Friday, May 6, 2016

Studying The Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Since the first RBGs arrived on 21 April, it has been a steady stream of them arriving and some departing.  The older RBGs arrived first.  Shortly after, the flood gates opened  to younger birds.  It has been a wonderful opportunity to observe and study their behavior as a group.

I always counted myself lucky to see the 1 or 2 that would come through in the spring and fall so I have surely been blessed this spring.  Late Wednesday afternoon/early evening, I had 12  at one time.  Since they seem not to be able to get along well with each other, it is difficult to try and get a photo as a large group.

What I have learned is that they have a voracious appetite.  They have been through about 10 pounds of safflower seed so far.  Of course a few other birds have come in and eaten also.  The RBGs are extremely protective of their food source.  When they first began showing up, they would not allow another bird on the feeder with them.  As they have become sure of seeds, usually one till be allowed to share, and on occasion, two.

The females are noticeably larger than the males and can be just as aggressive as the males.

They are quite curious.  This one particular male was quite infatuated with the purple carabiner clip at the top of the feeder.  He picked it up in his beak several times and on different trips would repeat the same action.  Not sure what he was thinking.

When a large group begins to gather, they make this little mewing sound as a warning.  It makes me laugh when they get tuned up fussing at each other.

There is a wide variety in their feather coloring and pattern depending on their age.  A new arrival yesterday I thought was a female at fist glance until I saw the red under the neck and noticed the beginning of black feathers on the wings.  He was young enough that he still had the white eyebrow like the female birds.

At first glance in the photo to the left, they all look like females however the bird on the backside of the feeder is the same one as the photo above.  This is a young male.

The younger males from the back side have a very mottled appearance.

The red on their breast appears different on each bird.  Some are very distinct while others are not quite as well defined. As they age, molt and get new feathers, the design begins to look a a wine glass.

After watching their feeding behavior and the way they would try to hang on one of the post of the tube feeders and lean down, I rigged up another feeder to give them more space.  It is just a top of a 5 gallon bucket that I drill holes in the bottom to let any rain water out and drill some holes for the strings.  Inexpensive feeder that they like.


Coppertop said...

Great photos Paula. I love these birds! I'm still waiting to see some in our backyard. They are arriving in Maine from the reports I've seen so any day now hopefully.

Nature Girl said...

I bet they are on their way. Sadly, I only had one young male and two females here today. I think the rest of the group has headed north.