- Our local breeding population is estimated at around 4000–6000 pairs.
- Look for a patch of bright yellow underneath the wings when this bird is in flight.
- During spring and fall migration, it is possible to see the Black-headed Grosbeak's Eastern counterpart, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak—a rare but regular stray here each year.
Bird of the Month
Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)
Photo © Bill Hill
Beginning each April, members of this attractive species start to appear in the Monterey region as they return from their Mexican wintering grounds. Males arrive first and establish breeding territory, followed by females a few days later. Breeding habitat consists of shady oak woodlands, cottonwood/willow riparian corridors, and mixed hardwood/pine forest in the mountains. Pairs form by mid-April, while nesting starts in May. This species is thought to have only one clutch per nesting season, laying 3-5 eggs. Males again leave first in August, while females and young may linger till early September.
During breeding season, these grosbeaks make cautious visits to backyard bird feeders, dining on black oil sunflower seed. The male's melodious song is somewhat similar to an American Robin's, but faster-paced and richer. The species' call, on the other hand, is a sharp pik! note reminiscent of a Downy Woodpecker's.