rose_breasted_grosbeakRose-breasted Grosbeak

Pheucticus ludovicianus

Description

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a medium-sized songbird.  These birds have large triangular bills and squared tails.  Males have white bellies, black backs, black wings with white markings, and bright red breasts.  Females and immature males are streaked brown and white.  An immature male will have a light colored rosy wash on its breast.

Size

A Rose-breasted Grosbeak measures about 8 inches (20.3 cm) long and has a wingspan of 12 inches (50.8 cm).  An average bird weighs about 1.5 ounces (42.5 g).

Adaptations

  • A grosbeak’s thick bill is for cracking open large seeds which other smaller-billed birds are unable to open.
  • Like many female birds, Rose-breasted Grosbeak females are dull in color to help them avoid being noticed by predators while sitting on the nest. The male’s bright colors help him to attract a female mate.

Diet

In the wild, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks consume seeds, fruits, and insects.  The songbirds at Cosley Zoo are fed a processed insectivore (insect-eater diet), birdseed, fruit, greens, mealworms, and crickets.

Reproduction

Male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks work together to build their nest.  The female lays 1-5 eggs per clutch (group of eggs).  Males and females work together to incubate the eggs for 11-14 days before they hatch.  After hatching, the parents will feed and care for the young for an additional 9-12 days until they fledge (begin to fly), and then for approximately three weeks after fledging until the young become self-sufficient.  Rose-breasted Grosbeaks raise 1 or 2 broods per year.

Shelter and Space Needs

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are most common around forests and forest edges.  They live in Canada and the Northeastern United States (including the Chicago area) during the summer, and migrate to Central and South America for the winter months.

Life Expectancy

The longest-lived wild Rose-breasted Grosbeak known to man died at the age of 12 (almost 13).  Captive birds can live over 20 years.

Relationship with Man

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are popular with birdwatchers because of their lovely songs and the males’ striking appearance.  They are often seen eating at feeders, especially during migration, and are useful consumers of insect pests.

Fun Facts

  • During migration, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks fly the entire span of the Gulf of Mexico (over 500 miles) without stopping!
  • The name Grosbeak comes from the French words gros (“large”) and bec (“beak”).