Pine Grosbeak
(Pinicola enucleator)
Cool fact: Pine Grosbeaks have the reputation of being very tame and approachable, especially in winter. They tend to stay hidden within foliage when alarmed, rather than flushing. Their deliberate movements and tendency toward long periods of stationary rest earned them the Newfoundland colloquial name "mope." 200PineGrosbeak635-1.jpg (15285 bytes)
adult male Pine Grosbeak

Listen to a recording of a Pine Grosbeak from the Library of Natural Sounds:

Pine Grosbeak [144k]

This large, robin-sized finch (approximately 8 to 10 inches in length) has an extremely wide distribution, occurring in northern forests in northern Europe, Russia, and North America. In North America, it occurs from northwest and central Alaska south through the Cascades and Rocky Mountains to Washington and British Columbia, across the Yukon and Northwest Territories through northern Manitoba to Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland, and south to northern Maine and New Hampshire. Pine Grosbeaks also occur in the higher altitudes in the Sierra Nevada, eastern Arizona, and northern New Mexico. Pine Grosbeak habitat includes the borders of open places in coniferous woods, pond and stream edges, and the edges of open fields and marshes. There, they build a bulky nest in a shrub or coniferous tree.

Pine Grosbeaks forage in trees, or they may come to the ground to forage for fallen seeds and fruit. They eat the buds of many trees, including maple, birch, apple, mountain ash, poplar, and willow. Favorite foods include the fruits of crabapple, bittersweet, barberry, and mountain ash, and the seeds of birch, pine, and spruce trees. In addition, they eat grass and weed seeds and various insects (which make up to 15 percent of their diet in summer). Outside of the breeding season, these grosbeaks are often found in flocks numbering up to 100 birds, which settle in one tree and feed on one food at length.

Pine Grosbeaks may irrupt, or move irregularly southward, in winter, probably in response to reduced food supplies. Some years, few individuals leave the summer range, but in irruption years, whole populations move far south in search of food. In the eastern United States, Pine Grosbeaks have visited the New England States and as far south as Maryland, Virginia, and Kentucky. In the West, where they may associate with Bohemian Waxwings, Pine Grosbeaks may reach Oregon and northwest Idaho, western Nebraska, southwest New Mexico, and northwest Texas. Winter habitat tends to include open mixed and deciduous woods or hillsides with cedar or juniper, and they may visit the edges of cultivated areas where they will take advantage of persistent berries and fruit. Particularly in the western United States, they have been observed taking sunflower seeds from feeders.

The Pine Grosbeak's short, musical song is reminiscent of the Purple Finch's song, but it varies more in pitch and has more distinct, less-slurred notes. The song varies from a clear, loud carol full of trills to a soft, flowing warble. The call sounds somewhat like a Greater Yellowlegs's call, consisting of a whistled teu, teu, teu, with the middle note higher. Both call and song may be given during the Pine Grosbeak's undulating flight.

Description:  The Pine Grosbeak is a plump, stocky bird, about the size of an American Robin but more robust. They have long, slightly forked tails, which may help distinguish them in flight from Evening Grosbeaks. Their short, thick, slightly hooked conical bills are dark and strongly curved. Adult males are deep rose red on the head, face, rump, and underparts. The back and scapulars are pinkish mottled with black. The wings and tail are black-the wings with two distinct white wing bars and white edges on the tertial feathers. The lower belly is whitish, and the thighs, undertail coverts, and flanks, to some extent, are gray. Their legs and feet are dark brown or black.

Females lack any pink and are generally gray above with a variably orange or yellow-brown head, nape, and face. The lores and cheeks are grayish. The chin, throat, and breast are light gray with yellowish tints on the lower throat and breast. The wings and tail are dark brown and show two wing bars, and the flight feathers have white edges.

First-winter plumage is acquired in early September and looks much like adult female plumage, with rusty head and nape and an orange or yellowish rump with gray feather tips.

Copyrightę 1999 Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology








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pingorimm635-3.jpg (19242 bytes)
immature male