English and Scientific names:

Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus)

Number of individuals: 

1 presumptive adult female

Locality: LOUISIANA: 

St. Martin Parish

Specific Locality:

at private residence on LA-3177, ca. 2 mi. N of Butte La Rose

Date(s) when observed:

6 February 2008

Time(s) of day when observed:  

~10:40 AM CST

Reporting observer and address:

Devin Bosler

Baton Rouge, LA 70808

Other observers accompanying reporter who also identified the bird(s):

Justin Bosler, Jim Delahoussaye

Other observers who independently identified the bird(s):

 Dave Patton on 4 February 2008

Light conditions (position of bird in relation to shade and to direction and amount of light):

Clear sky w/ optimal late morning sunlight.  Sun angle relatively high and not a factor (behind the observers).

Optical equipment: 

Zeiss Victory FL 8x42, Canon ZR830 digital video camcorder (equipment in excellent condition)

Distance to bird(s): 

ca. 15-20 meters

Duration of observation:

~3 min.


Residential property in disturbed, deciduous bottomland hardwood forest along Atchafalaya River.

Behavior of bird: 

The grosbeak first appeared low in an elderberry and then flew to a tube feeder.  It was observed in flight and at rest.  Once at rest on the feeder, the grosbeak consumed sunflower seeds for another minute or two.



A Pheucticus grosbeak w/ dark brown, streaked upperparts and rich, buffy underparts.  Very limited, fine streaking on upper breast and sides, extending down onto flanks.  Streaking absent from center of breast and belly.  Boldly-patterned head w/ prominent white supercilium and buffy-white nape contrasting markedly w/ dark crown and auriculars.  Pale submoustacial and malar region.  Two bold white wing bars.  Bright, lemon yellow underwing coverts visible in flight and yellow alula patch visible on folded wing at rest.  Apparent bicolored bill w/ dark slate upper mandible and much paler lower mandible.  Thought to be an adult female on brightness of plumage and anecdotal evidence of it being a returnee for fourth consecutive winter. 



Similar species:

Female and immature Black-headed Grosbeak (BHGR) can be remarkably similar in plumage to Rose-breasted Grosbeak (RBGR) of the same age/sex.  An imm. male RBGR can be eliminated by rosy-red wash appearing on breast, blackish wings, and pink underwing linings.  Adult and imm. female RBGR can be eliminated by extensive dark streaking on breast, sides, and flanks, pale buff to whitish underparts, less contrasty head pattern (no buffy-white on nape), and dull yellow underwing linings (not nearly as bright as in BHGR).  In addition, any age/sex of RBGR can be eliminated by uniform pinkish-flesh bill.  Furthermore, any Pheucticus grosbeak in late winter is more likely to be a BHGR, as RBGR departs N. A. almost entirely.

Photographs or tape recordings obtained?

Video by Devin Bosler. Yes, video images attached.

Previous experience with this species: 

Very familiar with BHGR from many trips out west.  I observed BHGR almost daily at various locations throughout NM during summer 2007.

Identification aids:

after observation:    National Geographic Complete Birds of N.A. (Alderfer et al. 2005)

This description is written from: 

notes made during the observation, notes made after the observation, memory.

Are you positive of your identification? If not, explain: 




Devin Bosler 

Date and time: 

28 February 2008  9:00 PM CST