Black Headed Grosbeak

The Black-Headed Grosbeak can be viewed visiting feeders and birdbaths here on the coast on a regular basis. Black Headed Grosbeaks are medium-sized songbirds with short, thick bills.

The male with its black head, rusty orange breast, nape, and rump, black back, white patches on its wings which are yellow underneath, and the outer tail feathers that are white is easy to identify.

The female, on the other hand, is drab and streaked, but she also has yellow underwing linings. She has a dark crown, a white line above the eye and below the cheek, and two white wing bars on each wing. First-year males are streaked like females but have more orangey underparts.

They nest in open habitats in deciduous woodlands near water, such as river bottoms, lakeshores, and swampy places with a combination of trees and shrubs. The female lays up to 4 greenish eggs in a loosely built stick nest lined with rootlets, grasses, and leaves. The nest is placed among the dense foliage of an outer tree limb. Watching them go about the task of caring for their young is fascinating. Both males and females will take on this job.

Black Headed Grosbeak
Black Headed Grosbeak, photo by Bud Logan

Black Headed Grosbeaks have very large bills that are perfect for cracking open seeds, they can also use these bills to crack open beetles, bugs, or snails and indeed do. During the breeding season, their feed consists of up to 60% insects.

Black Headed Grosbeaks breed from Vancouver Island Canada east to western North Dakota and Nebraska and south to the mountains of Mexico. They have a rich voice, not unlike a robin but a bit harsher.

Black Headed Grosbeak, Vancouver Island, BC
Black Headed Grosbeak, Vancouver Island, BC, Photo By Robert Logan

A message from Bud

5 thoughts on “Black Headed Grosbeak”

  1. Just wondering if they breed as far north as Nanaimo? I will be moving out there shortly from Ontario, and will really miss my Rose Breasted Grosbeaks that I have here. I think that I have seen them at Sechelt, but I was wondering if there are any other Grosbeaks breeding in western BC?

    1. I live in Sayward on north Vancouver Island. I had a breeding pair of black-headed grosbeaks here at my feeders all summer long.

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