Bird Database

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

(Pheucticus ludovicianus)

State of the Birds
At a Glance



Long distance


Strongly Decreasing


Habitat loss and fragmentation, Predation, Collisions

Conservation Actions

Manage forests for mid-successional stages, Maintain a bird-friendly yard

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

(Pheucticus ludovicianus)

With its bright splash of pink on an otherwise black and white body, the male Rose-breasted Grosbeak is instantly recognizable when one shows up at a bird feeder. The female is brown and white with a prominent white eyebrow and looks something like an oversized female Purple Finch. Males and females share in most reproductive duties, from nest building through incubation to brooding and feeding the young. Both sexes also sing, although singing in females is primarily associated with breeding behavior (e.g., while incubating or nest-building). In this context singing may serve primarily to reinforce the pair bond rather than help defend a territory.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks have a complex series of plumages. In their first fall, young birds typically resemble females, although males can have a a variable amount of pink or orange on their breasts. In this plumage they resemble the extremely rare Black-headed Grosbeak, which is the Rose-breast’s replacement west of the Great Plains. Although Black-headed Grosbeaks have occurred in New Hampshire they are not to be expected, and any such bird should be examined very carefully. Over the winter young male Rose-breasts start looking more like adults, but in their first summer will still be somewhat splotchy rather than sporting solid blocks of color. It may take 2-3 years for them to attain full adult plumage, although they can still breed when one year old.

The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is a bird of forested edges and mid-aged regenerating forests, and maturation of the latter may a factor in long-term declines in the eastern portion of its range. It may also be sensitive to forest fragmentation, and even if grosbeaks settle in smaller forest fragments they may be less successful in them. If breeding habitat is behind these declines, it would suggest that forests are being managed differently in the Midwest, where populations are generally stable or increasing. It’s possible that threats on the winter grounds operate differently for birds across the breeding range. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks migrate to a large area from southern Mexico to northern South America, with eastern birds wintering father east than western ones. Thus, if Columbia and Venezuela were experiencing more habitat alteration than Mexico, the effects would be most pronounced in birds from the eastern part of the breeding range. This is purely speculative however, since supporting research has yet to be undertaken, and declines in our Rose-breasted Grosbeak population remain unexplained.

Seasonal Abundance

Relative abundance based on eBird data. Numbers indicate likelihood of finding this species in suitable habitat at a given time of year, not actual numbers encountered.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak
Range Map

Information for the species profiles on this website was compiled from a combination of the sources listed below.

  • The Birds of New Hampshire. By Allan R. Keith and Robert B. Fox. 2013. Memoirs of the Nuttall Ornithological club No. 19.

  • Atlas of the Breeding Birds of New Hampshire. Carol R. Foss, ed. 1994. Arcadia Publishing Company and Audubon Society of New Hampshire

  • Birds of the World. Various authors and dates. Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

  • Data from the Breeding Bird Survey

  • Data from the Christmas Bird Count