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Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Two Sublime Grosbeaks

[Hartwick Pines State Park, MI. June 2013]

Grosbeaks are the stars of the Finch family [although other Grosbeak species belong to different families; including, for example, the Cardinals] -- their impressive bills and bold colors make them highly distinctive.

Evening Grosbeak is found year round in the West and in the Northern US and Southern Canada region. In winter, a variable number of Evening Grosbeaks can sometimes be found ranging over much of the US.

Evening Grosbeak seen at Hartwick Pines

In the male,  a large pale conical bill, pinkish legs, yellow body, brown face, black crown and yellow forehead continuing into a supercilium over the eyes, black wings and tail all serve as distinguishing characteristics of this large finch.

The female is a drab version of the male with only a hint of yellow. It was first described scientifically by William Cooper of Cooper's Hawk fame.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak, also seen at Hartwick Pines State Park, belongs to the Cardinal family.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak, male. Seen at Hartwick Pines State Park. MI.

This black and white grosbeak with a bright red bib is a songbird of the Eastern US.It sings as good as it looks -- sounding like a more musical American Robin. Unlike Evening Grosbeaks, they are not found in the US in winter; migrating to warmer climes in Central America.

Compared to the male, the female hardly suggests that it belongs to the same species -- lacking any black or red. The brown streaking found sparingly on the flanks in the male, is seen all over the breast in the female.

The Grosbeaks are flamboyant birds spanning taxonomic strata but displaying similar adaptations -- strong bills, stocky bodies, and a preference for seeds. Hartwick Pines State Park, in Northern Michigan, is a prime destination for birders wishing to observe these fascinating species.

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