Sunday, May 11, 2014

San Diego Year Bird #218: Blue Grosbeak


Blue Grosbeak
Blue Grosbeak. April 20, 2014. Mission Trails Park, San Diego, California. Greg Gillson.
In August 2005, at Croatan National Forest HQs in North Carolina, I saw a single medium-sized all-brown passerine with a huge bill--a female or young-of-the-year Blue Grosbeak. That remained the only representative of the Blue Grosbeak species that I had seen up until this spring.

Blue Grosbeak is the third of five San Diego target species I set for myself for this spring. I already found Black-chinned Sparrows and Bell's Vireos.

In a 3 mile walk around Mission Trails Park I observed at least 16 individual Blue Grosbeaks, mostly males. They were primarily in damp stream bottom edges with grasses and scattered shorter deciduous trees. Common birds in that same habitat were Yellow-breasted Chats and Lazuli Buntings. At a distance they kind of reminded me of long-tailed Starlings--dark and pudgy, flying up in pairs or small groups onto fence lines or shorter trees.

I found the song of these birds to be buzzy and loosely structured. It seems a combination of House Finch and Warbling Vireo (like a House Finch but buzzy all the way through).

Blue Grosbeak