By Pat Pepper
On May 1st around 6 p.m., I was looking at the birdfeeders behind the Hiram Butler house. Sitting on the tray of the large wooden feeder was a male and female Rose-breasted grosbeak. There is a very small window of opportunity to see these birds at your feeder, so it is always exciting when opportunity turns into reality.
Rose-breasted grosbeaks only migrate through Georgia in spring and fall. A few of them, however, will stick around for the summer in Georgia’s higher elevations. I have seen them in the summertime in the trees around the parking lot at Brasstown Bald, Georgia’s highest elevation. If you have never been to Brasstown Bald, consider a day trip there. The views of the North Georgia mountains are spectacular, and you might even see another bird only found in that area of Georgia; the Common Raven.
I distinctly remember the first time I saw a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I was upstairs in my home working at the computer when my husband, Denson, called out to me, “Pat, come look at this bird!” My husband is not a birder, but he does recognize a new bird at our feeders. I quickly ran downstairs and looked out the window at the feeder. There, in all his neo-tropical glory, sat a male Rose-breasted Grosbeak. I was amazed at the beautiful red, white, and black markings of this bird. I told my husband I didn’t know the name of the bird, but that I would look for it in my field guides. Ever since that time, I keep a look out in the spring and fall migrations for this beautiful bird’s return. He never disappoints me.
Grosbeaks get their name because of their larger than average beaks. They use these beaks to crack larger seeds such as sunflowers. They are about 8” long, common in mature deciduous forests, and are usually solitary (non-flocking). The inserted picture is an adult male in breeding plumage. The female has quite different markings resembling a sparrow or finch. Sometimes you can find these birds in trees if they are calling because they have a very distinctive call. It has been described like the sound a sneaker makes on a gym floor—sharp and squeaky.
So, put out some sunflower seeds in the spring and fall (April, May, & Sept.) and enjoy this beautiful bird!
Here is a link to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak’s song and call: http://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/rose-breasted_grosbeak/id
If you would like to learn more about your Georgia backyard birds, come out to one of my classes at the Gardens on the first Tuesday of the month from 5:30-7:30 pm and the second Saturday of the month from 8-10 am. Check the Calendar of Events section of this newsletter or call the Gardens for details (770-919-0248).Tags: Bird Watching, Pat Pepper, Rose-breasted Grosbeak