Saturday, June 4, 2011

Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Utah: Updated!

Birding friends across Utah have been reporting and photographing random Rose-breasted Grosbeaks; nice gorgeous males that leave no question as to identification.  I've been having several Black-headed Grosbeaks visit my feeders recently and have been hoping and wishing that a Rose-breasted Grosbeak might show up. This morning, I looked out on the feeder and saw three Grosbeaks, one male Black-headed, and two females, but one female looked quite different than the other.  

The 'different' female gave the general impression of black & white, while the female Black-headed Grosbeak showed some color; an obvious buffy breast.  Once I saw that, I immediately looked at the bill color.  I have studied the difference between the two grosbeaks enough to know that B-H's have a bi-colored bill and R-B's have pinkish bills.  

I crept back into the house and grabbed the camera and got off a couple shots before it flew off.
The next photo I share only because it best shows the coarse streaking that continues across the breast. Female Black-headed Grosbeaks may have some finer streaking on their flanks and breasts, but it fades toward the center of the breast.
For comparison purposes, below is a close-up of a female Black-headed Grosbeak that I also took this morning.  Note the bi-colored bill - the top mandible is almost a metallic color.  Also note the amount or buffy-orange compared to the grosbeak pictured above.
There is always the possibility of it being a hybrid or intergrade, but nothing in the photos or in my arsenal of field guides seems to indicate that.  I am hoping some of you east coast birders or expert Grosbeak identifiers can help me confirm whether or not I had a Rose-breasted Grosbeak in my Utah backyard.  It would be a life bird for me!

UPDATE:  Later this afternoon I set up a make-shift blind and was able to get a much better photograph of what I am now confident is a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Life bird in my own backyard.  Oh yeah!!!


  1. I don't have any special insights on this bird, but if I saw it on my home turf, I'd call it a Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

  2. I think you can definitely rule out Black-Headed Grosbeak. Here's the female that visited my feeder:

    I think you're spot on in your identification.

  3. Consider this another vote for female Rose-breasted Grosbeak, and a congratulations! I blogged about a female Rose-breasted Grosbeak at my feeders last spring:
    200 Birds

  4. @John @Stephanie @Ryan - Thanks all! I set up a make-shift blind and sat in it for a couple hours and got more photos of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, which leave no doubt in my mind. I'll add the best photo here in a moment.

  5. Sure looks like the rose beaked grosbeaks we have around here in New England!

  6. On June 4 we experienced a male rose breasted gb window strike. We feared it was dead but when went to its aid and found it still breathing, we protected it until it was able to fly away. He has been back several times--MUST be the same one, of course. Just an awesome experience since it lived an had a happy ending!

  7. @Wild_Bill -Thanks for the confirmation from the east coast!

    @Mr K-Lock - Feel free to send your male RB Grosbeak to my place! (When I'm home and siting in my blind with the camera ready of course!)