Rose-Breasted GrosbeakPheucticus ludovicianus
Status Fairly common in summer, very rare in winter. Breeds. In some years birds arrive in numbers during the second half of April, in other years not until May (average 1 May, earliest 12 April). Females in Dartmouth on 8 April 1982 and at Canso on 4 April 1984 were abnormally early. The bird is widely distributed in deciduous woods in mainland Nova Scotia and less common on Cape Breton Island. Migratory peaks may occur from late August to late September, but stragglers are frequent (average 19 October, latest 15 November). It has been recorded in late December a half-dozen times in localities from Cape Breton Island to Yarmouth County; one bird wintered at Ralph Johnson's feeder in Liverpool in 1955-56, and another wintered at Beulah Berman's feeder in Barrington Passage, Shelburne County, in 1975-76.
Description Length: 18-21.5 cm. Adult male: Head, chin and back black; rump white; wings black, conspicuously marked with white; breast and lining of wings bright rose; rest of underparts white; bill grayish white; tail feathers black, the outer three on each side with large white areas on inner webs. Adult female: Upperparts brown, the feathers edged with buff; line through centre of crown buff; white line over eye; wings and tail brown with white markings; lining of wings yellowish brown; bill yellowish white.
Breeding Nest: Usually composed wholly of twigs, those used for lining being more delicate than the rest, though sometimes there will be fine rootlets in the lining. It is a fragile affair sometimes seeming to be barely strong enough to serve its purpose. The usual location is the upright crotch of a small deciduous tree or bush, often in hedgerows along the open countryside. It is placed at low heights, usually within 5 m of the ground. Because of the thick foliage, the nests are difficult to find in summer but are quite conspicuous after the leaves have fallen and readily distinguished by their general appearance of fragility. That the bird is accustomed to returning to the same immediate area for nesting year after year is suggested by the frequency of traces of old nests being seen near new nests.
Eggs: 3-5; light blue, marked irregularly with spots of brown of various shades and densities. One nest near Kentville on 20 July 1936 contained four newly hatched young. It was in a thicket of deciduous growth about 2 m from the ground. One at Springville, Pictou County, reported by Harry Brennan, was exceptionally placed, in a fir tree, close to the trunk, about 5 m up.
Range Breeds from northern British Columbia, northern Alberta, central Manitoba, southern Quebec, and Nova Scotia, south to eastern Kansas, central New Jersey, and the mountains of Georgia. Winters from southern Mexico to Venezuela and Ecuador, occasionally to the northern United States at feeders.
Remarks Many people have heard this bird's song and mistaken it for that of a robin. The songs of these two birds are very similar but the cautious listener will detect a slight difference, this bird's notes being more hurried than those of the robin. The male should not present any problem in identification, but the female, entirely different in plumage markings, suggests an overgrown sparrow or finch. The size and shape of her bill, however, will indicate her identity as a grosbeak. By elimination, her species can then be determined, for her plumage bears little resemblance to that of Pine or Evening Grosbeak females.
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