This red-branded beauty is a resident of open woodlands throughout the northeast and Canada. It is fond of lowland woods such as those around the banding station.
This bird is a friend of the agricultural industry. The grosbeak family earns its name from the heavy, oversized beak specialized for extracting seeds from various plants. However, the birds are also gluttons for pests such as caterpillars, cankerworms, gypsy moths, beetles, and their larvae. The bird’s affinity for insects is so well-known in areas frequented by the Colorado potato beetle that the rose-breasted grosbeak’s nickname in that region is “potato bug bird.”
The male participates in incubation of the eggs, which is an uncommon trait among songbirds. He helps to build the nest, and covers about one third of the daytime incubation hours. If a second nest is started in a breeding season, the male remains with the original nest and cares for the fledglings while the female builds the new nest. The male will often sing quietly while sitting on the nest.
One of the most distant recoveries of any bird banded at the Powdermill station was a rose-breasted grosbeak recorded in 1972 in Colombia—about 2,500 miles (4,000 km) away.
Photo: John Harrison