Description ADULT BREEDING MALE Has black hood and back (with white rump), and black wings with white "shoulder" patch, wing bar, and base to primaries; latter seen as broad patch in flight when bright red underwing coverts are also noticed. Breast is bright red and underparts otherwise mostly white. First-summer male like adult male, but has some female-like elements in plumage. ADULT NONBREEDING MALE (plumage acquired before fall migration) Similar, but black elements of plumage are mottled brown. ADULT FEMALE Has mostly streaked brown upperparts with two white wing bars and white base to primaries. Has broad, pale supercilium, and underparts are pale overall but with bold dark streaking. Underwing coverts are yellowish and bill is pink. JUVENILE Like heavily streaked female; by first fall, male has hint of red breast.
Dimensions Length: 8" (20 cm)
Habitat Common summer visitor (mainly May-Aug) to open, deciduous woodland; winters in Central America.
Observation Tips Easy to see.
Range Rocky Mountains, New England, Great Lakes, Plains, Northwest, Southeast, Western Canada, Mid-Atlantic, Eastern Canada, Texas, Alaska, Southwest, Florida, California
Voice Song is a series of rich, fluty whistles, recalling that of American Robin; call is a sharp piik.
Discussion Large-billed and distinctively marked songbird. Often feeds unobtrusively in cover and can be surprisingly hard to spot in dappled foliage. Diet includes insects and seeds in spring and summer, but feasts on fruits prior to fall migration. Sexes are dissimilar.
Migration Info It is hard to miss the arrival of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks in the spring, as the males sing their bright, cheerful songs throughout the day while they establish their territorial boundaries. Mature males (second year and older) arrive first, about three days ahead of the females. First-year males are last to arrive; these birds, which look more or less like females, also arrive in a predictable order: "bright" individuals come first, the dullest birds (those that look most like juveniles) last. (It is believed that the dull birds are those that experienced a less extensive molt, possibly due to poorer nutrition on the wintering grounds.) Females will sometimes mate with first-year males, and when they do, they usually choose the bright individuals. This species has been arriving earlier each spring for about the last 20 years, possibly as a result of climatic change due to greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.