Thursday, May 18, 2017

Blue Grosbeak

A Blue Grosbeak?

Yes, such a bird exists!  There are 5 different grosbeaks in Canada: Pine, Evening, Rose-breasted, Black-headed and Blue Grosbeak.  They are all finches but not of the same genus.  There are other finches with large beaks but they are not called 'grosbeaks'.  Our discussion here concerns our 'grosbeaks'.  The Black-headed Grosbeak is a western species.  The Rose-breasted inhabits most of Canada.  The Blue Grosbeak is generally a southern species.  The Pine Grosbeak is generally a northern species and the Evening Grosbeak lives across the continent.  It appears the grosbeaks have spread completely across North America.

Blue Grosbeak - Immature Male
Shown above is a young male Blue Grosbeak presently visiting feeders on Grand Manan.  Being a finch it readily eats seeds.  Shown below is another immature male which visited a feeder in Gagetown a few years ago.

Blue Grosbeak - Immature Male
These young birds barely show their blue colour.  They look much like the cinnamon-coloured females.  See below for a female which also visited this province.

Blue Grosbeak - Female
This species is strongly sexually dimorphic (males and females look different).  That can really confuse us.  See below for a picture of an adult male.  There is little confusion in identifying this one!  But note the cinnamon wing bars and the deeper blue colour.

Blue Grosbeak - Adult Male [Internet Photo]
The reason I mention the deeper blue colour is that we need to distinguish this species from the Indigo Bunting which is also very blue, but a lighter blue and a smaller bird.  How lucky you would be if you had both of these species together in your yard at the same time!

The Blue Grosbeak is listed as a very rare spring and fall visitor to New Brunswick.  Most are seen along the Fundy coast and they often appear at feeders.  The normal range for this species is the southern United States where it breeds.  It usually winters in Mexico, Central America south to Panama.  The birds we see here are often young birds seeking new territory.

The Blue Grosbeak is closely related to North American buntings (Indigo Bunting, Lazuli Bunting, Painted Bunting).  It prefers overgrown fields, bushy roadsides and riparian habitats.  It likes to stay low to the ground but will sing from an exposed perch.  Its call note is a 'chink' sound and it sings with a beautiful warbling sound.  

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for sharing your blog, Bev. Very picturesque as well as informative. Some good painting pictures here also. Janice