5 Grosbeaks Backyard Birders Should Know

Look for large, colorful, eye-catching grosbeaks at your backyard feeders. Learn how to identify five species of grosbeaks in America.

Grosbeak Species

All grosbeaks—rose-breasted, blue, black-headed, pine and evening grosbeaks—share a common characteristic: a thick, conical bill for cracking tough seeds. Although these species go by the same descriptive name, grosbeak, they belong to different families. Pine and evening grosbeaks are finches; the others are in the cardinal family.

rose-breasted grosbeakCourtesy Garland Kitts

Rose-Breasted Grosbeak

In the eastern U.S., rose-breasted grosbeaks are a welcome sign of spring in the eastern U.S. These birds prefer a leafy, wooded habitat but also show up at backyard feeders. They love sunflower seeds, but they’ll eat raw peanuts and safflower seeds, too. The male rose-breasted is dapper with his bright red chest patch. The female is striped brown and white. Check out the types of bird feeders and seed birds love best.

blue grosbeakCourtesy Rick Hamilton

Blue Grosbeak

A telltale sign you’re looking at a blue grosbeak is the cinnamon-colored wing bars. Found mainly in the South, blue grosbeaks look for shrubby habitats such as old fields, forest edges and riversides. You might lure a blue grosbeak to a feeder with grains and seeds, as long as your backyard includes dense shrubbery. The male is bright blue and the female is light brown with rusty wing bars. Learn more about blue grosbeaks and how to attract them.

black-headed grosbeakCourtesy Mark Schmitt

Black-headed Grosbeak

In the west, black-headed grosbeaks spend summers in mixed woodlands and riverside trees. You might spot them sipping nectar from an oriole cup or cracking sunflower seeds at bird feeders. Male black-headed grosbeaks are dull orange-brown with a black head, while females are brown and white with orange tones. Learn more about western birds and their eastern counterparts.

pine grosbeakTim Zurowski/Shutterstock

Pine Grosbeak

At a whopping 9 inches, pine grosbeaks are big and a bit sluggish. They live in boreal coniferous forests of the far north and high mountains of the West, but a few wander into the northeastern U.S. in winter. If you’re lucky enough to attract a pine grosbeak to your feeder, take note of the male’s pink coloring. Females and young males are gray with touches of yellow or orange. Follow these simple tips to attract winter birds.

evening grosbeakCourtesy Lynda Yosco
Evening grosbeak

Evening Grosbeak

There’s no telling when or where evening grosbeaks, with their spectacular gold and dusky coloring, will show up. Winter migrants, they spend the season searching for food, typically tree seeds. They sometimes visit backyards for sunflower seeds at feeders or to nibble at trees with berries or buds, especially maples. This is how to feed and attract birds all year long.