BIRD OF THE WEEK: 5/9/2014
SCIENTIFIC NAME: Pheucticus ludovicianus
POPULATION: 4 million
HABITAT: Breeds in forests and second-growth habitats; winters in forests
The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is strikingly beautiful. But it has a gruesome folk name: “cut-throat,” owing to the scarlet swatch across its breast. The name “grosbeak” comes from the French term grosbec, meaning “large beak”—an obvious attribute of this bird, Black-headed Grosbeak, and others in their family.
Migrants like this one need habitat on both breeding and wintering grounds. ABC and Fundación ProAves have established the Cerulean Warbler Conservation Corridor, which provides winter habitat for Rose-breasted Grosbeak; Cerulean and Golden-winged warblers; and resident birds like Gorgeted Wood-Quail.
This species has a sweet, robin-like song sometimes characterized as a tipsy thrush. Its call note is distinctive sharp “peek,” like a sneaker squeaking on a gymnasium floor. (Hear the similar song of the Black-headed Grosbeak, with which the Rose-breasted Grosbeak sometimes hybridizes in parts of the Great Plains.)
Unlike many other bird species, both male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks share incubation, brooding, and feeding duties at the nest. (Female bird shown below.)
Although not endangered, the species may be losing breeding habitat as second-growth forests mature. They are often trapped for sale as cage birds throughout their winter range because of their beauty and sweet song. ABC's work to bring back the birds will benefit Rose-breasted Grosbeak and many other birds that need wintering habitat in the Central and South American Highlands and breeding habitat in the Appalachians and Great Lakes regions.