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Pine Grosbeak

Pinicola enucleator ORDER: PASSERIFORMES FAMILY: FRINGILLIDAE

IUCN Conservation Status: Least Concern

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.

Keys to identification Help

Finches
Finches
Typical Voice
  • Size & Shape

    The Pine Grosbeak is a large and plump, heavy-chested finch with a round head. Its bill is thick and conical, but much stubbier than in other finch species. The tail is long and slightly notched.

  • Color Pattern

    Males are reddish pink and gray. Females and immatures are grayish with tints of reddish orange or yellow on the head and rump. They all have dark gray wings marked by 2 white wingbars. The amount of reddish pink on the bellies of males and the head and rump color on females is variable.

  • Behavior

    Pine Grosbeaks hop among branches to nip off fresh buds and needles or on the ground to grab fallen seeds. Males sing a warbling song from treetops during the breeding season. In the winter they form small groups and travel together in search of seeds and fruits, often showing up at bird feeders. In some winters they move or irrupt farther south in search of food.

  • Habitat

    Pine Grosbeaks inhabit open spruce, fir, and pine forests as well as subalpine forests. In winter they tend to use mountain ash, maple, and ash forests with abundant seeds.

Range Map Help

Pine Grosbeak Range Map
View dynamic map of eBird sightings

Field MarksHelp

  • Adult Male

    Pine Grosbeak

    Adult Male
    • © Raymond Lee, Parkland County, Alberta, Canada, November 2011
  • Female or immature male

    Pine Grosbeak

    Female or immature male
    • Large finch with thick but rounded bill, notched tail
    • Two white wingbars and white wing-edging
    • Female is gray with yellow-green head and rump
    • Immature male looks like female throughout first year of life
    • © Janet Bowden/PFW, Palmyra, Maine, January 2006
  • Adult male

    Pine Grosbeak

    Adult male
    • Large finch with thick but rounded bill, notched tail
    • Two white wingbars and white wing-edging
    • Males' head, back, body, and rump are rosy red
    • Bill and eye are black
    • © Tammie Hache/PFW, Manitouwadge, Ontario, Canada, January 2009
  • Female

    Pine Grosbeak

    Female

Similar Species

Similar Species

White-winged Crossbills are smaller than Pine Grosbeaks and have a crisscrossed bill. Female White-winged Crossbills have streaks on the belly and back that female Pine Grosbeaks lack. Evening Grosbeaks have a longer and larger yellow bill and a shorter tail than Pine Grosbeaks. House Finches (as well as Cassin's and Purple Finches) are much smaller and they have streaky sides and backs, which Pine Grosbeaks lack.

Regional Differences

Plumage coloration varies across the range of Pine Grosbeaks, but these differences are not consistent. Male Pine Grosbeaks in California are often more orangeish and females more yellowish. Birds in the interior West tend to have less red.

Backyard Tips

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.

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.

Get Involved

Join Project FeederWatch and tell us how many Pine Grosbeaks you see at your feeder. Learn more and help contribute to valuable information to science at Project FeederWatch.

Count the number of Pine Grosbeaks in your yard during the Great Backyard Bird Count and help us learn more about the distribution and abundance of birds. Find out more and sign up at Great Backyard Bird Count.

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