Sunday 14 February 2016

Pine Grosbeak - Newfoundland's Home Finch

Pine Grosbeak is a common year-round resident of Newfoundland and Labrador. It is a widespread summer resident as well as being present every winter regardless of the wild food crop. Some finches like the crossbills and siskins may vanish completely in winters without cones but not the Pine Grosbeak.  In winters of famine they get by eating next year's buds on the tips of the twigs of living larch and spruce trees.  Partridge berries on windswept winter barrens remain intact into spring providing a source of food for Pine Grosbeaks in harder times.  Sometimes Pine Grosbeaks stoop to using bird feeders.  This is a more widespread activity in colder Labrador than on the island of Newfoundland.  This winter Pine Grosbeaks are in their glee with a province-wide bumper crop of dogberries and spruce and fir cones are plentiful.

Nice flocks of Pine Grosbeaks are forming in choice dogberry stands. American robins often associate with them. Last weekend while looking for the Fieldfare at Lumsden it was impressive to see the low hundreds of Pine Grosbeaks indulging on the limitless berries. Yesterday Ken Knowles, John Wells and I searched the Trepassey area for robins of which we found about fifty. There were also a nearly equal number of Pine Grosbeaks in the same area feeding on the excellent dogberry crop.  Ken and I stopped to photograph some of the Pine Grosbeaks that were presenting themselves to us left and right. There was high proportion of bright pink males, at least 66.6% of the total.

Pine Grosbeaks are in the business of eating the little seeds within the dogberries and are usually too busy to wipe off the excess pulp that collects on the bill.  Some of the pulp falls on the snow where robins often make use of it.

Pine Grosbeaks have an air of intelligence about them. They keep an eye on you but generally allow close approach because they have decided you pose little danger. Some people interpret this as a sign of stupidity - hence the name Mope commonly used for the Pine Grosbeak in the province.   Most other birds fly first without even thinking whether you present any danger or not. 

The berries are shriveling up as winter progresses but should still provide a food source to the end of the season.  Looks like there will be plenty of dogberries for the birds right to March 31. 

Females were less inclined to jump in front of the camera. Even this one might be a young male with its rusty, not yellow, crown containing a few pink feathers.

Black-capped Chickadees kept trying to land on us. Someone must be hand feeding them here - Cliff is that you?

Shortly after leaving Trepassey we came across these long-legged sheep by the road to Peter's River.

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