Black-headed Grosbeak

The Black-headed Grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus, is a member of the bird family Cardinalidae. It is a migratory bird which nests from southwestern British Columbia, through the western half the United States, into central Mexico. It prefers deciduous and mixed wooded areas. It likes areas where there are large trees as well as thick bushes. It may also be found around riverbeds, lakeshores, wetlands and suburban areas.

The Black-headed Grosbeak is between 6.5 and 7.75 inches in length and weighs about 1.65 ounces. The male has a black head, wings, and tail with prominent white patches. Its breast is orange in color and its belly is yellow. The female has a brown head, neck and back. She has white streaks down the middle of her head, over her eyes and cheeks. Her breast is white and the wings and tail are grayish-brown with two wing bars and yellowish wing edges.

Nests are built by the female among dense foliage, on an outer branch of tall broadleaved trees or shrubs. The nests can be found anywhere from 3 to 35 feet from the ground. The female lays 2 to 5 pale green, blue or gray eggs that are spotted with red or brown. Both male and female incubate the eggs for 12 to 14 days. Once hatched, the young leave the nest in about 12 days, however they are unable to fly for another two weeks. These birds typically have only one brood per season.

The Grosbeak’s song is a rich warble that is similar to the American
Robin but more fluent, faster, softer and sweeter. The song is also much longer than that of the Robin. Both the male and female sing, but have different songs. They are also known to sing while incubating. When trying to court a female, males fly with their wings and tail spread.

The diet of the Black-headed Grosbeak consists of pine and other seeds, berries, fruit, insects and spiders. During the summer months it mostly eats spiders, snails and insects. It is one of the few birds that can safely eat the Monarch Butterfly. In their wintering grounds this bird consumes many monarchs and also seeds. It will come to bird feeders for sunflower and other types of seeds, and also fruit.