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Monday, May 20, 2013

Black-headed Grosbeaks on Gabriola

Lately, a pair of Black-headed Grosbeaks have been visiting our back yard and singing their complex lilting song (sometimes described as like that of a tipsy robin) in the trees behind our house. I love spring. Here are some photos of the male.


These stunning birds spend the winter in Mexico and migrate north during the spring to breed. As far as raising the babies is concerned, grosbeaks have an egalitarian relationship: the male and female share nesting duties. Here's a photo of the female.

Her plumage is much less flambuoyant than the male's. But (unlike most other species) she does sing! You can hear several variation of the Black-headed Grosbeak song at

These birds are one of the few species of bird that eat Monarch butterflies while wintering in Mexico. Most birds cannot tolerate the toxins in the butterfly.


Justine P said...

Hi. I just saw an unusual (to us) bird in our yard on Gabriola that we thought might be a Bullock's Oriole. I told my mum in Victoria, and she visited your blog, and told me about your post on these Grosbeaks, suggesting that might have been what we saw. I'm new to birding so don't know much, and I didn't get a good look at the bird, so I don't know. Anyway, there you go. Could have been the Grosbeak. Do you see Orioles here often?

The Island Book Shoppe said...

Hi Justine. I haven't seen a Bullock's here, although maybe someone else has. There was a sighting in Vancouver recently, but these birds don't typically get up quite this far north. Still, the climate is changing - anything could happen. Certainly lots of grosbeaks on Gabriola right now. Thanks for dropping by!

Justine P said...

Okay, thanks for the info. Sounds like it was much more likely a Grosbeak then. Either way, wish I had got a better look at it. This birding thing is kinda fun. Best, Justine.