Monday, December 19, 2011

Pine Grosbeaks

Nothing empties a sunflower feeder faster than a flock of grosbeaks. (here's a video on YouTube showing why.)

Pine Grosbeaks are a bit smaller than jays but for their size have an incredibly soft whistling voice. It always amazes me that these large birds make such a soft sound.

In fact, overall they just seem like a "soft" bird. Even with their sharp, bright markings, they have a plump look to them due to the thin grey edging on the feathers and their large chests. They are incredibly graceful fliers and land much more gently than even the tiny chickadees. And, while initially timid, they quickly grow accustomed to us and don't mind being at the feeder while we fill ones nearby.

Males are bright red, and since we don't have cardinals in Hovland, they're the brightest bird at the feeder at this time of year. Females are a dusky gray with a wash that varies from orange to yellow in the sunlight. Immature males look nearly identical to females, maybe a tad bit more red to their orange coloration. They don't develop their bright red color until their second year:

They're with us for nearly nine months every year, flying north for the short summer breeding season. And, while they're regular winter visitors, they are classified as an "irruptive" species meaning that there are some years of mass migrations south. We've never had more than 30 in the yard; I can't imagine how beautiful an irruptive year must be!

1 comment: