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Black-headed Grosbeak

Pheucticus melanocephalus

Length: 7.5 to 8.5 inches Wingspan: 13 inches Seasonality: Summer
ID Keys: Dull orange body with black head, black and white wings

Black-headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalusBlack-headed Grosbeaks can be a common sight in the western U.S., primarily in and around deciduous woodlands.  They can be quite tame, and in some areas have even been known to allow the patient birder to hand-feed them.  Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of the very few birds that will consume Monarch Butterflies, which normally are too noxious for birds to consume.   A male is shown in the photo on the right.  A photo of a female can be found at the bottom of the page.


 Primarily deciduous forests, woodlands, and groves.  Sometimes found in mixed forest, rarely in pure coniferous forest.


Insects, seeds, fruits, and berries.  Feeds heavily on insects in the summer, as well as spiders and snails.  Will eat a variety of seeds and berries, as well as cultivated fruit.


Primarily forages by moving through branches and foliage of shrubs and trees, gleaning insects from foliage and taking fruit.  Will also forage on the ground, or occasionally by flying out and capturing insects in mid-air.


June and July. The nest of a Black-headed Grosbeak is a loose cup constructed by the female, and built of sticks, grasses, weeds, roots, and pine needles. It is usually placed in a deciduous tree on a branch location that's concealed partially by foliage, anywhere from 5 to 40 feet from the ground. The female lays 3 to 5 eggs, and both parents help to incubate them. The  young hatch after about 12 to 14 days, with both parents tending to the young and feeding them. They fledge from the nest about 14 day after hatching.


A fast, musical warbling.  Also a high crisp pik call.

Migration: Summers throughout most of the western U.S.  Winters in Mexico and points south.

Bird Feeders: Will attend feeders for various seeds.

Interactive eBird Map:

Click to access an interactive eBird map of Black-headed Grosbeak sightings

Similar Species:

Black-headed Grosbeaks could potentially be confused with other grosbeak speakes, and there are other birds that have an orange and black color pattern that might initially cause confusion.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak 5 - Pheucticus ludovicianus Rose-breasted Grosbeak 3 - Pheucticus ludovicianus Spotted Towhee 5 - Pipilo maculatus Bullock's Oriole 2 - Icterus bullockii
Rose-breasted Grosbeak (female) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (male) Spotted Towhee Bullock's Oriole

Conservation Status:

Black-headed Grosbeak populations appear to be stable, or increasingly slowly, according to systematic surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey. They are found over a broad geographic area, and are common in parts of that range. The IUCN considers the Black-headed Grosbeak to be a species of "Least Concern".

Further Information:

Photo Information:

July 1st, 2011 - Glacier National Park, Montana - Terry Sohl

Additional Photos:

Click on the image chips or text links below for additional, higher-resolution Black-headed Grosbeak photos.

Audio File Credits:

Click on the map below for a higher-resolution view
Black-headed Grosbeak - Range Map
South Dakota Status: Common summer resident in the western part of the state.  Casual in the east.

Additional Black-headed Grosbeak Photos
Click for a higher-resolution version of these photos
Black-headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalusBlack-headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalusBlack-headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalusBlack-headed Grosbeak - Pheucticus melanocephalusBlack-headed Grosbeak 5 - Pheucticus melanocephalus