Pine Grosbeaks close to home
November 15th, 2012
It had been almost five years since I last saw Pine
. 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.