Living Bird Magazine
Pine GrosbeakPinicola enucleator
- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Fringillidae
These plump finches dwarf every other finch in the trees and nearly every bird that lands on the feeder. The grayish bodies of Pine Grosbeaks are decked out in pinkish reds on males and yellows on females. They easily crush seeds and nip off tree buds and needles with their thick and stubby bill. They breed in open spruce, fir, and pine forests, but they drop in on feeders in winter, especially in the East when they sometimes irrupt outside of their normal range.More ID Info
Find This Bird
There are two ways to find Pine Grosbeaks: look for them on their breeding grounds in the West or in Canada; or wait for them to come to sunflower seed feeders in winter in the northern states. During summer, look in open spruce and pine forests and listen for their rich, warbling singing from treetops from mid-May through early August. Their size and sluggish behavior make finding one in a tree easier than finding nearly any other finch. In winter, they frequent bird feeders, but you may also be able to find a group of grosbeaks eating grit along roadsides near open evergreen forests.
- Camachuelo Picogrueso (Spanish)
- Durbec des sapins (French)
Pine Grosbeaks frequently visit feeders especially in the northern states during the winter. Because of their size a large tube feeder, platform feeder, or large hopper is best. Fill one of these feeders with black oil sunflower seeds or hulled sunflower seeds. Learn more at Project FeederWatch.
- Cool Facts
- Pine Grosbeaks eat a lot of plants, but it can be tough for their nestlings to eat and digest all that vegetation. Instead of feeding plants directly to their nestlings, they regurgitate a paste of insects and vegetable matter that they store in pouches at the lower part of their jaw on either side of their tongues.
- Not all Pine Grosbeaks are the same. Not only do they differ in the amount and intensity of red across their range, they are also different sizes. Body size and wing and tail length generally increase from Newfoundland westward to the Yukon Territory. But birds on Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Island) in British Columbia, Canada, and in California are among the smallest of all Pine Grosbeaks. Wings and tails of birds on Haida Gwaii are around a half inch smaller than birds in Alaska.
- Pine Grosbeaks aren't just in North America. They also breed in subalpine evergreen forests from eastern Asia to Scandinavia.
- The tameness and slow-moving behavior of the Pine Grosbeak prompted locals in Newfoundland to affectionately call it a "mope."
- Winter flocks may stay near a tree with abundant fruit until all of it is consumed.
- The oldest recorded Pine Grosbeak was a male, and at least 9 years, 9 months old when he was found in Quebec in 1970. He was first captured and banded in Connecticut in 1961.