The great hunt for BLUE GROSBEAK

By Dave Hanks

We have made many excursions south into Blue Grosbeak country, hoping all the while to get lucky. This brilliantly blue-colored bird comes up from Mexico as far north as the mid to southern U.S.A. It is distinguished from the Indigo Bunting by its larger size and rusty shoulders - both species being a very luminous blue. The quality of the blue is related to the quality of the habitat and seeds available.

This grosbeak is 11 inches long with a large, silver-gray, seed-eating beak. The female is a light brown but does have the rust-colored shoulders. The male’s color is not as big a factor in the female’s mate selection as is his ability to sing. His song consists of a continuous warble and sometimes a low buzzy “bzzt”. Their nest will be found in a bushy tangle at about 1 to 3 feet above the ground. Two broods are raised each year where weather permits.

I have had a “love affair” with all grosbeaks and a resulting drive to capture them all on film. Catching the blue one was disheartening, until one April in a campground in west Texas. Two elderly women, who knew I was seeking the species, one morning came rushing in their pajamas to report that the birds were coming into their campsite. They invited me to try my luck at their place. I sat there for two hours to no avail. However, upon return to our camp, luck was now with me. Two birds were coming to water in a pan, that Carolyn had set out, on a regular basis. Thus the resulting, featured picture was captured.

DNA tests have shown the Blue Grosbeak’s closest relative to be our Lazuli Bunting. This is the western counterpart to the Indigo Bunting, which is found in the east.

(Colors resplendent in the early morning sun)