Saturday, September 29, 2007

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak--A Rare Bird

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak-- Courtesy of the US Dept of Fish and Wildlife Digital Depository

In the early 1980s I bought a can full of seeds that were supposed to grow into flowers and plants that would attract wild birds to my backyard. And grow they did! They grew into huge, tall flowers that then went to seed. The seed heads looked strange, and alien and like something that you might hack off and feed to your your parakeet--or perhaps a flock of parakeets. It was actually kind of disturbing. I was about to mow down this twilight-zone garden when I looked out the window one morning before 7AM and saw a male Rose-Breasted Grosbeak (RBGB) on the ground eating the seeds. I was stunned. Not only did that can of seeds attract birds, it attracted a bird I had never seen before! I checked my guide book several times. (Hey, this was before the Internet, so that is all I had.) After checking, I had no doubt. It was a RBGB. But would anyone believe me? From everything I had read, it was not a bird that lived around here.

A You-Tube video of the Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

However, it turns out that RBGBs are seen in Orange County. Seen rarely, it's true, but they are seen. In fact, several have been seen over the years at Huntington Central Park. RBGBs have also been seen at Mason Regional Park, Laguna Regional Park, Santiago Regional Park, and neighborhood backyards. It is a rare bird, but hardly an impossible bird.

A RBGB is in the family Cardinalidae. The same family as the Cardinal. Like the Cardinal, it eats seeds and fruit, and flowers. In fact, it often shares bird feeders with Cardinals. The Grosbeak part of its name refers to the fact that it has a large beak. This helps it crack seeds.

The RBGB is often compared to a robin, but considered the better singer. The female as well as the male sings. They sing a lot and don't stop when nesting.

The female is drab like most female birds and hard to distinguish from the female Black-headed Grosbeak. There is a link below that discusses the difference between them.

Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak feeding nestlings. Courtesy of the US Department of Fish and Wildlife.

This is a bird that is often hard to see because it is often feeding high in the trees. It does come to feeders though, and that is often the best chance to see it. The term grosbeak refers to its large beak which makes it easy to eat seeds. If you want to know how to pronounce "grosbeak" click Merriam Webster pronunciation here.

Take a look at some of these RBGB links:

All About Birds from Cornell University -- Rose-breasted Grosbeak
The usual thorough article from All About Birds. This one is about the RBGB of course. Lists distribution, range maps, habits, link to hear bird's song, and photographs.

Bedford Audubon Society--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Information about the Rose-breasted Grosbeak in New York.

Bird Watcher's Digest Species Identification: Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Nice, short article.

Bird Houses 101--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Good article on the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Lots of details.

Birder's World Photo of the Week
Nice shot of a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Chipperwoods Observatory in Indiana--Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Photos of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks including their wing linings.

Identification of Female Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks
Article by Joseph Morlan. It originally appeared in Birding in 1991 and compares the two female grosbeaks and discusses how to tell them apart. Clear.

Internet Bird Collection--Rose-breasted Grosbeak Videos
Videos of Rose-breasted Grosebeaks.

Orange County Rare Bird Alert Sightings for this Species
Central Park in Huntington beach seems to be a where it is seen most often. Is it because there are more birders there to see it? Or are there more RBGBs attracted to Huntington CP than other places?

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Photos from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
Photos from the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center. Click on a picture to enlarge.

YouTube Videos of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks
YouTube videos of RBGBs. Some good, some not so good. This one of a male feeding a young bird is a good one.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saw a RBGB at my feeder yesterday. I live in San Diego. I couldn't believe it, have never seen one. Took me a while to even identify him.