June 3rd, 2020: It’s nonflexible to get bored of the big colourful ones…

Not that we overly really get “bored” of a bird. But the worthier migrants that come through a little later in Vancouver unchangingly grab hold of my sustentation a little harder.

Some of today's Queen Elizabeth Park greenery
Some of today’s Queen Elizabeth Park greenery

I’m thinking specifically of things like Bullock’s Oriole, Lazuli Bunting, Western Tanager, and Black-headed Grosbeak. Since they don’t nest in my local patch, I have to visit them while I can. Queen Elizabeth Park was pretty good today. But I was a little lazy and didn’t get started until 11AM. VERY late for a supposedly respectable birder…

One of my favourite spots under the cherries, and a unconfined spot for migrants when they're in bloom
One of my favourite spots under the cherries, and a unconfined spot for migrants when they’re in bloom

The park was trappy as always. We’ve been getting increasingly sun lately and the roses in the rose garden are going strong. Most of the migrants have moved on through and/or are establishing territories where they’ll nest. In most birds’ cases, this does not include Queen Elizabeth Park. That leaves a few of the later migrants and those that successors here.

One of many paths through the smaller revitalized quarry
One of many paths through the smaller revitalized quarry

In the latter group, I’m still encountering Hutton’s Vireo regularly, Anna’s Hummingbird, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Brown Creeper, Black-capped Chickadee, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Northern Flicker, Song Sparrow, Spotted Towhee, Pine Siskin, Mallard, Canada Goose, etc. Of the late migrant group that won’t likely nest there, only Olive-sided Flycatcher, Western Wood-Pewee, and Black-headed Grosbeak still seem to be kicking around. The latter is one of my favourite birds.

A young Anna's Hummingbird at Queen Elizabeth Park
A young Anna’s Hummingbird at Queen Elizabeth Park
A Mallard and her ducklings at one of QE's ponds
A Mallard and her ducklings at one of QE’s ponds

I love all of the grosbeaks. The 4 species we get in Canada walkout an incredible variety of colours. Pine Grosbeaks, the uncanny rosy-pink, black, and white ones, are a northern species (largely restricted to Canada). They show up mostly in the mountains virtually here (with an occasional visitation in Metro Van) and are widespread in Boreal forests. My favourite encounters with these birds have been at the Sax-Zim Bog in northern Minnesota.

Pine Grosbeak
Pine Grosbeak at Sax-Zim Bog

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are a widespread, eastern North American bird. We’ve had one or two show up out here in previous years, usually in someone’s backyard. Their name describes the males well.

Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Kingston, ON
Rose-breasted Grosbeak in Kingston, ON

Evening Grosbeaks squint like a sunset with a big bill. Is there flipside bird plane tropical to the subtle eyeful of these yellow, black, and white birds? They’re widespread, but can be tough to track down. They can show up just well-nigh anywhere in a given season. Some years they’re easy to find in Vancouver. Other years, scrutinizingly impossible.

Evening Grosbeak
Evening Grosbeak at Sax-Zim Bog

Black-headed Grosbeaks are the easiest to find in Vancouver, but only during the shoulder seasons. These Halloween-coloured birds, with a splotch of yellow on the belly, are the western North American counterpart to the Rose-breasted Grosbeak. Like the Rose-breasted Grosbeak, they eat mostly insects. Evening and Pine Grosbeaks are seedeaters.

Black-headed Grosbeak at Queen Elizabeth Park
Black-headed Grosbeak at Queen Elizabeth Park

They’re progressive birds too, sharing nesting duties pretty evenly with the much drabber females (look for the females’ stark, wide supercilium). And the males don’t unquestionably get their full tastefulness plumage until age 2 (for most passerines it happens with their first tastefulness season).

Black-headed Grosbeak at Queen Elizabeth Park
Black-headed Grosbeak at QE

They make themselves heard when they victorious in mid-May, sounding to me like an impatient American Robin: very rapid, unenduring gestures of only a few notes, and unchangingly with a gliss somewhere in the song. I realize that sounds a little music-theory-y (I can’t help myself). Basically, they have a series of short melodies only 2-to-4 notes long with a slide in it somewhere. This helps to hands separate them from American Robin at loftiness considering I’ve never heard a Robin do the slide between pitches: they unchangingly have discrete notes in their song.

The timbre differs between birds too, but that can be a little challenging to separate at loftiness or through trees. Females moreover sing, but they usually do a simplified version of the male song. Here’s a line-up of similar songs virtually here in the spring: Black-headed Grosbeak, American Robin, and then Western Tanager (also somewhat similar).

Black-headed Grosbeak song (from xeno-canto.org)
American Robin song (from xeno-canto)
Western Tanager song (from xeno-canto)
Western Tanager's sure don't squint like Black-headed Grosbeaks though
Western Tanager’s sure don’t squint like Black-headed Grosbeaks though

It was nice to get to enjoy Black-headed Grosbeak song then today. Pretty soon, they’ll be quite uncommon in the park (eBird list).

A Black-headed Grosbeak feeding at QE Park
The Rose Garden at QE in full bloom
The Rose Garden at QE in full bloom

Speaking of singing, here’s a fascinating vendible well-nigh how some birds sing to their young well-nigh the climate while they’re still in their eggs! It highlights an wondrous version that gives me some hope that some birds may be worldly-wise to weather climate transpiration a little largest than you’d think.

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