This morning I saw four Black-Headed Grosbeaks, both males and females, at my suet. They were grabbing up the sunflower seeds with their heavy bills. The flamboyant male has a large, black head, cinnamon body with white-barred, black wings and short tail. I think the female is just as beautiful with subtle cinnamon/brown colors and distinct white-eye markings. They sing an early morning song much like the Robin in the high trees. I see this bird, often in small flocks, in desert thickets and mountain forests here but they can be found throughout the west in various terrains.

The scientific names are interesting and very appropriate for this bird:  Species name, melanocephalus, means “black-headed.”  Genus name, Pheucticus is from two Greek words pheuticus that means “shy” and phycticus that means “painted with cosmetics.”

The female builds a bulky but loose constructed nest that’s about 5–7 inches across and 2–4 inches deep. She uses slim twigs, stems, rootlets, and pine needles with no mud or cementing. She lines the 3–4 inch wide inner cup with finer stems, rootlets, hair, string, and green material, making a 1–2 inch deep hollow. It usually takes her 3 to 4 days to build the nest, gathering most of the material in the first days and intensifying assembly later on. The loose construction can be so loose that the eggs can be seen through the bottom! This may help provide ventilation to keep nest and eggs cool. (from Cornell Lab of Ornithology)

  • Clutch Size 2–5 eggs
  • Number of Broods–1
  • Incubation Period12–14 days
  • Nestling Period10–14 days
  • Egg Description: Pale to greenish blue with brown or reddish brown spotting.

Conservation: Black-headed Grosbeak populations are stable or increasing throughout their range. The global breeding population at 14 million, with 75 percent breeding in the United States, 4 percent in Canada, and 100 percent spending some part of the year in Mexico.