Rose-breasted Grosbeaks


A loud squeak – exactly like the sound of a sneaker squeaking on a floor – caught my attention late this afternoon just as I had started to walk up our driveway. Following the squeaking calls, I found not one, but three Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in a white oak tree.

The first one I saw was a first-winter male, I think – a lightly streaked tawny-orange breast, black crown with white and dark-gray stripes on the face, and two indistinct white wingbars.

Then I saw the mature male – spectacular! I’m not sure I’ve ever seen an illustration or photo that captures the full impact of these birds. For some reason I’m always a little surprised that a Rose-breasted Grosbeak is such a big bird, strong, broad-chested and solid in appearance, not at all chunky and round, as they often appear in pictures. But it’s the colors, of course, that are always so breathtaking – large black head and big conical beak, black back with prominent white wing bars, and very white belly; and the deep-rose pattern on the breast that bleeds down like a wounded heart.

Then I saw a third Grosbeak, a female, with boldly-striped brown and white face and streaked breast.

I stood below them watching as they moved around and gave the squeaking call several times. They appeared to be foraging in the oaks, maybe for caterpillars. Their main diet in migration is said to be berries, but they also eat a lot of insects.

Just about that time a truck came down our driveway and the Grosbeaks all flew. I heard the squeaking call coming from not too far away, but was unable to locate them again.

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