Pine Grosbeak

© Jay McGowan

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator Linnaeus (1758)

Appearance: – adult males are raspberry-red on the head, breast, sides, back, and rump, with blackish-brown flight feathers; grayish chin and under eyes; lores and indistinct eyeline blackish; wings with 2 white wingbars, and white edges on tertials and secondaries, leading edges of primaries reddish to grayish; uppertail coverts dark gray, edged reddish; tail long and moderately notched; lateral and posterior underparts grayish. Adult female slightly smaller, and it and first-year birds (both male and female) with head, rump and sides of breast to flanks yellowish to bronze, plumage otherwise gray including more extensively in lores to area below eye. 

Irruptions Winter 2020-21: Taiga ssp. will irrupt, in at best, very small numbers into the border areas of the northeastern United States winter 2020-21. Likely a bit more common in the upper Great Lakes areas than the northeastern states.

Natural History: Pine Grosbeak inhabits subarctic and boreal forests from eastern Canada to western Alaska. It also occurs in coniferous forests of western mountain ranges and in coastal and island rain forests of Alaska and British Columbia. Feeds primarily on a variety of spruce and pine buds and the seeds of mountain ash, box elder, and ash. During irruptions it can also be quite common in villages, towns and state forests with planted crabapples. Will also occasionally visit platform or hopper feeders to snack on sunflower seeds, particularly during the winter in northern parts of its range.

Irruptions 2020-21: Taiga ssp. will irrupt, in at best, very small numbers into the border areas of the northeastern United States winter 2020-21.

Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator enucleator
-> Scandinavia to C Siberia
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator kamtschatkensis
-> NE Siberia
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator sakhalinensis
-> Sakhalin and Kuril Is., N Japan
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator flammula
-> coastal S Alaska and W Canada
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator carlottae
-> Queen Charlotte Is. (off W Canada)
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator montana
-> inland SW Canada to WC USA
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator californica
-> E California
Pine Grosbeak Pinicola enucleator leucura
-> inland W, C Alaska to E Canada and N New England (USA)

Object of study: flight call variations and genetics

Flight call: Usually described as tee-tee-tew, or resembling calls of Greater Yellowlegs but actually highly variable geographically depending on subspecies.


Western: California, Pacific Northwest, Rocky Mts, Queen Charlotte groups


Irruptions: The Taiga ssp. is an infrequent winter visitor often only irrupting in some numbers south of the boreal once every 4-7 years; it irrupts less frequently than other boreal finches, and its flights seldom penetrate as far south. Only during exceptional winters does the Pine Grosbeak become conspicuous, and then only locally. The Tiaga ssp. leucura is by far the most irruptive and can rarely occur as far south as Kansas and Virginia. In western mountains and coastal forests this finch apparently does not irrupt much and when it does it is largely only thought to involve ssp. flammula found along the coast of British Columbia northward to Alaska and ssp. montana found in the Rockies –The latter subspecies only irrupting to valleys in the foothills of the Rockies.

FiRN Needs: Recordings from the entire distribution area would be appreciated.

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