Thursday, December 27, 2007

It's A Lifer! Pine Grosbeaks In Norfolk, CT

I took a ride out to the northwest corner of Connecticut this morning hoping to find a Pine Grosbeak. They are the largest of the winter finches, and not particularly wary around people. Although they are normally found in boreal forests, they are irruptive this year and some have recently found their way into parts of Connecticut. I arrived in Norfolk at 9am after a 1-1/2 hour drive. I parked where I had a view of several crab apple trees, where the grosbeaks had been previously reported, but after a half hour of waiting, there was no sign of them. Just after 9:30 am, I started to hear some suspicious sounding finch-like calls. I looked in the bare trees across the street and saw some plump reddish birds, along with some grayish ones, perched near the top. "That has to be them!" I thought to myself. Actually, I might have even said that out loud.

I went across the street and watched in amazement as a whole flock of
Pine Grosbeaks were in the midst of gorging themselves with crab apples. This was my first time ever seeing these beautiful birds. I counted as many as 17 at a time but I think that there were probably a few more than that. There were several adult males (like the one seen above). Apparently, immature males and females look very similar. They both have a grayish-olive tone with some yellow features. This is the second irruptive finch species that I've been able to find in Connecticut this winter (Red Crossbill being the other). What a nice way to spend a rainy morning!

A few Cedar Waxwings also joined in on the feast. I was hoping that I might find a Bohemian Waxwing mixed in with them but I didn't spot any within the few seconds that they stayed. Pine Grosbeaks don't seem particularly neat in the way they go about eating. There was fruit residue all over their bills and they also left a mess of skins and fruit pulp on the ground. Apparently, they are eating the seeds within the fruit and not the actual fruit itself. Thanks to Corey of 10,000 Birds for bringing this to my attention. Several trees in the area had already been completely stripped of fruit. I had already left to go back home when I realized that I forgot to take some video footage, so I went back to take this short video of a male Pine Grosbeak having its breakfast.


Anonymous said...

Glad you found some (and even more glad you went back for the video)!

They are messy eaters because they are actually eating the seeds, not the fruit (I just learned this a little while ago myself when I also commented on their messy eating).

Unknown said...

That is soooo incredible! What a great sighting!

How neat you were able to get some video too!

I hope we see some soon would be a lifer to all of us Birdfreaks here!

Great birding to you!

J. Karl Clampit said...

Very nice! I love the use of video. Let me ask, was he dropping berries onto the hood of a car? I thought I heard some strange noises. Very nice post.

Mary said...

Sloppy eaters! But who cares - they are so pretty! Lucky you, Larry. Your heart must have been racing to see so many lifers at once. BRAVO!

Good video, too.

steadyjohn said...

Larry, it's OK to exclaim out loud ,even if you are alone.Hey, it's not every day you witness such sights!

Patrice said...

Congratulations Larry! And thanks for sharing with us. I'm going to play hooky tomorrow and try my hand at birding.

Ruth said...

I was so excited to see one of these birds earlier this month. They have stayed around in greater numbers than usual and really like ornamental crab tree fruit! Great video.

Tom Pirro said...

Way to go Larry! Glad you were able to get these in your home state!
Mary, they are sloppy looking eaters, they are actually after the seeds inside the fruity flesh of the crab apples!

Lynne at Hasty Brook said...

Hurray Larry!! What beautiful birds. I would be thrilled to see these lifers too!

Larry said...

Corey-Now that you mention it, I remember reading that on your post.I'm going to edit my post to include that info.-thanks

birdfreak-yes it was very exciting to watch.-I think the video got a little bit digitally garbled when I uploaded it though.

j. karl-something was dropping on to the hood of my truck but it may have had something to do with the rain.

Mary-Now we see that the sloppiness comes from the fact that they're digging out seeds from the fruit.

steadyjohn-Yeah-it was just a natural reaction.-It's not often that I see a new species that lives up to my expectations.

Patrice-Good luck with your birding-let us know how you make out.

ruth-That's great! Are you within their natural range?

Tom-thanks! I'm glad that Massachusetts allowed a few down to us southerners.

Lynne-Thanks!I'll bet there's quite a few up your way.

Anonymous said...

Congrats Larry!

Anonymous said...

It appears that Crab Apples seem to be fave places to find them (from all the photos I have seen)! This bird would be a lifer for me also! Congrats!

Mary C said...

They sure are beautiful birds, Larry, even if they are messy eaters. ;o) It's great you found so many of them. Great photos and video. Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...


Congats on your lifer!

I added these beautiful birds to my yard list just a few weeks ago.

Great job on the pics and video!


Jayne said...

Oh Larry! WOWOWOWOWOWOW! I am so very jealous. I can't believe you saw ONE, let alone 17 of those beautiful birds. Love the waxwing too. Oh, I am sooooo green.

The Zen Birdfeeder said...

Congrats on the Pine GrosbeakS. 17 of them - what a way to add a life bird!

Larry said...


monarch-yes-that's true but I would never have found them without the help of local bird reports.

john-That's a great bird to have in your yard!If we're getting them down here, you must be getting more than your fair share in Maine.

-Well Jayne-just check out your local bird reports and chase them down like I did!I'm glad you're green with envy though-It adds more value to my sighting!

Zen Birdfeeeder-Thanks-this one of my most memorable first time sightings!