A common question we field among backyard birders in each spring is: “what is this black and white bird with a red triangle on its chest?”
A wonderful sight for the eyes, the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a medium-sized bird, equipped with an enormous triangle shaped bill with black and white coloring and their easily identifiable red chevron extending from their throat to the middle of their breast.
The females are not quite as glamorous as their male counterparts, having a white stripe over their eye, but otherwise bland in color. The female and immature plumage is that of a light brown, streaky appearance. Both sexes do, however, show white patches in their wings and tails.
A good way to track down some Rose-breasted Grosbeaks is to use your ears. A couple of early twentieth-century naturalists referred to their songs as “so entrancingly beautiful that words cannot describe it,” and “it has been compared with the finest efforts of the robin and… the Scarlet Tanager, but it is far superior to either.” Their song is a sequence of rich, slurred typed whistles, much like that of a Robin as illustrated above. Females will often give listeners a much shorter version of their song while close to their nest. Listen for both the song of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak as well as their distinctively squeaky chink calls, and walk toward them to get a glimpse.
They will often visit backyard bird feeders, usually found munching on sunflower and safflower seeds as well as raw peanuts.
Happy spring sighting!