HomeBirdwatchingFinches And BuntingsRed Breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

Red Breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus)

The red breasted grosbeak, also known as Pheucticus ludovicianus or rose breasted grosbeak, is the largest of the grosbeaks and the only one in North America that has an entirely red breast.

This bird was once known as the Connecticut Grosbeak but changed its name in 1994 to reflect more modern scientific findings. There are only two subspecies of red breasted grosbeak, which are found across southern Canada and most of the United States, with the exception of California and Nevada. This species usually lives in deciduous woodlands and parks, where it breeds and lives in small flocks.

The etymology of its species name ludovicianus refers to its range in the region of Louisiana; it is also common in the eastern United States and Canada as well as Central America and northern South America.


red breasted grosbeak

The red breasted grosbeak is a member of the Cardinalidae family and is also referred to as the rose breasted grosbeak. The red breasted grosbeak is a medium-sized bird with a round body and a long tail. Males have black heads with red breasts, while females are grayish-brown with light streaking on their breasts.

These birds are found in woodlands and forests across North America. They eat insects, seeds, and fruits. They form monogamous pairs that can stay together for life.

Scientific name

The scientific name of the rose breasted grosbeak is Pheucticus ludovicianus.

Habitat & distribution

The red breasted grosbeak is a songbird found in North America. It is also known as the rose-breasted grosbeak. These birds are most commonly found in the eastern parts of the continent, though their range extends as far west as Alberta and British Columbia in Canada.

Red breasted Grosbeak female and male

The red breasted grosbeak is a sexually dimorphic species, meaning that males and females look different. The male has a red chest, a white belly with a black head. Females have a brown head with orange or rose color on their chest, brown tail feathers, wings, and bellies.

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Females are brown with heavy streaking over the eye, and the males flash pink-red under the wings. its female counterparts flash yellow. Both sexes flaunt white patches on the wings and tail.

They often forage on or near the ground looking for insects such as grasshoppers or other invertebrates. They will feed on seeds from small trees such as oak or pine when available; however, these birds primarily eat insects in the summer months before turning to seeds for food during the winter months.

Size and weight

The red breasted grosbeak is a medium-sized songbird with a chunky body. It measures approximately 18 – 22 cm in length and weighs between 39 and 49 g. The males are slightly larger than the females on average.

Feathers and plumage

red breasted grosbeak

The red breasted grosbeak is a stunning bird with black, white, and red or brown plumage. The males are particularly striking, with their black heads and red breasts. The females are more subdued in coloration but are still beautiful birds. The juveniles have mottled plumage until they reach adulthood.


During the molting process, birds will lose their old feathers and grow new ones. This process can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. In order for the bird to be able to fly again, it must complete this process because there are not any feathers on its wings or tail.

The feathers that are grown are usually lighter in color than before because they are more suited for flying and not just for warmth. The red breasted grosbeak is one of these types of birds and is also one of my favorite species in the world.


The red breasted grosbeak builds a large, round nest made of twigs, leaves, and grass, lined with hair and feathers. They form tight flocks in autumn and winter. Red breasted grosbeaks often stay together as pairs all year long and will not separate even if one dies.

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One bird may take over the territory from the other bird if it is dead or has left the area to find food.

They nest in trees with dense foliage such as oaks, willows, cottonwoods, and alders.

Diet and foraging

The red breasted grosbeak is a plump little bird with a black head, red breast, and white belly. These birds are most often found in woods or forest edges near streams. They will also visit yards and gardens. The diet of the red-breasted grosbeak consists mostly of insects and seeds.

In the spring and summer, they eat many caterpillars and beetles. In the fall and winter, their diet shifts to include more fruits and nuts.

Sounds and vocal behavior

The red breasted grosbeak is a chatty bird, often heard before it’s seen. The male’s song is a rich warble that lasts 2-3 seconds and rises and falls in pitch. It’s described as whee-ooh, chewy, chewy, whee-ooh or potato-chip, potato-chip. Both sexes sing to defend their territories and attract mates.

Females also sing when they’re feeding their young. Some have called the songs a crazy mixture of melodies. A member of the cardinal family, the red breasted grosbeak ranges from Texas to New England and south through Mexico. In winter they move south into Louisiana, Florida, and Central America.


red breasted grosbeak

This may seem a strange observation but researchers recently discovered that male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were the only one of seventy species of migratory songbirds in the eastern United States that managed to produce sperm while still far south of their breeding location.

In many instances, the males fly ahead of the females and make preparations for their return to the breeding grounds before the females have arrived.

Nest construction can begin as early as early May in Tennessee, and as late as early June in Saskatchewan. Egg laying can occur anywhere from mid-May to mid-July, according to records in Quebec.

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A single brood is often laid by these grosbeaks in the summer months, but second broods have been recorded in semi-captivity in Canada. Both the male and the female rose breasted grosbeak appear to be involved in selecting and building the nest, which is on a tree branch, over vines, or any elevated woody vegetation.

Most nests are found near openings in woodlands, usually at heights of 0.8 to 16.7 meters (2.6 to 54.8 feet). Nests usually consist of leaves, twigs, rootlets, or hairs, and are typical of many passerines in terms of material, shape, and size.

A clutch consists of 1 to 5 eggs, most commonly 3 – 4, and they are pale blue to green with purplish to brownish red spotting. The male does roughly a third of the incubation while the red breasted grosbeak female does the rest, and incubation can last 11 to 14 days.

Grosbeaks hatch at an average of 0.18 oz and as they grow they add 0.11 oz each day. Young grosbeaks fledge after approximately 13 days and are self-sufficient after approximately 3 weeks.


Generally, Rose-breasted grosbeaks live for an average of 7.3 years in the wild and 24 years in captivity. Usually, these birds die in the wild because of collisions with objects such as buildings, cars, etc. and because of predation, or by their eggs or nestlings being eaten.

Movements and migration

The red breasted grosbeak is a resident breeder in much of North America, from Alaska and Canada to the southern United States. It is a very rare vagrant to western Europe. This bird is strongly migratory, wintering in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean.

Movement generally starts in late August or early September and continues through October; return migration from the south generally occurs from late February to early May.
Population status

As of 2016, Partners in Flight estimated that the global breeding population of this species was 4.7 million. The species is rated 11 out of 20 on the Continental Concern Score, a reflection of a relatively low conservation priority. It is possible that the number of these birds in the eastern United States may be declining as forests mature.

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Conservation and management

The Red breasted Grosbeak is a migratory songbird that nests in forests throughout North America. The species has declined in recent decades due to habitat loss and fragmentation. Although the Red-breasted Grosbeak is not currently listed as threatened or endangered, conservation and management efforts are needed to ensure the long-term viability of the species.

In areas where this bird resides, tree removal should be limited to avoid further degradation of its forested habitats. Furthermore, corridors connecting wintering and breeding grounds should be preserved to allow for the exchange of genes between populations from different regions.


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