Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Black-headed Grosbeak

[order] PASSERIFORMES | [family] Cardinalidae | [latin] Pheucticus melanocephalus | [UK] Black-headed Grosbeak | [FR] Gros-bec a tete noire | [DE] Schwarzkopf-Kernknacker | [ES] Tigrillo | [NL] Zwartkopkardinaal


Genus Species subspecies Breeding Range Breeding Range 2 Non Breeding Range
Granatellus melanocephalus
Pheucticus melanocephalus NA w Mexico
Pheucticus melanocephalus maculatus
Pheucticus melanocephalus melanocephalus

Physical charateristics

A stocky bird, larger than a sparrow, with an outsized bill.b Male: Breast, collar, and rump dull orange-brown.
Otherwise, the black head, bold black and white wing and tail pattern, and pale bill are similar to those of its eastern counterpart, the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Female:
Largely brown, with sparrowlike streaks above; head strongly patterned with light stripes and dark ear patch. Breast strongly washed with ocher-brown;
streaks on sides fine, nearly absent across the chest. Female Rose-breast is more heavily striped below, lacks the strong ocher.

Listen to the sound of Black-headed Grosbeak

[audio: Grosbeak.mp3]

Copyright remark: Most sounds derived from xeno-canto

wingspan min.: 30 cm wingspan max.: 32 cm
size min.: 18 cm size max.: 19 cm
incubation min.: 12 days incubation max.: 14 days
fledging min.: 10 days fledging max.: 14 days
broods: 1   eggs min.: 2  
      eggs max.: 5  


North America : West


Deciduous and mixed woods. Breeds mainly in oak woodland, streamside groves of cottonwood and willow, pine-oak woods in mountains, pinyon-juniper woodland; seldom in purely coniferous forest. In migration, occurs i
n any kind of open woods, streamside trees, suburbs, mesquite groves, desert washes. Winters in open woods and brush of the tropics, from lowlands to mountains.


Male sings to defend nesting territory. In courtship, male performs song flights above female, flying with wings and tail fully spread while singing almost continuously.
Nest: Placed in tree or large shrub (usually deciduous), 3-25′ above the ground, usually about 10-12′ up. Nest (built mostly or
entirely by female) is an open cup, loosely constructed and bulky, made of twigs, weeds, rootlets, pine needles, lined with fine plant fibers, rootlets, and animal hair.
Eggs: 3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale greenish blue, spotted with reddish brown. Incubation is by both parents, 12-14 days; only female incubates at night.
Young: Both parents bring food for the nestlings. Young climb out of nest after about 11-12 days but are unable to fly for about 2 more weeks; they perch in nearby trees waiting to be fed. Probably 1 brood per year.

Feeding habits

Mostly insects, seeds, and berries.
In summer, feeds on many insects, including beetles, caterpillars, wasps, bees, flies, and many others, also spiders and snails. Feeds on seeds of various weeds, and eats berries of many plants (including mistletoe and poison-oak) as well as some cultiva
ted fruit. Young are fed mostly insects at first.
Behavior: Forages mostly in shrubs and trees, searching for food among foliage. Also may forage on ground and in low growth. Sometimes hovers to take insects from foliage or catches them in midair.


This species has an extremely large range, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the range size criterion (Extent of Occurrence <20,000 km2 combined with a declining or fluctuating range size, habitat extent/quality, or population size and a small number of locations or severe fragmentation). The population trend appears to be increasing, and hence the species does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population trend criterion (>30% decline over ten years or three generations). The population size is extremely large, and hence does not approach the thresholds for Vulnerable under the population size criterion (<10,000 mature individuals with a continuing decline estimated to be >10% in ten years or three generations, or with a specified population structure). For these reasons the species is evaluated as Least Concern.
Black-headed Grosbeak status Least Concern


Southwestern Canada, western United States to southern Mexico. Winters in Mexico. Sometimes hybridizes with Rose-breasted Grosbeak where ranges overlap. Strays occasionally to Atlantic states, where it has wintered at feeding trays.
Migration: Tends to migrate late in spring and early in fall. Some birds begin to appear away from nesting areas as early as mid-July.

Distribution map

Black-headed Grosbeak distribution range map

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *