Whenever male rose-breasted grosbeaks magically appear at our feeders in the spring, it is difficult to mistake them for any other bird. No other birds are cloaked in striking black-and-white plumage and also display bright crimson red chevrons on their breasts. However, when they pass through Georgia in the fall, identifying them can be a challenge.
The reason for this is the adults are in their nonbreeding plumage when they arrive at our feeders. In addition, they are accompanied by adult and immature females, as well as immature males. Whereas immature females are difficult to separate from adult females, the still look pretty much alike.
Things are a bit trickier when it comes to distinguishing immature males from adult males. However, the best way to describe an adult male is that it appears to be a washed out version of an adult male in breeding plumage. In addition, there are subtle differences between adult and immature males that are often difficult to separate in the field. Immature males will look much like the females, however they will sport varying amount of a rose wash on their breasts that is buffier than the breasts of the females.
Most years I only see rose-breasted grosbeaks in the spring. However, others, like Ron Lee, entertain the birds during both seasons. Such has been the case again this year. Whereas Ron has been seeing these stunning migrants for quite some time this autumn, they have avoided my feeders.
Ron has been kind enough to share with us the accompanying photo of a male rose-breasted grosbeak. Ron took the picture taken October 10, 2020.
With time running out on their fall migration schedule I suspect Ron’s photo is the only rose-breasted grosbeak I am likely to see this autumn.