Birds – Blue Grosbeak

(Guiraca caerulea) Finch family

Length—7 inches. About an inch larger than the English sparrow.

Male—Deep blue, dark, and almost black on the back; wings and tail black, slightly edged with blue, and the former marked with bright chestnut. Cheeks and chin black. Bill heavy and bluish.

Female—Grayish brown above, sometimes with bluish tinge on head, lower back, and shoulders. Wings dark olive-brown, with faint buff markings; tail same shade as wings, but with bluish-gray markings. Underneath brownish cream-color, the breast feathers often blue at the base.

Range—United States, from southern New England westward to the Rocky Mountains and southward into Mexico and beyond. Most common in the Southwest. Rare along the Atlantic seaboard.

Migrations—May. September. Summer resident.

This beautiful but rather shy and solitary bird occasionally wanders eastward to rival the bluebird and the indigo bunting in their rare and lovely coloring, and eclipse them both in song. Audubon, we remember, found the nest in New Jersey. Pennsylvania is still favored with one now and then, but it is in the Southwest only that the blue grosbeak is as common as the evening grosbeak is in the Northwest. Since rice is its favorite food, it naturally abounds where that cereal grows. Seeds and kernels of the hardest kinds, that its heavy, strong beak is well adapted to crack, constitute its diet when it strays beyond the rice-fields.

Possibly the heavy bills of all the grosbeaks make them look stupid whether they are or not—a characteristic that the blue grosbeak’s habit of sitting motionless with a vacant stare many minutes at a time unfortunately emphasizes.

When seen in the roadside thickets or tall weeds, such as the field sparrow chooses to frequent, it shows little fear of man unless actually approached and threatened, but whether this fearlessness comes from actual confidence or stupidity is by no means certain. Whatever the motive of its inactivity, it accomplishes an end to be desired by the cleverest bird ; its presence is almost never suspected by the passer-by, and its grassy nest on a tree-branch, containing three or four pale bluish-white eggs, is never betrayed by look or sign to the marauding small boy.