The Rose-breasted grosbeak, belonging to genus Pheucticus, is a large bird in the cardinal family. This bird was first described by French zoologist Mathurin Jacques Brisson in 1760 as Coccothraustes Ludoviciana. In 1766, Swedish naturalist Carl Linnaeus added 240 species in the 12th edition of Systema Naturae, in which he described Rose-breasted grosbeak as Loxia ludoviciana. However, in 1850, Ludwig Reichenbach, a German naturalist, placed this bird in genus Pheucticus. It is a monotypic species.
Kingdom : Animalia
Phylum : Chordata
Class : Aves
Order : Passeriformes
Family : Cardinalidae
Genus : Pheucticus
Species : P. ludovicianus
The scientific name for Rose-breasted grosbeak is Pheucticus ludovicianus.
Adult specimens range from 18 to 22 centimeters in length; and their weight is around 38 to 49 grams. Sexual dimorphism is present in this species. Male plumage is black with white patches on the upper parts, and the underparts are completely white.
They have black head and a near-triangular shaped vivid red plumage on their breast. The appearance of the female is similar to that of the females of Black-headed grosbeak. Females have brown and white streaked feathers on its upper parts and throat. Their belly is pale gray or white. Males have white bill; while female’s bill is light gray.
The are found in various types wooded habitats, including forests, swamps, riparian corridors, as well as in forest edges along pastures, roads and marshes. They also prefer to live in second-growth habitats. They are mostly found in similar natural environments along their migration routes as well as in their winter ranges. They usually avoid grasslands and woodlands. In Colombia, they inhabit elevations up to 12467 feet.
They breed in cool-temperate regions in the northern parts of North America, ranging from British Columbia in the western part it its range, extending to the maritime provinces of Canada in the east, and going all the way to the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, South Carolina and New Jersey in its southern range.
As winter approaches, they migrate to tropical America, and spend the winter months in coastal Mexico, greater Antilles and all parts of Central America, and northern parts of South America including Guyana and Peru. They are occasionally seen in western parts of Europe.
They are migratory species with no overlap between breeding and wintering grounds. They have a tendency to migrate at night, mostly alone or in small groups. During migration and winter, they are often found with other species. They fly in an undulating pattern. As breeding season closes in, males start singing in order to attract females and set up breeding territories. When a female come near a male, it initially gets rebuffed by the male before he agrees to form a pair. Once the pair is formed, they become monogamous. Breeding pairs tolerate migrant males as long as they do not disturb them. Otherwise, the territorial male chase away the intruder. Females also steer-off other females if they go after her mate. Incubation, feeding and brooding responsibilities are shared by both male and female. They often go back to same breeding grounds each year. They get their foods from dense branches and foliage. They also have a tendency to feed while hovering in air.
Nest is usually made in a large shrub, deciduous tree, or sometimes in conifer. The nest, which is made by the female only, is like a cup, made with leaves, weeds and twigs; and lined with rootlets, animal hairs or twigs. Female lay a clutch of 3 to 5 eggs (typically 4) that are dull blue or green, with brownish or light purple patches. Both male and female incubate the eggs for 11 to 14 days. Both parents feed the chicks.
The young ones fledge when they are 9 to 13 days old. They become independent after three weeks.
Their diet include bees, sawflies, butterflies, moths, ants, bugs, beetles, raspberries, juneberries, elderberries, mulberries, blackberries, tree buds, tree flowers, wheat, oats, garden, peas, pig weed, milkweed, foxtail, smartweed and sunflower seeds among others. During nesting season, they feed on insects, seeds and fruits.
During fall migration, they usually feed on berries. In their winter range, they live on a varied diet with plant materials and invertebrates.
Its maximum known lifespan in the wild was 12 years and 11 months. Captive specimens can live up to 24 years.
Both male and female emit sweet, rich whistles composed of several notes, quite similar to the songs of American Robin. Rose-breasted grosbeak’s song can last around 6 seconds and carry twenty syllables and notes. The female sings all along the breeding season, while nest-making, incubating and brooding. Their other vocalizations also include sharp, short chink calls and a harsh squawk alarm calls.
Adults are hunted by Sharp-shinned hawks and Cooper’s hawks. Eggs and nestlings are vulnerable to Common grackles, Blue jays and Gray squirrels.
Their present worldwide population is stable. However, habitat loss could be a threat in future. As per North American Breeding Bird Survey, their population have seen a slow decline from 1966 to 2015. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species has kept Rose-breasted grosbeak in the ‘Least Concern’ category.
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