What Is It Wednesday: [Female] Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Name: [Female] Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Typically, male bird species get the spotlight due to their colourful plumage, but we’re going to take some time now to highlight this particular female bird species. The female Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a medium-sized songbird with no bright colours to be had. Typically, females are a dark brown with a pale chest and belly, brown and white streaks on its back and chest, and a striking facial pattern that ends in a stout, triangular beak. Although they are not considered as pretty as their male counterparts, they can sing just as sweetly. Their song is described as “an American Robin in an unusually good mood” (The Cornell Lab, All About Birds).

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are one of the few bird species that share in all matters of nesting and raising their young. The male will usually stake out territory before he accepts a female as his mate (a female may wait up to 2 days for the male to accept her approach). The two will then pick a suitable nesting site, each taking a turn to settle into it at all angles, and then build the nest together. Once the female has laid her eggs, both will take turns incubating, but the majority of the work rests on the female (all night and most of the day). Once hatched, both parents take turns feeding their young for the first month or so of their hatchlings’ lives until they become fully independent.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks tend to breed in Canada in April and May and then migrate to warmer climates in August and September (Figure 1). They have a wide range of habitat, which includes most deciduous and mixed forests, and semi-open habitats, such as old pastures, gardens, parks, and overgrown field edges.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are big fans of bird feeders, as the seeds provide an excellent supplement for their diet. They prefer sunflower seeds but will also snack on safflower seeds and raw peanuts. When they’re not at the bird feeder, they prefer the taste of insects and fruits.

Fun Fact: Female Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s can be just as aggressive as their male counterparts. Males are known to attack any species that get too close or make too much of a commotion in their territory, whereas females will not hesitate to attack any other female that gets too close to their male partner.

Figure 1: Year-round range map for Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Rose-breasted_Grosbeak/maps-range).


Photos by P. Allen Woodliffe and Bill Grant