Grosbeak literally means ‘large beak’ and is given to songbirds from three different families: finches, cardinals, and weavers.
There are a total of 34 species of Grosbeaks in the world, and of these, five are regularly occurring, and two are casual visitors to North America. The Grosbeaks in North America are from the finch and cardinal families.
Male Grosbeaks are brightly colored sturdy birds, and females are more subdued in their coloring. They have powerful beaks suitable for cracking seeds and notched tails and look very similar in size and shape even though they are from different family groups.
Black-headed Grosbeaks live to the west of the Rockies, and Rose-breasted Grosbeaks live to the east. Blue Grosbeaks live in the Great Plains and southern states.
Evening Grosbeaks, although they are one of the most famous of the North American breeds, may just suddenly appear from time to time when cone crops are bad, and they have to fly south to feed. Usually, they live in Canada and west of the Rockies.
Pine Grosbeaks are usually found in similar areas to Evening Grosbeaks. The other two species are accidental and usually live further south in Mexico and beyond, but they stray across the border.
This guide will help you identify the types of Grosbeaks spotted in North America according to avibase and uses data collected from bird watchers on ebird to give real information about when and how often these birds are spotted. The birds are ordered in how frequently they are recorded on checklists by bird watchers.
How often Grosbeak are recorded in bird checklists in North America:
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3.00%
- Black-headed Grosbeak 1.80%
- Blue Grosbeak 1.50%
- Evening Grosbeak 0.57%
- Pine Grosbeak 0.17%
- Crimson-collared Grosbeak >0.01% – accidental
- Yellow Grosbeak >0.01% – accidental
7 Species of Grosbeak in North America:
1. Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks males are black-and-white birds with black heads and backs, white bellies, and red breasts. They also have a flash of red under their wings.
Female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks and immature males are brown with lots of streaking and a flash of yellow under the wings.
- Pheucticus ludovicianus
- Length: 7.1-8.3 in (18-21 cm)
- Weight: 1.4-1.7 oz (39-49 g)
- Wingspan: 11.4-13.0 in (29-33 cm)
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks breed in northeastern US states, the Midwest,and southern and central Canada. They can be seen during migration in southeastern US states. Winter is spent in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
You can find Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in forests, parks, and backyards foraging for insects, berries, and seeds.
Rose-breasted Grosbeaks Song:
Nests of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are placed in the branches of a low tree. They are made of loosely-formed twigs, grass, and plants. There are about five eggs that take two weeks to hatch. Both parents take turns incubating the eggs.
Attract Rose-breasted Grosbeaks to your backyard with sunflower seeds and peanuts.
Fun Fact: Unlike most songbirds, the female Rose-breasted Grosbeak is known to sing as well.
2. Black-headed Grosbeak
Black-headed Grosbeaks are large songbirds with orange breasts and throats and black wings and heads. Females are brown on the back and with brown spots on their pale orange breasts.
- Pheucticus melanocephalus
- Length: 7.1-7.5 in (18-19 cm)
- Weight: 1.2-1.7 oz (35-49 g)
- Wingspan: 12.6 in (32 cm)
Black-headed Grosbeaks breed west of the Rockies and migrate to Mexico for the winter.
You can find Black-headed Grosbeaks in habitats with access to water, and they often visit backyards. Their large bills are great for crushing seeds and insects such as snails and beetles.
Black-headed Grosbeak Song:
Nests of Black-headed Grosbeaks are made from twigs, pine needles, and other plant material. They are loosely made but lined with softer material, including hair and stems. They lay up to five eggs, which take two weeks to hatch and up to two weeks for the young to leave the nest.
Attract Black-headed Grosbeaks to your backyard with sunflower seed feeders. They will also feed on oriole feeders.
Fun fact: Male Black-headed Grosbeaks court the females by singing while fluttering up and down from a perch with their wings spread to display their coloring.
3. Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeaks are medium-sized birds with large bills.Males are blue with two brown wing bars. Females are mostly brown but with some blue coloring on their bodies. They share the same brown wing bars as the male. Juvenile males are covered in patchy blue-cinnamon feathers with brown wing bars.
- Passerina caerulea
- Length: 5.9-6.3 in (15-16 cm)
- Weight: 0.9-1.1 oz (26-31 g)
- Wingspan: 11.0 in (28 cm)
Blue Grosbeaks breed in southern US states and the Great Plains before migrating to Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.
You can find the Blue Grosbeak in shrubby habitats. They prefer semi-open areas with cultivated lands, overgrown fields, woodland edges, or hedgerows.
Blue Grosbeaks diet is insects and seeds. During the summer, they feast on caterpillars, praying mantises, grasshoppers, and beetles, as well as spiders and snails. They also eat seeds, weeds, and grass too. In winter, they eat mainly seeds.
Blue Grosbeak Song:
Nests of Blue Grosbeaks can be found low in the ground, around shrubs and vines. They usually are found up to ten feet above the ground and built from twigs, weeds, leaves, and bark. The inside is lined with snakeskin, paper, fine grass, and animal hair. They lay up to five eggs that take about ten days to hatch. In another ten days, the young leave the nest.
Attract Blue Grosbeaks to your yard with grain and seeds.
Fun fact: Breeding pairs of Blue Grosbeaks may defend a territory of up to 20 acres.
4. Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeaks are chunky birds with big bills and a striking yellow and black pattern. Adult males have a bright yellow stripe over their eyes, making them look fierce. Their heads are black, with gray necks, and their chest and belly are yellow. They also have a white patch on their wings.
Females and juvenile males have greenish bills, mostly gray bodies, black and white wings, and a yellow tinge to the neck.
- Hesperiphona vespertina
- Length: 16 to 22 cm (6.3 to 8.7 in)
- Weight: 38.7 to 86.1 g (1.37 to 3.04 oz)
- Wingspan: 30 to 36 cm (12 to 14 in)
Evening Grosbeaks remain all year in southern Canada and down the west coast to northern California. However, when cone crops are poor, they will migrate south to most US states.
You can find Evening Grosbeaks in forests and mountain regions. They’re often attracted to bird feeders in backyards during the winter, most often because it’s an easy food supply.
Evening Grosbeaks naturally feed on flower buds during spring; insect larvae from treetops during the summer; and in the winter, they flock to backyard feeders or feast on seeds, berries, and small fruit.
Evening Grosbeak Song:
Nests of Evening Grosbeaks are usually found up to 100 feet above ground in pine trees. The nests are loosely made, composed of twigs, rootlets, grass, moss, and pine needles. There are usually up to five eggs laid by the female, and she incubates them for two weeks until they hatch.
Attract Evening Grosbeaks to your backyard during winter with sunflower seeds, berries, and maple buds.
Fun fact: Evening Grosbeaks have such powerful bills that they can crush seeds that are too hard to open for other smaller birds, so these birds hang around to eat whatever is left behind.
5. Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeaks males are red birds with gray on the wings and tail and two white wingbars. Females are gray with dull orange heads and rumps. They are large for finches and relatively slow.
- Pinicola enucleator
- Length: 7.9-9.8 in (20-25 cm)
- Weight: 2.01 oz (57 g)
- Wingspan: 13.0 in (33 cm)
Pine Grosbeaks are mostly found in Canada, but some can be spotted along the US border, the mountainous west, and the Sierra Nevada in California.
You can find Pine Grosbeaks in forests of pine, spruce, and fir, feeding on seeds, fruit, and buds from these trees. They will also eat some insects in the summer.
Pine Grosbeak Call:
Nests of Pine Grosbeaks are commonly found ten to twelve feet above the ground on a low tree. The nests are made of twigs, barks, weeds, moss, and lichen and hold two to five eggs. The female incubates these eggs for about two weeks until they hatch.
Attract Pine Grosbeaks to your backyards with black oil sunflower seed feeders or suet feeders.
Fun Fact: Pine Grosbeaks are aptly named. Their scientific name, “Pinicola,” is Latin for “pine dweller”.
6. Crimson-collared Grosbeak
Crimson-collared Grosbeaks are medium-sized, stocky birds from the cardinal family. The male is remarkably striking with its black hood and bright crimson, sometimes pinkish-red collar and shoulders. Its belly is dotted with black. The female also has a black hood but has a greenish/yellowish body.
- Rhodothraupis celaeno
- Length: 8.0 – 9.25 inches (20.2 – 23.5 cm)
- Weight: 2.1 oz (60g)
Crimson-collard Grosbeaks live in northeastern Mexico, and they sometimes wander up to southern Texas.
You can find Crimson-collared Grosbeaks in humid or semi-dry forested areas, woodland edges, and dense, brushy thickets.
It is hard to know precisely what the Crimson-collared Grosbeak eats as it keeps itself hidden under dense cover when foraging. However, it probably feeds on fruits and berries, leaves, and insects.
Crimson-collard Grosbeak Song:
Nests of Crimson-collared Grosbeaks are made out of grasses and twigs, usually built on a bush, shrub, or low tree. They lay three eggs, but not much else is known about their young.
7. Yellow Grosbeak
Yellow Grosbeaks are medium-sized birds from the cardinal family with gray-black bills that seem too big for their bodies. The male’s head, chest, and belly are a bright, solid yellow, with black wings dotted with white markings.
Females have a more subdued color, sometimes even olive-hued on the head and the rest of the body, while the wings are gray with white tips.
- Pheucticus chrysopeplus
- Length: 8.5 – 9.4 inches (21.5 – 24 cm)
- Weight: 2.2 oz (62g)
Yellow Grosbeaks live on the Pacific side of Mexico and into southern US states.
You can find the Yellow Grosbeak in tropical forests, woodlands, and shade-coffee plantations feeding on seeds, fruits, and berries. They also feast on insects.
Nests of Yellow Grosbeaks are commonly built on mid-level trees or in dense bushes. They are made using grass and sticks with other fine materials lining them. The female lays around five eggs that incubate for about two weeks.
Attract Yellow Grosbeaks to your background by leaving sunflower seeds, apple slices, and peanut kernels in your bird feeders.
- 7 Species of Grosbeak in North America:
- Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks males are black-and-white birds with black heads and backs, white bellies, and red breasts. ...
- Black-headed Grosbeak. Male. ...
- Blue Grosbeak. Male. ...
- Evening Grosbeak. Male. ...
- Pine Grosbeak. Male. ...
- Crimson-collared Grosbeak. ...
- Yellow Grosbeak.
Cardinalidae (often referred to as the "cardinal-grosbeaks" or simply the "cardinals") is a family of New World-endemic passerine birds that consists of cardinals, grosbeaks, and buntings. It also includes several birds such as the tanager-like Piranga and the warbler-like Granatellus.What is a grosbeak look like? ›
Adult males are black-and-white birds with a brilliant red chevron extending from the black throat down the middle of the breast. Females and immatures are brown and heavily streaked, with a bold whitish stripe over the eye. Males flash pink-red under the wings; females flash yellowish.What is a good feeder for grosbeaks? ›
To attract grosbeaks, go big: while these large birds may be able to squeeze onto a tube feeder, you'll have better results offering the seeds on a platform feeder. Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins also take sunflower seeds, but they frequent nyjer feeders too.Where are evening grosbeaks most common? ›
Breeds in coniferous and mixed forests; often associated with spruce and fir in northern forest, with pines in western mountains. In migration and winter, may be equally common in deciduous groves in woodlands and semi-open country.What does it mean when a cardinal visits you? ›
Cardinal Meaning and Symbolism
For many bird lovers, the sight of a cardinal holds special meaning, sometimes evoking emotional or spiritual feelings. They say the vibrant red bird is an uplifting, happy sign that those we have lost will live forever, so long as we keep their memory alive in our hearts.
Some claim a cardinal represents the blood of Christ. Others believe loved ones who've passed on to the afterlife send cardinals as signs. Depending on which interpretation they subscribe to, if a Christian sees a cardinal after recently losing a loved one, they may take it as a reassuring sign that they're at peace.How many types of grosbeaks are there? ›
GrosbeakWhat does it mean to see a grosbeak? ›
Encountering a grosbeak may indicate trustworthiness. If a grosbeak chooses to visit your home or allow you to admire its plumage up close, this may be a sign that the bird has sensed that you are gentle and trustworthy enough to approach.Do grosbeaks eat peanuts? ›
What Foods Do They Eat? Oil and striped sunflower, sunflower chips, safflower, cracked corn, Bark Butter®, Bark Butter Bits, suet dough, peanut pieces, fruits.
Birds with larger, less adept bills such as cardinals, starlings, and grosbeaks cannot easily munch on thistle seed, and they are more likely to use other feeders and try other seeds instead. If any of these are the types of birds a backyard birder wants to attract, a Nyjer feeder is not necessary.Do grosbeaks eat sunflower seeds? ›
Traveling in flocks of 12 to 50 birds, Evening Grosbeaks can consume significant quantities of their favorite feeder food – black oil sunflower seed!Do grosbeaks like sunflower seeds? ›
Sunflower seeds, both in the shell and out-of-shell meats appeal to finches, chickadees, nuthatches, grosbeaks, Northern cardinals, blue jays and even some woodpeckers.What is a flock of grosbeaks called? ›
Grosbeaks: gross. Gulls: colony, squabble, flotilla, scavenging, gullery. Herons: siege, sedge, scattering. Hoatzins: herd.How Long Does a grosbeak live? ›
Rose-breasted grosbeaks have an average maximum lifespan of 7.3 years in the wild, and up to 24 years in captivity. Death in the wild is generally due to collision with objects (buildings, cars, etc.) and predation, to eggs, nestlings and adults.Will rose-breasted grosbeaks eat grape jelly? ›
Here are the common backyard birds that enjoy eating grape jelly: Baltimore Oriole. Gray Catbird. Rose-breasted Grosbeak.What does it mean when a cardinal keeps hitting your window? ›
Cardinals are naturally territorial, so they'll fly into windows if they perceive their reflection as another cardinal invading their territory. When the mating season ends, they may still dart at windows if they can't realize there's a physical barrier blocking the way.What do 2 cardinals mean? ›
Meaning of Seeing Two Cardinals
This is a positive omen for everlasting true love. If you see two red cardinals, it's two males. This can also symbolize love. It can also symbolize friendly competition and be a sign to up your game – improve an area of your life and do it better.
Accidental bird-window hits are regarded as a sign of good fortune by some, while they are regarded as a portent of death by others. If a bird flies into your window and dies, it may be a sign that you are about to face a challenge in your life.Are rose breasted grosbeaks related to cardinals? ›
The rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), colloquially called "cut-throat" due to its coloration, is a large, seed-eating grosbeak in the cardinal family (Cardinalidae).
finch, any of several hundred species of small conical-billed seed-eating songbirds (order Passeriformes). Well-known or interesting birds called finches include the bunting, canary, cardinal, chaffinch, crossbill, Galapagos finch, goldfinch, grass finch, grosbeak, sparrow, euphonia, and weaver.What family is the grosbeak in? ›
grosbeak, any of several conical-billed birds belonging to the families Cardinalidae and Fringillidae. Their name is derived from the French gros bec, or “thick beak,” which is adapted to cracking seeds with ease.Are grosbeaks part of the finch family? ›
Grosbeak is a common name for large members of 2 families of birds, Cardinalidae (cardinal) and Fringillidae (finch).How many kinds of grosbeaks are there? ›
GrosbeakWhat does it mean to see a grosbeak? ›
Encountering a grosbeak may indicate trustworthiness. If a grosbeak chooses to visit your home or allow you to admire its plumage up close, this may be a sign that the bird has sensed that you are gentle and trustworthy enough to approach.Do grosbeaks mate for life? ›
The female grosbeak selects the male who sings the most beautiful during the mating season. The male will then accept her after a day or two. The bond between these two last for a lifetime, as these birds are considered monogamous.