Description 7 1/2" Male has black head; tawny-orange
wings and tail with conspicuous white patches. Heavy
Female has white eyebrows and pale buff underparts; breast very
finely streaked. Young resemble females. First-year males are
streaked like females but have more orangey underparts.
Habitat Open, deciduous woodlands near water, such as river
bottoms, lakeshores, and swampy places with a mixture of trees
Diet On the wintering grounds, Black-headed Grosbeaks eat
many seeds. During summer, they eat insects, spiders, snails,
The Black-headed Grosbeak is one of the few birds than can eat
monarch butterflies, despite the noxious chemicals that the
monarchs accumulate from their milkweed diet. Black-headed
Grosbeaks eat many monarchs on their wintering grounds.
Black-headed Grosbeaks also consume harmful insects and are
highly valuable to farmers.
Nesting Black-headed Grosbeaks are monogamous, but pair
bonds last for only one breeding season. The nest is a loosely
built stick nest lined with rootlets, grasses, and leaves, and
placed among the dense foliage of an outer tree limb.
Both sexes help incubate 3 or 4 greenish eggs, spotted with
brown, for 12-14 days. They both brood the young for about a
week, and both bring food to the nest.
The young leave the nest at 10-14 days but can't fly for another
two weeks. The adults continue to feed the young until after they
can fly, and raise only one brood a year.
Range Breeds from southwestern Canada east to western
North Dakota and Nebraska and south to mountains of Mexico.
Winters in Mexico.
Black-headed Grosbeaks are highly migratory and winter in
Mexico. After the breeding season, they wander into berry-rich
areas and may form migrating flocks at this time. They migrate
early in the fall and return late in the spring.
Voice Rich warble similar to that of a robin but softer, sweeter,
and faster. Call note an emphatic, sharp tick, slightly metallic in
Discussion Black-headed Grosbeak hybridizes with its
eastern counterpart, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, along their
mutual boundary. This situation arose when the treeless prairies,
which once formed a barrier between the two species, became
dotted with towns and homesteads, providing suitable habitats
for both species.