Roses in the Yard

Seen upon the ground, the dark bird is scarcely attractive with his clumsy beak overbalancing a head that protrudes with stupid-looking awkwardness; but as he rises into the trees his lovely rose-colored breast and under-wing feathers are seen, and before he has had time to repeat his delicious, rich-voiced warble you are already in love with him.

Neltje Blanchan, 1897

Rose-beasted grosbeak on feeder

First rose-breasted grosbeak of the season at the feeder (click photos to enlarge)

They’re back. Last Friday, April 22, I saw my first rose-breasted grosbeak at the feeder. Later in the day, there were three males at the feeder (and me with no camera handy). This is a few days earlier than I have seen them the past couple of years. Definitely one of my favorite spring migrants, the male rose-breasted grosbeak is certainly one of the most colorful birds to spend time at our feeders. They seem to prefer the open, platform-style sunflower feeder, but also visit the suet feeder with regularity.

Rose-beasted grosbeak on feeder 1

The rose-colored, v-shaped patch, is in stunning contrast to their bold black and white

You can tell they are a favorite of mine, since I seem to post blogs about their arrival each season. I suppose it is a combination of things that make them so appealing – they are regular visitors at the feeders, they tend to stay at feeders for longer periods of time than most birds, they are relatively large with what seems to be an over-sized beak, and they have a stunning color combination. Add their melodious song, and you have a bird to remember, and one to anxiously wait for each spring. First to arrive from their wintering grounds in Central and South America are the colorful males. The brownish females will be along in a few days. Together, they will snarf up sunflower seeds for a few weeks, and then be gone by mid-May, on their way to breeding grounds farther north, or in the higher elevations of our mountains.

Rose-beasted grosbeak on wire

Male with some speckling

Rose-beasted grosbeak on feeder 5

Male with a lot of speckling

Rose-beasted grosbeak on feeder 3

Male with almost no speckling

Even if I had not seen all three birds on the feeder at once, I would know there are at least three in the yard, based on differences in their plumage. Supposedly, you can see subtle differences in the shape of the rose-colored patch on individual males, but these guys also differ in the amount of speckling on their breast feathers.

head shot of grosbeak

This one has a tiny rose speck near the eye

Granted, pictures of birds on a feeder are not my usual thing, but the feeders near the window are suspended on a pulley system out beyond the deck, making it more difficult to position branches and other natural posts for the usual “bird on a branch” photo at feeding stations. I owe all this to the incredibly abundant and pesky squirrels that share these woods (where is the red-tailed hawk when you need it?). The good news is that the birds are close enough to the windows to allow great views to appreciate their subtle differences and beauty. And, it is a definite perk to be sitting here with a cup of coffee, typing on the laptop, and looking out at the roses in the yard, even if it is for only a few weeks.

Rose-beasted grosbeak on suet feeder

Male enjoying some suet



4 thoughts on “Roses in the Yard

  1. Neltje; Harsh initial description!
    I really love the Grossbeak’s mannerisms at the feeder, so entertaining as they twist their heads around while feeding. Rosy breast I may only see once a year, blackheaded my common visitor in California.

  2. A beautiful bird that I do not see often in Cary, NC. In the future I will leave my suet feeder out later than April 1 and add more sunflower seeds to my bird feeder.

    Super pictures!

    Tad Einloth

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