- ORDER: Passeriformes
- FAMILY: Cardinalidae
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.More ID Info
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.
- Picogrueso Pechirrosado (Spanish)
- Cardinal à poitrine rose (French)
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.
- Cool Facts
- In parts of the Great Plains, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak hybridizes with its close relative, the Black-headed Grosbeak. Hybrids can look like either parent species or be intermediate in pattern, with various combinations of pink, orange, and black. The two grosbeak species are most likely to hybridize in areas where both species are scarce.
- Researchers used mounted specimens of male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to explore aggressive behavior. Live male birds attacked the white rump and flanks of the models, suggesting that the white markings are more important than the red chest in stimulating aggression.
- Rose-breasted Grosbeaks build such flimsy nests that eggs are often visible from below through the nest bottom.
- The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak takes a turn incubating the eggs for several hours during the day, while the female incubates the rest of the day and all night long. Both sexes sing quietly to each other when they exchange places. The male sometimes sings his normal song at full volume from inside the nest.
- This bird’s sweet, robin-like song has inspired many a bird watcher to pay tribute to it. A couple of early twentieth-century naturalists said it is “so entrancingly beautiful that words cannot describe it,” and “it has been compared with the finest efforts of the robin and… the Scarlet Tanager, but it is far superior to either.” Present-day bird watchers have variously suggested it sings like a robin that has had opera training, is drunk, refined, in a hurry, or unusually happy.
- Two males share the record for the oldest Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Both birds were at least 12 years, 11 months old when recaptured and released during banding operations. One was banded in 1972 in Vermont and found in the same state in 1984. The other was banded in Maryland in 1976, and recaptured in 1987 in the same state.