Tuesday, September 28, 2010


A new bird came to the feeder today whose ID mystifies me. I'd be grateful if any birders out there know its name. It had the overall look of a grosbeak, but offered mixed signals as to which species. In the guide books I consulted, it most closely matched a female black-headed grosbeak---except the same books indicated they live only in the western half of the U.S., never in Georgia.

This bird had brownish head & back feathers, with a distinct white stripe over each eye and a center stripe up over the forehead and crown of head. Its beak was of unmistakable grosbeak shape and size. It had pale rust colored breast feathers, and whitish belly feathers---with a well-defined horizontal division between the colors of the breast and belly. Smallish yellow patches on either side of the breast, near the wings. Wing feathers were markedly black with dominant bright white streaks (also very grosbeak-like). Similar in size to a cardinal. No crest.

It was most likely a female, but her markings seemed a confusing mix of both rose-breasted and black-headed grosbeak. In Decatur, GA. Late September. Maybe not a grosbeak at all---but that beak was pretty telling. I saw her only once all day---mid-morning. Anyone know what she was? Dr. Zinn? dkm


Book Worm said...

Debbie, I think it was a juvenile male rose breasted grosbeck. Scroll down to the bottom of this page of photos and see if you think so. http://www.pbase.com/photofair/warblers_and_similar&page=all
Folks in Decatur have been reporting a good number of migrating RB grosbeaks this week. Mary

dkm said...

Yes! That's definitely it. I hadn't thought of it being a juvenile. They can be so deceiving to newbies like me. Many thanks.

lisazinn said...

Oh good, you have already found your answer. I was also going to recommend a first winter male RBGR as my best guess.

dkm said...

Thank you Lisa! It doesn't hurt to have two experts weigh in---to confirm---especially since I had mistakenly assumed it was female by its muted breast color. Besides, I feel so lucky to KNOW two experts. Thanks to both of you.