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Black-headed Grosbeak, Christian Artuso
Photo © Christian Artuso

Photo: Christian Artuso
Breeding evidence - Black-headed Grosbeak
Breeding evidence

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Black-headed Grosbeak
Pheucticus melanocephalus
Landscape associations:

Click on plot to view table of mean abundance
Conserv. status:
SRANK: Not Applicable (SNA)
Number of squares
ConfirmedProbablePossiblePoint counts
1 0 0 0
Long-term BBS trends
RegionYearsTrend (conf. interv.) Reliab.
Canada1970 - 2015 1.25 (0.261 - 2.21)High

Mean abundance (number of birds detected per 5 min. point count) and percentage of squares occupied by region

Bird Conservation Regions [abund. plot] [%squares plot]
Arctic Plains and MountainsBoreal Hardwood TransitionBoreal Softwood Shield
Abund.%SquaresAbund.%SquaresAbund.%Squares
        
Boreal Taiga PlainsPrairie PotholesTaiga Shield and Hudson Plains
Abund.%SquaresAbund.%SquaresAbund.%Squares
        

Characteristics and Range A robust, finch-like cardinal relative, the Black-headed Grosbeak is the western counterpart of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The breeding Black-headed male has unmistakable, extensive cinnamon underparts and rump, with yellow underwing coverts visible in flight, whereas females and immature males of the two species are difficult to distinguish from each other. Differences in vocalizations are subtle: listen for an "off-sounding" (fast and choppy) Rose-breasted Grosbeak. The Black-headed Grosbeak breeds across much of the western U.S.A., north to a line from southern British Columbia to western North Dakota, with a convoluted southern boundary extending to northern Mexico. The winter range occupies much of western and central Mexico, including the southernmost portion of the breeding range (Ortega and Hill 2010). Eastward vagrancy is rather frequent. Stray migrants are found occasionally in Manitoba, and confirmed breeding in the extreme southwest was one of the atlas's major highlights.

Distribution, Abundance, and Habitat A male Black-headed Grosbeak, presumed to be the same individual each year, sang on territory in riparian woodland along the Souris River between Melita and Coulter each summer from 2006 to 2010. Breeding was eventually confirmed here, for the first time in Manitoba, when K. De Smet saw the male feeding young at a nest in a tall shrub on 15 June, 2010 (Artuso et al. 2010). The female was not seen and the possibility of hybrid pairing cannot be ruled out, as Rose-breasted Grosbeaks regularly occupy the same woodland tract. A Black-headed Grosbeak at Birds Hill Provincial Park on 18 June, 2011 (W. Janzen) was judged to be a lingering migrant, unlikely to be breeding.

Trends, Conservation, and Recommendations BBS data indicate mostly increasing populations and a stable range; the broad range of habitat preferences, both in summer and winter, no doubt contribute to this encouraging situation (Ortega and Hill 2010). The species is too rare in Manitoba to suggest conservation measures, but riparian woodland of the type it has occupied here is a vital part of the prairie mosaic.

Peter Taylor

Recommended citation: Taylor, P. 2018. Black-headed Grosbeak in Artuso, C., A. R. Couturier, K. D. De Smet, R. F. Koes, D. Lepage, J. McCracken, R. D. Mooi, and P. Taylor (eds.). The Atlas of the Breeding Birds of Manitoba, 2010-2014. Bird Studies Canada. Winnipeg, Manitoba http://www.birdatlas.mb.ca/accounts/speciesaccount.jsp?sp=BHGR&lang=en [14 Dec 2018]

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Banner photo: Christian Artuso