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Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Pheucticus ludovicianus ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: CARDINALIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

Bursting with black, white, and rose-red, male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are like an exclamation mark at your bird feeder or in your binoculars. Females and immatures are streaked brown and white with a bold face pattern and enormous bill. Look for these birds in forest edges and woodlands. Listen, too, for their distinctive voices. They sound like American Robins, but listen for an extra sweetness, as if the bird had operatic training; they also make a sharp chink like the squeak of a sneaker.

Merlin Bird ID app
Birds of North America Online

Songs

Both males and females sing a rich, sweetly whistled song. The pattern is similar to an American Robin’s song, composed of many notes that alternately rise and fall. Most people describe the grosbeak’s song as sweeter and more melodious than a robin’s. The song can last 6 seconds and consist of 20 notes or syllables. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are one of few bird species reported to sing while sitting on the nest. The female sings when nest-building, incubating, and brooding. The male often sings quietly from the nest and loudly from other high perches.

Calls

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks give short, sharp, penetrating chink calls, sometimes likened to the sound of a sneaker on a gym floor. They also give harsh, repeated squawks when alarmed.

Search the Macaulay Library online archive for more sounds and videos

Backyard Tips

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks often visit bird feeders, where they eat sunflower seeds as well as safflower seeds and raw peanuts. Even if you live outside their summer range you may still catch one visiting during spring or fall migration if you keep your feeders stocked.

Find This Bird

A good way to find Rose-breasted Grosbeaks is to listen for them. The song sounds like an American Robin in an unusually good mood—a long sing-songing string of sweet whistles. Once you hear one, follow the sound until you walk up under his song perch and look for his black, white, and red plumage. Also pay attention for squeaky chink calls—so sharp-sounding that they’re very distinctive. Both males and females frequently give this call. In flight, look for a distinctive pattern of big white spots in their dark wings.