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Pine Grosbeaks Irrupting in Northern New England

1-16-19 pine grosbeak _u1a0130If you live in northern Maine, you see Pine Grosbeaks year-round as this is the southern border of their breeding grounds. Those of us living in central Maine and northern New Hampshire and Vermont, if we’re lucky, will glimpse this member of the finch family only during major winter irruptions. (The rest of New England rarely sees a Pine Grosbeak.) It is an infrequent winter visitor in northern New England, irrupting less frequently and remaining further north than other boreal finches.

This is an irruption winter. Because of the dearth of mountain-ash berries and conifer seeds further north in the boreal forest, Pine Grosbeaks are seeking out crabapple and mountain-ash trees in northern New England.

A flock of Pine Grosbeaks will descend on a tree and strip it of its fruit in no time. Anyone who has watched these entertaining birds feeding knows that they are incredibly agile acrobats, stretching their necks and contorting their bodies in order to reach all available fruit. Once they grab ahold of a crabapple, they squash it with their short, conical beaks. They can look quite comical as the fleshy pulp accumulates on the tops and sides of their beak, as well as on the ground beneath them. The object of their desire and efforts is the seeds within the fruit, which they consume with gusto. If disturbed they will fly en masse to the tops of nearby tall trees where they remain until the perceived danger has passed and then return to continue feeding. (photo: female Pine Grosbeak in crabapple tree)

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8 responses

  1. Kyle Jones

    Thanks Mary-

    One of my favorite birds, and scientific names (Pinicola enucleator), because of that habit of “enucleating” (e.g. removing the nucleus/seed from the fruit).

    January 16, 2019 at 8:18 am

    • You just taught me something, Kyle! I hadn’t looked up the derivation of the species scientific name! Very cool.

      January 16, 2019 at 9:10 am

  2. colorofvermont

    Thanks Linda!  I love this woman and her blog!   I went back to the mall Sunday to check out my grosbeak friends again.  I was sad to see them gone, but horrified to see that at least 3 more of them had died smashing into that stupid window.  Well what a treat they were to see!

    Sent from Yahoo Mail on Android

    January 16, 2019 at 8:25 am

  3. Gaylee Amend

    of course I had to look up the differences between erupting and irrupting thinking you had a new spelling variant. Volcanoes erupt and for sure the recent onslaught of feeders on my crabapple was an invasion though welcome. So out vs in does it. Thank you for the scene and the spelling lesson…an almost daily treat.

    January 16, 2019 at 11:00 am

  4. Alice Pratt

    Interesting to eat upside-down.

    January 16, 2019 at 1:46 pm

  5. Kathie Fiveash

    Great photo Mary!!!

    January 16, 2019 at 2:01 pm

  6. Diane Alexander

    Pine Grosbeaks too? Hooray!!

    January 16, 2019 at 5:33 pm

  7. Sarah G Burger

    Kind of interesting. sb

    January 17, 2019 at 11:47 am

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