Bird Watcher's General Store

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks Don't Stay
05/17/02


Dear Bird Folks,

Last May we had a beautiful male rose-breasted grosbeak eating at our feeder, but it didn't stay. This spring the bird has returned. What can I do to keep him from leaving again?

-Jane, Barnstable

Hello Jane,

Try a little Elmer's Glue on you feeder perches. That should keep the bird around for a good long time. We get this question a lot this time of year. Spring migration brings lots of cool birds tour yards and neighborhoods. Most of them will nest here, but many are only stopping to rest. Birds have this amazing ability to fly thousands of miles from the deep tropics back to where they were hatched 11 months earlier. Most of them have never made the return trip before and do it without the help of maps, GPS, AAA or some nagging mate telling them where to turn.

However, as remarkable as the bird's guidance system is, it isn't perfect. Sometimes weather or inexperience causes a bird to miss its target. When that happens, we are treated to an encounter with an unusual visitor. But as much as we would like the bird to stay for a while, it has a schedule to keep. After a few days of rest and refueling, the bird's instincts cause it to push on to its traditional breeding grounds.

The rose-breasted grosbeak is truly a handsome bird. I can see why you would want it to stay around for a while. But alas, your rose-breasted grosbeak will soon be heading back to where it was born, which is just about anywhere but Cape Cod. I'm not sure why grosbeaks don't regularly nest here. Although it is known that the dry pine forests that constitute much of the Cape are not a preferred habitat of grosbeaks.

So enjoy that beautiful rose-breasted grosbeak, Jane, because I'm pretty sure it won't be staying very long. Oh, by the way, I was kidding about putting out Elmer's Glue. You should use Super Glue, it works faster.



Artwork by Catherine Clark


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