Bird of the Week

Photo courtesy Ben Bailey

This week’s Bird of the Week, compliments of the Weminuche Audubon Society and Audubon Rockies, is the black-headed grosbeak.
While in most bird species it is believed that only the male sings, with these birds, both sexes are known to sing. Although the female generally sings a shorter male song, she may trick the male back to the nest by singing a full male version. He will return to chase off the intruder only to find the female saying “It’s your turn.” In this species, both sexes incubate eggs, feed young and defend territory.
Male black-headed grosbeaks are orange colored with black heads, and black and white wings. Females and immatures are streaky brown above with orangish breasts. Buff-colored eyebrows form a football shape around the eyes. The “grosbeak” in their name refers to the large, conical bill, thick at its base.
In breeding season, while these birds are here, insects (especially beetles) and spiders are a large part of their diet. They also find sunflower seed feeders very attractive. In their winter grounds, they are one of the few predators of Monarch butterflies. They are able to tolerate the poisonous toxins of Monarchs that keep other birds away.
Soon we will say goodbye to this spring and summer resident whose song has brightened our days. By the end of August, many of our black-headed grosbeaks will have begun the long journey back to their winter homes in central Mexico.
For information on local bird-watching events, visit www.weminucheaudubon.org and www.facebook.com/weminucheaudubon/.

This story was posted on August 18, 2019.