Black-headed Grosbeak

Bird of the Month: Black-headed Grosbeak

By Hugh Jennings

PC: Mick Thompson (Black-headed Grosbeak)

PC: Mick Thompson (Black-headed Grosbeak)

Pheucticus melanocephalus

Length 8 in

AOU Band code BHGR

A large finch-like bird with a very large, triangular bill. This is a stocky bird, larger than a sparrow at about 8". The four letter code is BHGR.

The male has a black head with dull orange-brown breast, collar and rump. It has bold white patches on a black wing which are also prominent in flight.

The female is mostly brown, with sparrow-like streaks above. The female’s head is strongly patterned with light stripes, has a dark ear patch and the breast is washed with a buffy-brown color.
The song is robin-like, but more fluent and mellow with rising and falling passages that make the song much longer than the robin’s.
It occurs only from the western Great Plains to the Pacific Coast. The BHGR may often be seen in the Puget Sound area from mid-May to mid-Sept. It usually inhabits deciduous forests and thickets.

It eats pine and other seeds, wild berries, insects and spiders. It will come to bird feeders for sunflower and other types of seed, and fruit.

The nest consists of twigs, rootlets, flower heads is placed in the fork of a tree or shrub, 4-25’ above ground. There are 2-5 blue-white or green-white eggs with brown spots. Incubation period is 12-13 days and the young fledge 11-12 days after hatching. Both the male and female incubate the eggs and will sing from the nest