, habitat use, and nutrition during migration and on wintering grounds. Even the species name ludovicianus which means "from Louisiana" doesn't make sense because it is just a migrant there.

If you don’t see them at your feeder keep your ears open. The Cornell Lab of Ornithology describes the Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) song like that of the robin, only as sung by an opera singer, being mellower and more sweetly melodic.

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