Black-Headed Grosbeak

Black-Headed Grosbeak Pheucticus melanocephalus

Type of Animal:

Woodland, forest, patches of broadleaved trees/shrubs within conifer forests, streamside corridors, river bottoms, lakeshores w/ large trees/thick bushes/shrubbery, wetlands, suburban areas, edge habitats, cottonwood/aspen groves on floodplains, cottonwood/aspen groves on stream margins, deciduous canyons/valleys w/ large trees/rich understory, gardens w/ large trees/rich understory, orchards w/ large trees/rich understory, subtropical/tropical lowlands w/ rich understory/large trees, streamside groves of cottonwood/willow, streamside trees, brushy riparian areas, mesquite groves, tropical brush, desert washes, thickets on open woodland edges/ponds/swamps/streams, swampy areas w/ mix of trees/shrubs, yards w/ lots of trees, riversides, canyons, desert

W & C North America from SW Canada to Mexico w/ vagrants in Central America

Males have black heads/wings/tails w/ prominent white patches, dark to tawny orange breast, & yellow belly. Females have brown heads/necks/back w/ black streaks, white streaks down middle of head/over eyes/on cheeks, white breast, & grayish-brown wings/tail w/ 2 white wing bars/yellowish wing edges. Both sexes have large bills. Fairly stocky bird.

Beetles, caterpillars, wasps, bees, flies, butterflies, spiders, snails, seeds, berries, fruit, oats, wheat, nectar, grape jelly, grasshoppers, scale insects, cankerworms, buds, suet, vegetables, butterfly/moth larvae

Status in Wild:

Protected by Migratory Bird Treaty Act

Flocks of 2-10 birds, separating into male-female pairs during breeding/nesting season

Additional Info:

Male: Cock
Female: Hen
Young: Chick
Group: Flock
1.2-1.7 oz

2 weeks 

Life Span:
6 years in wild, 12-20 years in captivity

7.1-7.5 in

Body Length:
7.1-7.5 in

Tail Length:
0.4 in

Main predators of adults are cats, dogs, raccoons, weasels, striped skunks, larger snakes, bobcats, raptors, coyotes, foxes, bears, & large corvids. Many snakes, jays, magpies, rock squirrels, deer mice, & chipmunks eat chicks.
Nests tend to be bulky & loosely constructed.
They raise 1-2 broods a year w/ each clutch containing 2-5 eggs.
Males court females w/ vigorous singing/striking displays called “nuptial flights” lasting 8-10 seconds.
Males highly territorial during breeding/nesting season, w/ fights sometimes resulting in death.
These birds tend to be migratory.
While mature at a year old, males don’t get adult coloration until closer to 2 years old.
Chicks stay w/ parents for 1-2 months.
Females sing simplified version of male’s melodious robin-like song.

Fun Fact(s):
These birds make an appearance on Season 1, Episode 4 of the show Criminal Minds.
Sometimes hybridize w/ Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks.

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