Monday, January 11, 2021

Someone Missed the Text about Migration: Black-headed Grosbeak on the Tuolumne River

You never, ever know what you'll see when you set out on an adventure, however modest. Today I was taking my normal birdwatching/exercise stroll on the Tuolumne River Parkway Trail, and many of the normal birds were present. But I was about halfway through when a very unfamiliar sight appeared, one that made my jaw drop: a Black-headed Grosbeak (Pheucticus melanocephalus). These birds are found along the river, and I've seen them a few dozen times...but never, ever in winter. These are tropical birds who spend their winters in Mexico and Central America. According to eBird there are a grand total of six of them in all of California at the moment.

I don't know why this bird is still hanging around. They have a diverse diet of bugs, fruits, nuts, and seeds, and maybe this bird has a secure food source, perhaps some neighborhood bird feeders. Maybe it was injured in some way and wasn't able to make the journey with the others. There have been other winter stragglers in this area...last year it was a Hooded Oriole pair that spent the winter along the trail.


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