Black-headed GrosbeakPheucticus melanocephalus

adult male
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
adult female
Laure W. Neish/VIREO
immature male (1st summer)
Adrian & Jane Binns/VIREO
juvenile female
Arthur Morris/VIREO
adult male
Glenn Bartley/VIREO
Black-headed Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeak

Family

Description

7 1/2" (19 cm). Starling-sized. Heavy pinkish-white bill. Male has black head; tawny-orange breast; yellow belly; and tawny back with black streaking; black wings and tail with conspicuous white patches. Female has white eyebrows and pale buff underparts; breast very finely streaked. Young resemble females.

Voice

Rich warble similar to that of a robin but softer, sweeter, and faster. Call note an emphatic, sharp tick, slightly metallic in tone.

Listen

chink calls & leisurely song
extended song
song #2
chink calls
song #1

Habitat

Open, deciduous woodlands near water, such as river bottoms, lakeshores, and swampy places with a mixture of trees and shrubs.

Range

Breeds from southwestern Canada east to western North Dakota and Nebraska and south to mountains of Mexico. Winters in Mexico.

Discussion

Black-headed Grosbeak hybridizes with its eastern counterpart, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, along their mutual boundary. This situation arose when the treeless prairies, which once formed a barrier between the two species, became dotted with towns and homesteads, providing suitable habitats for both species. The Black-headed Grosbeak is a rather still and secretive bird throughout the summer. Like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, the males of this species, despite their bright colors, share incubation with the females. However, they are not conspicuously marked above; the brightest coloration is on the breast and belly, which is concealed as they incubate. Their food is quite varied. Heavy seeds are easily cracked open with their huge beaks; although sometimes they pose a problem in fruit orchards, Black-headed Grosbeaks also consume harmful insects and are highly valuable to farmers.

Nesting

3 or 4 greenish eggs, spotted with brown, in a loosely built stick nest lined with rootlets, grasses, and leaves, and placed among the dense foliage of an outer tree limb.

Similar Species

adult male

Eastern Towhee

7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male has black hood, back, and wings. Tail black with white edging on outer feathers; breast and belly white with bright rufous sides.

adult male, interior

Spotted Towhee

7-8 1/2" (17-22 cm). Male head, chest, rump, and tail black; back and wings black, with many white spots; sides rufous; midbelly white. Female: brown replaces black of male.

adult male, breeding

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

8" (20 cm). Starling-sized. Heavy pinkish-white bill. Male black and white with conspicuous rose-red patch on breast and underwings.

adult male

Orchard Oriole

7" (18 cm). Bluebird-sized. Adult male has chestnut body and black head, back, wings, and tail. Female yellow-green; immature male similar to female, but has black throat.

adult male

Brambling

5 3/4-6" (14.5-15.5 cm). Breeding male has black head and back, tawny-orange breast and shoulders, spotted flanks, white belly; in fresh fall plumage, the head, back and chest are flecked with buff.

Vireo

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