In Scope: Black-Headed Grosbeak

Black-headed Grosbeak drawing


And God said, Let the waters bring forth abundantly and swarm with living creatures, and let birds fly over the earth in the open expanse of the heavens. ~ Genesis 1:20


    Thank you for joining me for another edition of In Scope.  For the month of May, I'm featuring the Black-headed Grosbeak, a beautiful migratory bird that spends the spring and summer in our area.

    I always look forward to the arrival of the Black-headed Grosbeaks.  Their striking, gorgeous colors are a special treat to see each spring and summer and I always know when they have arrived when I hear their sweet voices singing from the trees !

    There is  a lot to learn about these beautiful songsters ~ Let's learn more about the Black-headed Grosbeak !

Amazing Facts

Did you know....

God Thought of It First !

Feeding and Gardening for Grosbeaks

    The Black-headed Grosbeaks are seed, fruit and insect eaters.  There are a wide range of things you can offer to make your garden appealing to grosbeaks.  Here are just a few ideas:




   The Black-headed Grosbeak's favorite feeder food is sunflower seed.  They enjoy a hopper feeder filled with sunflower seed and will certainly come on a daily basis if they find a reliable source of food like sunflower seed.  They will also eat some suet and safflower seeds.  You may also want to try expanding your feeder offerings for grosbeaks by adding apple slices, millet, peanuts (not in the shell) and other fruit to the menu.  Grosbeaks will also drink nectar from feeders set out for orioles !


    Since Black-headed Grosbeaks are fruit and seed eaters in addition to their insect diet, these birds benefit from a variety of seed and fruit bearing plants.  Here's a list of some of their favorites:


red wheelbarrow image

Plant List for Fruit:

Fruit Trees like:

Apricots, Cherries, Crab Apples, Mulberries, Figs, and Prunes

And Plants such as:

Elderberries and Strawberries

They also like seeds from plants such as:

Sunflower, Dock, Milk Thistle, Pigweed, and Smartweed

(For this reason a 'wild corner' or bird seed patch is a good option for attracting these birds.)


    In addition to plants that bear seeds and/or fruit, you can also provide cover with deciduous trees.  An added draw for grosbeaks is a source of water.  A bird bath, fountain, garden pond or natural stream is an added bonus for grosbeaks and many other birds.  If you already have a swamp, stream or other natural water source with a mixture of trees and shrubs surrounding it nearby, you already have a prime Black-headed Grosbeak habitat.  Since Black-headed Grosbeaks nest in areas such as these, you may even have the privilege of hosting a nesting pair !

Zoom In: Species Profile


black headed grosbeak drawing 


    The Black-headed Grosbeak's scientific name is Pheucticus melanocephalus ~ 'melanocephalus', meaning "black headed" and "Pheucticus" comes from a Greed word meaning "shy" or another Greek word meaning "painted with cosmetics" (most likely referring to its flamboyant white markings, especially on the wings) ~ all of which are fitting names for this beautiful grosbeak.

    This beautiful finch is 7 1/2 inches long.  The male and female look different from one another.  The male has black wings, tail and head, a rusty-orange breast, yellow belly and rust-orange back with black streaks.  He also has white wing and tail patches that are very visible, especially in flight.  The female is a creamy light yellowish tan on her underside with some brown streaking.  She has white markings on her face and streaked brownish-gray wings, head and tail.  She also has white wing markings.  Young grosbeaks look similar to the female.  Both male and female have a large bill that is either black or a rosy-tan and white color.

    The Black-headed Grosbeak prefers habitats that include deciduous woods, nearby water and a variety of trees and shrubs.  Residential parks and gardens with varied plant life are also a favorite habitat.

   The nest of the Black-headed Grosbeak consists of a loose twig nest with a lining of roots, leaves and grass.  The nest is constructed in the dense foliage of a tree branch on the outer parts of a tree.  The female lays 3 - 4 green eggs with brown flecks.  Both male and female incubate the eggs and feed the young together after hatching.

    The Black-headed Grosbeak is a spring and summer resident in the Western United States and its range extends into parts of southwestern Canada and the Midwest, and all the way south into the mountainous areas of Mexico.  Black-headed Grosbeaks spend the winter in Mexico.

Activity Pages

    This month I have created a fun Black-headed Grosbeak coloring page and a fun word search game all about the different species of Grosbeaks, what they are and what they love!  Also included in this free PDF is a color and cut out activity to make a card to give to your Mom to tell her Happy Mother's Day in a very special way!  Click here to download...


    On a beautiful spring morning, I love to wake up to the birds caroling in the trees and heralding a new day with song.  Even before dawn, grosbeaks, robins, tanagers, sparrows, wrens and many others can be heard, their lilting songs floating on the spring breeze.  They praise their Creator with all their heart with their song and beautify our lives with the delightful sounds of nature.
    It reminds me of Psalm 108:1-5 in which David said,

    "O God, my heart is fixed (steadfast, in the confidence of faith); I will sing, yes, I will sing praises, even with my glory [all the faculties and powers of one created in Your image] !
    Awake, harp and lyre; I myself will wake very early - I will waken the dawn !
    I will praise and give thanks to You, O Lord, among the peoples; and I will sing praises unto You among the nations.
    For Your mercy and loving kindness are great and high as the heavens !  Your truth and faithfulness reach to the skies !
    Be exalted, O God, above the heavens, and let Your glory be over all the earth !"
    Psalm 108:1-5

    In their own way, each bird is singing out praises to God and we are to praise Him for everything He is and everything He does for us !  Praise The Lord !

    I'll close with the words from one of my favorite hymns, "Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow", also called the "Doxology", by Thomas Ken.

   "Praise God, from Whom all blessings flow;
    Praise Him, all creatures here below;
    Praise Him above, ye heavenly host
    Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost."

    I hope you have enjoyed this months edition of In Scope.  Join me again next month when we take a closer look at another of our beautiful birds of summer !  Until next time, God bless you and Happy Birding !

    By, Jessi Wasell