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A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

A land manager's guide to conserving habitat for forest birds in ...

Rose-breasted Grosbeak

Rose-breasted Grosbeak Pheucticus ludovicianus Female Rosebreasted Grosbeak — Photo: Greg Lavaty Diet The diet of the Rose-breasted Grosbeak is diverse, consisting of insects, seeds, fruit, tree flowers and buds. It typically feeds by gleaning insects from leaves in the canopy but later in the summer it can be found foraging in the understorey for ripe berries. Male Rose-breasted Grosbeak — Photo: Robert McCaw Identification (18–21 centimetres) The Rose-breasted Grosbeak is known across much of eastern and central North America for its beautiful, bold colours, thick pale bill, and rich musical song. The male has a black head, back, and wings against a white belly and bright red chest. The female is streaked brown above with a bold buffy eyestripe, and brown and white streaked belly. Conservation Status The Rose-breasted Grosbeak breeds from the Maritime Provinces and north Atlantic states, west to the Great Plains, and northwest to northeast British Columbia and the southern tip of the Northwest Territories. It is still considered common throughout much of its range, though it has experienced population declines at a level of four percent since the 1980s. Breeding Biology The Rose-breasted Grosbeak occurs in a range of primary and secondary deciduous and mixed forest, including shrubby thickets, forest edges, and even well vegetated suburban gardens and parks. It is considered disturbance-tolerant and readily nests within six metres off the ground in areas of dense understorey and sapling growth where the canopy is relatively open. However, nests also regularly occur higher in the canopy of large deciduous or coniferous trees, and these tend to be more successful. In Ontario, this species breeds between early May and late June, raising one brood per season. Nests are quite bulky and flimsy in appearance and made of twigs and stems. Rose-breasted Grosbeaks lay three to four pale blue-green eggs with reddishbrown speckling. Management Guidelines Although this species can successfully breed in small woodlands, success tends to be lower and unsustainable compared to larger tracts. Managed forests may attract large densities of grosbeaks, but nest success is highest within mature forests where nest placement in the canopy is more frequent. Despite its occurrence in areas of low basal area, retaining areas of uncut forest may provide the best opportunities for grosbeak nest success in managed forests. How to Find Listen for the Grosbeak’s song, which is similar to the American Robin’s, yet more energetic, richer, and more rapidly delivered. Typically, they sing from the uppermost branches of a canopy tree. Also listen for their distinctive loud “pink” call note, which is similar to the sound a running shoe makes rubbing against a gym floor. Males can be easily spotted early in spring when they are having territorial disputes with younger males. Look for the bold flashes of black and white, anywhere between the Photo: Daniel Cadieux understorey and canopy. Did you know? • Unlike most songbirds, both males and females sing, incubate eggs, and brood young. • During migration, grosbeaks travel up to 80 kilometres/day overland, but make much longer non-stop “hops” over the Gulf of Mexico. 132 Bird Species Accounts

Indigo Bunting Passerina cyanea Female Indigo Bunting — Photo: Garth McElroy three or four white eggs lightly speckled with brown, and may successfully raise two broods per season. Diet The Indigo Bunting consumes small insects, spiders, seeds, buds, and berries. It forages on the ground and among shrubs, grasses, and herbs. It also gleans insects from the vegetation, up to the canopy. Management Guidelines The Indigo Bunting is abundant in eastern North America and does not require any special habitat management efforts to ensure its survival. Generally, even-aged management and group selection provide the early successional habitat with increased growth of shrubs and understorey herbs that buntings favour. Locally, their populations decline with removal of hedgerows, maturation of forests, and increasing urbanization. How to Find Watch for the bright blue male Indigo Bunting along forest and roadside edges and listen for his lively musical and metallic song. Male Indigo Bunting — Photo: Garth McElroy Identification (12–13 centimetres) The brilliant blue male Indigo Bunting is easily spotted along roadside edges and scrubby areas. In contrast, the plain brown female is often overlooked, though some may have blue-tinged feathers on wing, tail, or rump. Indigo buntings have short, thick bills and are renowned for their constant singing, from the time the male arrives on territory until the second brood is out of the nest. Conservation Status The Indigo Bunting is considered abundant throughout its range. Populations as a whole appear stable or slightly increasing. Local fluctuations occur based on habitat availability; increasing where forests are cut and brush habitat becomes available, and decreasing in areas of forest maturation. Breeding Biology The Indigo Bunting breeds from southern Manitoba to Maine, southward to northern Florida and westward to southern Arizona. It breeds in dense shrubby areas like forest edges, roadsides, along railway and power lines, and within forests in openings with dense understorey and relatively open canopy cover. The nest is constructed of leaves, stems, bark strips, and grasses and is placed within one metre of the ground in dense shrubs or herbs. In Ontario, buntings breed between late May and mid August, laying Photo: Lucas Foerster with paired phrases. He usually selects the top of some small tree or powerline and repeats his song many times before seeking another perch. Did you know? • The male and female form a very loose pair bond and hardly interact after egg-laying. • The male Indigo Bunting does not provide parental care to nestlings and may not help feed the young once they leave the nest. • Up to four females may nest within a single male’s territory. Bird Species Accounts 133

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