The black-headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) is a medium-size
seed-eating bird the same family as the northern cardinal, the Cardinalidae. It is
sometimes considered cospecific with the rose-breasted grosbeak (P. ludovicianus) with which it
hybridises on the American Great Plains.
The black-headed grosbeak's approximate length is 18–19 cm (7.1–7.5 in); it
is similar in
size to a common starling.
As per its name, the male has a black head, and black wings and tail with
prominent white patches. Its breast is dark to tawny orange in color, and its
belly is yellow.
The female has a brown head, neck and back with sparrow-like black streaks.
She also has white streaks down the middle of her head, over her eyes and on her cheeks.
Her breast is white and wings and tail are grayish-brown with two white wing bars and
yellowish wing edges.
The black-headed grosbeak prefers to live in deciduous and mixed wooded
areas. It likes to be in areas where there are large trees as well as thick bushes, such as
patches of broad leaved trees and shrubs within conifer forests, including streamside
corridors, river bottoms, lakeshores, wetlands, and suburban areas. It also seems to avoid
Females build nests among the dense foliage on an outer branch of tall
broadleaved trees or shrubs, 3–35 ft (0.91–10.67 m) above ground. They will occasionally
build in dense shrubs such as blackberry. The nest is in the shape of an open saucer, made of
fine grass, rootlets twigs, bark and conifer needles. It is often lined with rootlets, hair, and
fine plant material. The female lays two to five pale green, blue or gray eggs that are spotted with
reddish and dark brown. The eggs are incubated by the male and female for 12–14 days.
After the eggs have hatched the fledglings leave the nest in about 11 or 12
days, however they are unable to fly for another two weeks. The young are fed by both
adults. The black-headed grosbeak's monogamy is under study, but pair bonds
generally last for only one breeding season. They typically have one brood per season, though double broods have been
documented in foothills of the Sacramento Valley in California.
The female of this species looks similar to the female of the rose-breasted
grosbeak and is best separated on geographical range.
The grosbeak's song is a rich warble that is similar to that of an
American robin but more fluent, faster, softer, sweeter and mellow with rising and falling passages that make the song much longer than the robin's. The note is a sharp ik or eek. Both the male and female sing, but have different songs.
The black-headed grosbeak eats pine and other seeds, berries and
insects, spiders and fruit. During the summer months it mostly eats spiders, snails and insects. It is one of the few birds that can safely eat the poisonous monarch butterfly. In their wintering grounds,this grosbeak consumes many monarchs and many seeds. It will come to bird feeders for sunflower and other types of seed, and fruit.
Black-headed grosbeaks range from the Pacific coast to the middle of the US.
Great Plains from south western Canada to the mountains of Mexico. US and Canadian
birds are highly migratory, wintering in Mexico. In the Great Plains the range of the
black-headed grosbeak and the rose-breasted grosbeak overlap and have interbred
somewhat. After thebreeding season, they tend to seek out berry-rich areas. They migrate south
early in the fall and return to the north late in the spring and have been known to do so in
flocks. They also like to live in the desert in Arizona.
Black-headed grosbeaks frequently sing from prominent perches. Both the
male and female sing, but have different songs, and both are known to sing from the nest
while incubating. When trying to court a female, males fly with their wings and tails spread.
They forage in the foliage, on the ground or in low vegetation and are prominent berry
Thought for today:
DIV align=center>Courage is the price that life exacts for granting peace.
knows no release from little things.