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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Common Name: Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Scientific Name: Pheucticus Ludovicianus.

What to look for?  A stocky bird bursting with black, white, and rose-red colors! When you see the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak, you will know it! Males have a distinctive red breast - a brilliant red chevron extending from the black throat down the middle of the breast. They are also identified by their very large triangular bill. The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak has black feathers on the head, back, wings and tail. He has white belly feathers and a white‐feathered rump patch and some white feathers on the wings. The female Rose-breasted Grosbeak is not “rose-breasted”. She has brown feathers on her upperparts with brown‐streaked feathers on the belly. At first glance, you might think she is a sparrow of some type. She has a large, light bill, white wing bars and white stripes in the center of her head and above each eye.

Where can they be found at Carillon Stonegate Pond? Rose-breasted Grosbeak summer here in Illinois. You will find these songbirds around our bird feeders. A good way to find Rose-breasted Grosbeaks is to listen for them. The song sounds like an American Robin.

How big are they? The Rose-breasted Grosbeak averages just over 7 ½ inches in length. And their wingspan is just over twelve inches. They weigh in at around 1 ½ of one ounce.

What are their flight patterns? Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have an undulating flight pattern. In flight, look for a distinctive pattern of big white spots in their dark wings.

How else do they behave? Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are territorial and males will ward off male intruders by spreading their tails, flicking their wings, raising their crown feathers, and often chasing the intruder away.  They forage primarily in shrubs and trees, searching for food among foliage. Sometimes they will hover to take insects from foliage or bark, or flies out to catch insects in mid-air.

What’s for dinner? Mostly insects, seeds, and berries. They are frequent visitors to backyard bird feeders, where they eat sunflower seeds with abandon. During the breeding season Rose-breasted Grosbeaks eat a lot of insects, as well as wild fruit and seeds. They mostly feed on berries during fall migration. Their diet includes beetles, bees, ants, sawflies, bugs, butterflies, and moths.

Where do they take up residence? Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are common summer residents in the northern two‐thirds of Illinois. They gravitate toward second-growth woods, suburban areas, parks, gardens, and orchards, as well as shrubby forest edges next to streams, ponds, marshes, roads, or pastures. You can find them among both deciduous trees and conifers.

Where do they breed and nest? Once mated, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks appear to be monogamous. Nesting takes place from May through July. The nest is cup‐shaped and is placed in the fork of a branch of a tree or shrub.

Where do they migrate? Long-distance migrant. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fly from Illinois and other North American breeding grounds to Central and northern South America. Most of them fly across the Gulf of Mexico in a single night, although some migrate over land around the Gulf. Grosbeaks that winter in Panama and northern South America tend to be from eastern parts of the breeding range, while those wintering in Mexico and Central America tend to be from western parts. Migration occurs late in spring and early in fall. Similar to many birds, they migrate at night.

What is their conservation status? There is low concern. According to the North American Breeding Bird Survey, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak has seen slight decreases in populations. Partners in Flight estimates the global breeding population at 4.7 million.

Do they make any interesting sounds? Listen for their distinctive voices. While they are said to sound like American Robins, their song has an extra sweetness to it (have a musician explain that to you!). The Rose-breasted Grosbeak has been described as a songbird that bird had operatic training. Here is a link to the sounds of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Interesting Facts About the Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

  • This bird’s sweet, robin-like song has inspired many a bird watcher to pay tribute to it stating that it is “so entrancingly beautiful that words cannot describe it.”

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks populations experienced a slow decline from 1966 to 2015, resulting in a cumulative loss of about 35% during that time, according to the North American Breeding Bird Survey. Partners in Flight estimates a global breeding population of 4.1 million.

  • The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes a turn incubating the eggs for several hours during the day, while the female incubates the rest of the day and all night long.

  • Researchers used mounted specimens of male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to explore aggressive behavior. Live male birds attacked the white rump and flanks of the models, suggesting that the white markings are more important than the red chest in stimulating aggression.

  • Rose-breasted Grosbeaks build such flimsy nests that eggs are often visible from below through the nest bottom.

  • The oldest Rose-breasted Grosbeak was approximately 13 years old.

For more information on the Rose-breasted Grosbeak and sources of information used in this blog (these are the sources that I am using to learn as I blog), please visit All About Birds, Audubon Society and National Geographic.  And the Cornell Lab of Ornithology provides a wonderful source of information for anyone interested in learning more about birds.

The Carillon at Stonegate community is very fortunate to have a variety of wetland, forest and prairie environments conducive to a variety of birds and other wildlife, plants and insects. Our community and the Kane County Forest Preserve do an exceptional job in maintaining this natural environment – both for the benefit of the birds and wildlife and for our residents to enjoy.


Take a hike and see what you can find – and identify!

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