Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Blue Grosbeak

On 16 July 2014, Erika and I stopped at South Dakota's Badlands National Park. In the park, one of the best places to look for birds is the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail. This short, half-mile loop consists of boardwalks and stairs, climbing about 200 feet. The Park Service considers this trail to be of moderate difficulty, although I can not imagine that most visitors will find it too much of a challenge. The trail winds around a shallow, often water-filled depression within a cedar draw.

I have seen Blue Grosbeaks at the nature trail, and we found one singing from the top of a tall cottonwood. The bird was a considerable distance from us, so I have included a second photo taken several years ago from Fort Pierre, South Dakota. Blue Grosbeaks mainly breed in the southern United States, but balloon north through the northern Great Plains. They winter in Mexico and Central America.

Blue Grosbeak biology is poorly known. The species tends to be relatively scarce. They may be out-competed by other, more numberous buntings and they are heavily parasitized by Brown-headed Cowbirds. They feed mostly on insects like grasshoppers and crickets, and also to a lesser extent on wild and cultivated grains (Lowther and Ingold 2011).

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