Bird Feature: Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Identifying Rose-breasted Grosbeak:

These stocky, medium-sized songbirds are broad-chested with a short neck, large triangular beak, and medium-length tail that is squared at the tip. Measuring between 7.1 and 8.3 inches in length with a wingspan ranging from 11.4 to 13 inches, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a species with sexual dimorphism, meaning the male and female have very distinct coloration. Females and juveniles are fairly drab brown with heavy streaks throughout and a bold white extended brow. Breeding males have a black head, mottled black and white back, white underside, and it's namesake bright red upside-down triangular marking on the breast. When observed from below in flight females flash a yellow-tint on the underside of their wings while males flash a pinkish-red.

 female rose-breasted grosbeak male rose-breasted grosbeak

Above left: Female (credit James Kinderman | MaCaulay Library) / Above Right: Male

Attracting Rose-breasted Grosbeak to Your Feeder:

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are long-distance migrant birds that winter in Central and northern South America and breed in the northeastern portion of the United States and southern portions of Canada. Grosbeaks seem to prefer second-growth woods, parks and suburban areas, gardens and orchards, and shrubby forest edges next to a body of water like a stream or pond.


Above: Male Red-breasted Grosbeak on Hanging Platform Feeder (Model# WWCF23)

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak's diet consists of seeds, fruit, and insects. Seeds preferred include sunflower seeds, oats, wheat, smartweed, pigweed, foxtail, and even milkweed. Preferred fruits include raspberries, mulberries, blackberries, juneberries and elderberries. Studies show feeders only account for roughly a quarter of a wild bird's diet, so incorporating these plants into your landscape can go a long way in attracting these birds. Rose-breasted grosbeak will also eat a wide variety of insects including beetles, sawflies, ants, butterflies, moths, and even bees. As always, we recommend limiting the use of broad-spectrum herbicides whenever possible to ensure these natural food sources are available.

Often frequent visitors of backyard bird feeders, these birds will eat sunflower seeds with vigor. Due to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak's stout stature, it is recommended to use a feeder with ample spacing such as the open feeding design of a platform or tray feeder, or a feeder with extended perch spacing for larger birds like a gazebo or hopper style feeder filled with black oil sunflower seed. 

male grosbeak on nature's way gazebo feeder

Above: Male Red-breasted Grosbeak on Paisley Sky Gazebo Bird Feeder (Model# GAZ-D2)


Both male and female work together to choose a location and construct the nest. Often nestled in a vertical fork of a sapling, the nest is built using sticks, grasses, decayed leaves, weed stems, or straw and is lined with rootlets, hair, or fine twigs. A finished nest can measure anywhere from 3.5 to 9 inches across and 1.5 to 5 inches high.

A typical clutch size can range anywhere from 1 to 5 eggs. Eggs are pale green to blue with burgundy or brown speckles and measure 0.8 to 1.1 inches in length and 0.6 to 0.8 inches in width. After a standard incubation period of roughly two weeks the eggs hatch and young will remain in the nest for roughly 9 to 12 days. Depending on weather and geographic breeding location, Rose-breasted Grosbeak can have anywhere from 1 to 2 broods in a season.

Do you have any Rose-breasted Grosbeaks at your feeders? 

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