Remarkably It’s His Voice That Makes Him Easy To Spot Despite His Stunning Appearance!
The blue grosbeak (Passerina caerulea) is a bird resembling a finch with a striking blue plumage. Surprisingly, it is the bird’s voice rather than its color that often catches attention.
During the summer, these birds can be found in the southern United States, where they incorporate snakeskin into their nest construction.
Only the males of the species sing, showcasing an impressive performance that includes displaying their legs to attract potential mates.
Females, on the other hand, exhibit a beautiful cinnamon-brown coloration and often tend to parasitic eggs laid by cowbirds in their nests.
Read on to discover more intriguing facts about the blue grosbeak:
- Singing is Exclusive to Male Blue Grosbeaks
While both males and females produce a distinctive metallic “clink” sound for communication, it is only the males that possess a rich and melodic warble, rising and falling in pitch. Their songs serve to attract females and announce their territorial claims, with older males often singing lengthier tunes.
- Displaying Movements and Legs
Blue grosbeaks engage in various captivating movements. When perched, they flick and fan out their tails. To court females, males stretch out their legs and puff up their chests. Females may examine and peck at the male’s feet to show their approval.
These birds also shift from one leg to another while observing other birds feeding, sometimes flapping their beaks and opening their bills to indicate their interest in sharing the food.
- Foraging Techniques: Hopping and Hovering
Blue grosbeaks actively forage throughout the day, typically staying close to the ground. They employ hopping or low hovering techniques to search for food. These birds explore shrubs, trees, and areas with low foliage. While their diet primarily consists of insects during the breeding season, they also consume snails, spiders, fruits, seeds, and grains. Their hovering and flying abilities enable them to catch insects on the wing.
- Preparing Insects for Offspring
To provide their chicks with a high-quality diet, blue grosbeaks meticulously prepare insects. They remove the hard-to-digest parts such as the heads, wings, and legs, offering the soft body to their young.
- Distinguishing Male and Female Colors
Male blue grosbeaks exhibit vibrant cobalt blue plumage, adorned with large silver bills and black wing feathers. They also feature two chestnut-colored wing bars, with the upper bar being wider and darker than the lower one. The blue hue of their feathers results from the reflection of light rather than pigmentation. In contrast, females display hints of blue on their backs and rumps, with a beautiful cinnamon color and black wing feathers. The intensity of their coloration is greater on the head, gradually fading on the underparts. Similar to males, females possess two chestnut-colored wing bars.
- Prominent Metallic-Colored Bills
The blue grosbeak derives its name from its large, conical bill, which is a prominent feature of its face. The male’s bill is silver-toned and triangular, while the female’s bill appears more golden.
- Resemblance to Other Blue Birds
Due to the male’s vibrant coloration, blue grosbeaks are often mistaken for other birds such as bluebirds, blue jays, indigo buntings, and lazuli buntings. The lazuli bunting, in particular, bears black and orange-like markings and a silver bill that closely resembles that of the blue grosbeak. However, a closer comparison reveals distinct differences in their shades of blue. The lazuli bunting exhibits a lapis-gemstone coloring, while the blue grosbeak displays a deep cobalt blue hue.
- They Are Serially Monogamous
Blue grosbeaks are serially monogamous, which means they form pairs for each breeding season. The breeding season usually occurs from April to August, later than many other breeding birds. During this time, they raise one or two broods, with each brood typically consisting of 3 to 5 eggs. After the breeding season concludes, blue grosbeaks join small flocks to feed before embarking on their migration. In the following breeding season, they find new mates and form new pairs.
9. Grosbeaks Nest In Low, Shrubby Spots
The task of nesting is primarily carried out by the female blue grosbeak. She constructs a compact, cup-shaped nest in low, open areas. These nests can be found in various locations, including low trees, shrubs, thickets, tangled vines, overgrown fields, and bushy areas. They are typically positioned 3 to 10 feet above the ground.
10. They Use Snake Skin & Other Materials To Build Nests
Snake skin is a common material used by blue grosbeaks in nest construction. The snakeskin is either displayed in pieces or coiled around the exterior of the nest. This serves as a deterrent to potential predators, helping to protect the eggs and hatchlings. The cup-shaped nest is primarily composed of twigs, weeds, pieces of bark, leaves, and other natural and man-made materials like paper or string. The inner lining consists of rootlets, animal hair, and fine grasses.
11. Males Feed The First Brood When A Second One Is On The Way
When a second brood is on the way, the male blue grosbeak takes on the responsibility of feeding the first brood. For about 10 to 12 days, the female primarily feeds the hatchlings until they are ready to leave the nest. During this time, the female starts constructing a new nest for the second brood, while the male continues to provide food for the fledglings of the first brood.
12. Blue Grosbeaks Can Live Over 10 Years Old
Blue grosbeaks have an average lifespan of 6 to 7 years in the wild. However, there have been recorded instances of individuals living over 10 years, as determined through banding projects. This suggests that if you observe a blue grosbeak returning to your vicinity year after year, it may very well be the same individual.
13. Some Blue Grosbeaks Stray From Migratory Paths
Blue grosbeaks often migrate to breeding locations later than other birds and are absent during the early summer period. They are commonly found in shrubby habitats across North America during the breeding season and then migrate to Mexico and Central America for the winter. Populations breeding in Central America do not undertake migration. Those originating from the east are believed to migrate across the Gulf of Mexico, while those from the west travel over southern land. However, some blue grosbeaks deviate from their usual migratory paths and may appear north of their breeding range, taking a longer route before heading south.
14. They Can Be Difficult To Locate
Blue grosbeaks can be challenging to locate due to their shy nature. When threatened, they quickly dart into shrubbery for cover, making them difficult to spot despite their vibrant plumage. Often, they are identified by their distinctive sounds. To locate them, listen for the male’s warbling song or their metallic “clink” call. Once you hear these sounds, scan the tops of shrubs, small trees, and thickets in the vicinity.
15. Cowbirds Parasitically Use Grosbeaks’ Nests
In addition to facing threats from predators like cats and raptors, blue grosbeaks are parasitized by cowbirds. Cowbirds lay their eggs in the nests of other bird species, including blue grosbeaks. The cowbird hatchlings are typically larger and more demanding, requiring more food and attention than the biological offspring of the host bird. This can result in reduced care and potential difficulties for the blue grosbeak’s own nestlings.
The male blue grosbeaks exhibit a striking cobalt blue hue, while the females display a delightful cinnamon-brown coloration. These captivating birds construct their nests amidst lush shrubbery and thickets, favoring open areas where they can feed and forage along the ground. When providing nourishment to their hatchlings, they dismantle insects by removing their heads, legs, and wings.
Despite their vibrant plumage, blue grosbeaks can be elusive amidst the dense foliage. They are often detected by the melodious songs of the males or their distinct metallic “clink” sound. To court potential mates, the males engage in an impressive display, extending their legs, puffing up their chests, and serenading with their melodious tunes. Once pairs are formed, they remain together for the breeding season, nurturing two broods of offspring.