By Bob Walker
Many Los Alamos birdwatchers have been seeing Black-headed Grosbeaks (Pheucticus melanocephalus) during this spring migration season. Perhaps not as numerous or quite as spectacular as Western Tanagers, these are nevertheless very attractive members of the finch family. They winter in Mexico, and spend their summers in the western half of the United States. They are closely related to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, a mostly eastern bird, and are known to hybridize where their ranges overlap, and if their densities are low.
Like most finches, they are seed-eaters, and have been seen at the seed feeders at the nature center. They will also eat fruit and insects, and interestingly they are one of the few birds that can eat the normally poisonous monarch butterfly. The females are less showy than their male counterparts, such as the bird below who took advantage of the pond at the nature center for a bath.
Black-headed Grosbeaks sound a lot like an over-excited, possibly tipsy Robin welcoming spring. This recording was made in southern New Mexico: