CUBS Bird Guide

Pine Grosbeak

Regional Species

One of the larger members of its family, the Pine Grosbeak is a bird of the boreal forests, found across northern Eurasia and North America, and south into the mountains of western Canada and the United States. A large, unwary finch, it makes periodic winter irruptions into southern Canada and northern United States. It is the largest and rarest of the "winter finches."


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  • Breeds in open coniferous forests.
  • Wintering areas determined by food availability, so found in wider variety of habitats, including urban areas.
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Seeds, buds, fruit, some insects.

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Eats fruits by biting through and discarding the pulp and crushing the seed. Insects caught by clumsy flycatching. Eats sunflower seeds at feeders in parts of range (rarely comes to feeders in other parts of range).Found in flocks in winter; strongly territorial in breeding season. Distinctive call note often given in flight.

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Open cup nest in tree


Typical Sound


© John Surman/CLO

Adult Description

  • Large finch; medium-sized songbird.
  • Plump, heavy-chested.
  • Dark wings with two white wingbars.
  • Large stubby curved bill.
  • male red.

Male Description

Pinkish-red head, breast, back and rump. Streaked back. White undertail coverts. Blackish brown wings and tail. White wingbars and tertial edges.

Female Description

Yellowish olive head and rump. Gray underparts and back. Blackish brown wings and tail. White wingbars and tertial edges.

Immature Description

Immature male usually is indistinguishable from immature or adult female until the second year when it molts and grows new reddish feathers. Some young males have some red or orange feathers in the body plumage, which females apparently lack. Females average duller than males (especially on the crown and rump) and have a lighter russet tinge to the head or lighter olive tinge to the breast than males. The color of the head and body is often golden orange or reddish bronze in males, in contrast to golden yellow of the female, and the chin is often buffier or more brown-gray than in the female.

Plumage Photos

Similar Species

  • White-winged Crossbill is smaller, has crossed-tipped bill, shorter tail; females streaked.
  • Evening Grosbeak is shorter-tailed, more stocky, and has large pale bill.
  • House Finch is smaller with less prominent wingbars; male with streaked sides.

Did you know?!

  • The tameness and slow-moving behavior of the Pine Grosbeak gave rise to local name in Newfoundland of "mope."
  • Winter flocks may stay near a tree with abundant fruit until all of it is consumed.