After weeks of sub-freezing temperatures and deep snow, my thoughts drift toward the warmer days of spring:
A summer resident of southwestern Canada and western United States, ranging as far east as North Dakota and Nebraska, the migratory black headed grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus) winters mainly in Mexico. I am already looking forward to hearing the black headed groabeaks’ distinctive calls when they return in a few months.
A large, stocky finch, the black headed grosbeak male has a black head, wings and tail and conspicuous white patches on the wings. This grosbeak’s black plumage contrasts vividly with its orange or cinnamon breast and yellow belly. He is indeed a striking fellow!
Black headed grosbeaks like open deciduous or mixed woodlands near water. Their ideal habitat is large trees with a diverse understory where they forage in the trees, bushes or on the ground.
The black headed grosbeak’s large, conical bi-colored bill is well adapted to eating seeds, which comprise the majority of its diet for most of the year. During the spring breeding season large quantities of insects are added to the diet. When berries and fruits are available they provide additional nourishment.
The species name, melanocephalus, meaning black head is most appropriate for this grosbeak with a characteristic black head.
This male black headed grosbeak was photographed last May along Lower Hat Creek (Shasta County CA).