Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

A small bird with black back and head, white belly and red bib and breast sits on a twig.

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Introduction

The rose-breasted grosbeak, named for the males' brightly-colored breast and the species' heavy bill, is a fascinating bird because several of its behaviors are unexpected.

For instance, in most species in which the male is brightly colored, only the female incubates, but rose-breasted grosbeaks are an exception to this rule. The female incubates during night hours, but the male will incubate the eggs for about a third of daylight hours.

When the nest exchange occurs, both birds will softly sing to each other. The female then flies off to find food and water and get some exercise, while the male incubates and guards the nest.

Fascinating Facts

  • Both males and females sing, unlike most other species in which only the male sings.
  • Singing may also occur on the nest, which is unusual as most birds tend to be very quiet near the nest in order to avoid detection by predators.
  • Territorial male rose-breasted grossbeaks permit migratory males in their territories, but will chase them out if they sing.
  • Territorial males chase males; females chase females.
Identification
  • Key ID Features: Male is black above as is head, white below with brilliant red “V” shaped marking on breast. Male displays white wingspots in flight. Female is brown/gray, heavily streaked, and has a very heavy bill as does the male.
  • Present in Park: Late April through October. Look for these birds in forests, such as those at Fort Snelling State Park.
  • Habitat: Deciduous forests. Nests are located in trees and made of twigs lined with fine grasses and other materials.
  • Voice: A series of whistled rising and falling notes. Some suggest the song sounds very robin-like. Listen

Did You Know?