Wild Birds Unlimited Newsletter
~ For those passionate about birding and nature ~
June 2017                                                                                              Volume 6.17
Nature News

High Desert Bird of the Month
Black-headed Grosbeak

 
 

Common Name: Black Headed Grosbeak
Scientific name: Pheucticus melanocephalus 

Here in the Truckee Meadows, we are likely to be visited by two species of grosbeaks - the Black-headed Grosbeak in spring and summer, the Evening Grosbeak in winter. 

Black-headed Grosbeak is a spring and summer visitor in our area, and winters in Mexico. Breeding males are a rich orange-cinnamon with a black head and black and white wings. Females and immatures are brown above with warm orange or buff on the breast. In flight, look for the beautiful bright yellow under the wings. Their bills are large and conical like other grosbeaks.

Habitat preferences are very diverse-they may be found from mixed woodlands, mountain forests, thickets along desert streams, to gardens and backyards. Ideal habitat seems to be a combination of large trees and a rich understory. Preferred nesting sites are in the outer branches of small trees or a bush near a stream. Oxbow Nature Study Area is a good place in Reno to look for them during nesting season.

The song of the Black-headed Grosbeak is a real treat, sounding very robin-like. Both male and female are loud songsters; the female's song is usually a simplified version of the males. The male courts the female with singing and flight displays that involve fluttering up from a perch, singing and spreading his wings and tail, and settling back on the same perch. Both parents sit on the eggs, feed the young and defend their nesting territory. They will drive away predators like Scrub Jays and Steller's Jays.
Insects and spiders make up about 60% of their breeding season diet, supplemented by seeds and fruits. They will visit backyard feeders for sunflower seed, and possibly even nectar feeders put out for orioles. Check with the staff at Moana Nursery for tips on seed and feeders for both types of grosbeaks. 

Black-headed Grosbeak / Male Description
  • Breeding (Alternate) Plumage: Head black (sometimes broken by partial or complete eyestripe of bright cinnamon); wings and tail black with sharply contrasting white spots; breast, rump, nape, and flanks brilliant cinnamon; and a patch of lemon-yellow on belly
  • Nonbreeding (Basic) Plumage: similar, but dark feathers tipped with buff, hiding much of plumage pattern.

Black-headed Grosbeak / Female Description

Head brown with buffy to white (occasionally lemon-yellow) crown and eye stripe, a pale chin, brown wings and tail with indistinct buffy spots, and heavily streaked body plumage that is dull cinnamon to buff with variable amounts of yellow.

For more information on Black-headed Grosbeaks, visit one of the three Moana Nursery store locations:  1100 W. Moana Ln. & 11301 S. Virginia St., Reno and 7644 Pyramid Hwy., Sparks. 
 
Carmel Ruiz-Hilton is Manager of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shops at Moana Nursery in Reno/Sparks

Fun Facts About 
Grosbeaks

- The male Rose-breasted Grosbeak shares incubation duties with the female and is known to even sing while sitting on the nest.
- The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is beneficial to farmers, consuming many potato beetles and weed seeds.
- The Rose-breasted Grosbeak will breed with the Black-headed Grosbeak in areas where their ranges overlap.
- Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are known for singing on moonlit nights, sometimes all night, but never very loudly.
- The nests of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are commonly parasitized by the Brown-headed Cowbird, possibly due to the singing done by both the male and female as they construct the nest.
- Rose-breasted Grosbeaks' preferred feeder items are sunflower, safflower and peanuts.
- The nests of the Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeaks are so thinly constructed that eggs often can be seen through the nest from below.
- The males of both the Rose-breasted and Black-headed Grosbeak share equally in incubating eggs and feeding young, despite having a much showier plumage than their respective females.
- The Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeak have unusual diets for birds with such a big seed-eating beak. Throughout most of the year, over half of their diet is made up of insects. Their huge beaks allows them to eat large grasshoppers, crickets and other insects that have tough exoskeletons.
- By singing a "male" song, the female Black-headed Grosbeak can trick her mate into thinking a rival male is nearby, forcing him to stay closer to the nest.
- Black-headed Grosbeaks eat insects, weed seeds and fruits. Sunflower seeds are their favorite feeder food.
- Black-headed Grosbeaks are one of the few birds capable of eating toxic monarch butterflies. They discard the wings before eating the butterfly in an apparent attempt to reduce the amount of toxins they ingest.



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Upcoming Events
 
Lahontan Audubon Society

Field Trip - Spooner Lake and Chimney Beach

When  Fri, June 2, 8am - 11am
Where  Meet in the Spooner Lake north parking lot (map)
Description  Spooner Lake and Chimney Beach When: Friday, JUNE 2nd, 8a to 11a eBird hotspot: http://ebird.org/ebird/hotspot/L600602 Where: Meet in the Spooner Lake north parking lot Leader: Jeff Bleam email: jcbleam@gmail.com Activity Level: 3-6 miles, easy to medium The 2mi hike around the lake can yield Nuthatches, Flycatchers, Kinglets, Vireos, and Ducks on the lake. We may hike up North Canyon Road and then make stops along Hwy 28 to Chimney Beach in search of a Pileated Woodpecker and Canyon Wren. There is a fee to park at Spooner Lake SP. 



Animal Ark

CSI: ANIMAL ARK

June 17 @ 10:00 am - 3:00 pm
Animal Ark, 1265 Deerlodge Road 
Reno, NV 89508 
Bring the family and become Cat Science Investigators! Receive hands-on training in identifying wild feline characteristics and biology as you walk through the park, observe living specimens, and meet our wildlife caretakers. Event prices: Adults $12; Seniors $11; Children (3-12 years old) $10; Children 2 and under are free.



Nature Happenings
* June is Perennial Garden Month & National Rivers Month
* Luna moths can be seen at night.
* Garter snakes are seen in yards.
* Viceroy, Fritillary and Tiger Swallowtail Butterfly mating seasons.
* Keep nectar feeders fresh and change sugar solutions every three days as the temperature rises.
* Many summer birds are not frequent feeder visitors but will seek out fresh water to beat the summer heat.
* Some cavity-dwelling species may attempt to start a second brood, so check your nest boxes to clean out sterile eggs, spiders, wasps or other debris and consider adding fresh cedar shavings.
* The first blackberries are ready to be harvested.
* Bird migration is finished. Birds that are here now are summer residents that nest.
* As the month progresses, feeders can become busy with visiting parents and fledglings. Look for titmice and chickadee young being fed.
* House Wrens are nesting.
* Canada Geese begin molting.
* Crickets begin their nightly serenade.
* Raccoon young are born.
* Keep your feeders and bird baths clean and your seed fresh.

Feed Our Local Birds!
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Moana Nursery | 1100 W. Moana Lane | 11301 S. Virginia St. | 7655 Pyramid Hwy. | Reno/Sparks | NV | 89509