Common Name

Scientific Name

Photo by Unknown Photographer
Photo Courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

In the northern part of its range, the black-headed grosbeak, Pheucticus melanocephalus, is migratory, breeding in open woodlands and on forest edges in the western United States and southwestern Canada, and wintering in inland areas of southern Mexico. Some individuals in the southern portion of the species' range are non-migratory, however, and maintain year-round territories in coastal areas of southern Mexico and southern Baja California. The black-headed grosbeak is a common summer resident in Utah, where it is found in a variety of habitats, including lowland valleys, mountains, submontane shrublands, riparian woodlands, and aspen woodlands.

The black-headed grosbeak has a very large thick bill that allows it to handle large seeds and hard-bodied insects. Its diet consists mainly of insects, seeds, fruits, and berries. Males establish territories on the breeding grounds, and then perform a singing/flying courtship display for the females. Monogamous seasonal pair bonds are formed shortly thereafter. The female builds a cup nest in the outer branches of a small deciduous tree or bush using twigs, rootlets, and pine needles; she then lines it with fine material. Both sexes incubate the eggs, usually three to four in number, for about two weeks. The hatchlings are born naked, immobile, and blind, and both parents feed the helpless nestlings. The young leave the nest after about twelve days, but they are not able to fly for another fifteen days. Both parents continue to feed the fledglings during this time.


  • Behle, W. H., Sorensen, E. D. and C. M. White. 1985. Utah birds: a revised checklist. Utah Museum of Natural History, Occasional Publication No. 4. Salt Lake City, UT.

  • Ehrlich, P. R., D. S. Dobkin, and D. Wheye. 1988. The birderís handbook[:] a field guide to the natural history of North American birds. Simon & Schuster, New York. xxx + 785 pp.

  • Hill, G. E. 1995. Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus). Birds of North America 143.