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Pine Grosbeaks close to home

It had been almost five years since I last saw Pine Grosbeaks. So I was thrilled to find a flock of them in front of my husband's workplace, pigging out on ornamental fruit trees.

Pine Grosbeaks are large (as big as robins) fruit-loving finches. They're boreal birds who only come south into our area when their native winter food supply (mountain ash berries) is low. Some winters they don't come at all. When they do, they feast on crabapples and ornamental mountain ash berries, making a good living at places like Dominion Arboretum. They are amazingly tame. I photographed from six feet away without causing any of them to bat an eye. (Heck, a raven soared overhead croaking menacingly and they didn't bat an eye. Careful, guys--I've seen ravens take down birds bigger than you.)

All of these photos are of females and juveniles. Unfortunately, no adult males (who are a beautiful shade of dusky rose red) were present.

They also have to be the world's messiest eaters. Unlike waxwings who eat the whole fruit, Pine Grosbeaks crush and discard the pulp to get at the seed within, leaving berry innards all over the ground and all over their faces.

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Life bird #318The Bandit


November 16th, 2012 at 8:56 am
They do look like they're enjoying their lunch!

November 16th, 2012 at 11:22 am
Awesome! I've been looking for a place to photograph them. I tried the Arboretum and the FWG on the weekend and found lots of Bohemian Waxwings and a single Evening Grosbeak, but no Pine Grosbeaks.

I have heard and seen them on my walk to the bus almost every morning this week, however. Looks like I'll be walking around your husband's workplace and my subdivision this weekend checking the crabapple/mountain ash trees!

By the way, I think the only birds I've seen are females and immatures, too....haven't seen any red grosbeaks either.

November 16th, 2012 at 4:21 pm
If you go, the spot you're looking for is a building right at the corner of Herzberg and Legget. There are two buildings across from each other (both Nanometrics), and one has two fruit trees in the front yard. Both Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemians have been feasting there. Your chances are good if you go this weekend because there's still lots of fruit left!

November 17th, 2012 at 2:17 am
Also, midday / early afternoon might give you better chances than morning.