Part II: Thanksgiving Day Migration Feast

Posted on by Kathie Fife

A Feast to Lift the Spirits

A female* pine grosbeak feeding on crab apple fruits. (*immature males can be indistinguishable because they often look like females before they molt. Adult males are red, not yellow).

What a Thanksgiving 2012 turned out to be! On Thanksgiving Eve I wrote a blog post about how blue birds (Thanksgiving Eve Migration Feast) had visited my back yard.

Thanksgiving day brought even more wonderful wildlife encounters — rare sighting of Pine Grosbeaks. Actually, I almost missed seeing them. I was walking home with my family after a relaxing hike through a conservation easement. I’m not sure who was more surprised, me, or the bird, when I nearly stepped on her! The female was feeding on the ground at the base of a crab apple tree, which is located near the window of a nursing home. The bird calmly let out a subdued call as she swiftly moved away from my foot. I looked around and wow! there was at least a dozen females; all of them feeding on the fruits from the crab apple tree.

Pine Grosbeak feeding on crab apple tree fruits.

It was dusk and the area where the birds were eating was in heavy shade. Light was fading very fast. I cranked up the ISO and kept my shutter speed at least 125/s. I walked around the tree slowly and snapped a series of shots.

A pine grosbeak tears at the flesh of the crab apple fruit. They only eat the seeds inside the fruit, and discard the rest.

An elderly woman opened the door and asked me if I knew what they were. She told me that the birds had arrived two days ago, and the residents had enjoyed watching them. The birds are female* pine grosbeaks, an irruptive species that probably migrated down from Canada. The nice lady thanked me for sharing my knowledge with her, and said that she would promptly relay the information to the other residents. (The residents had been watching me photograph the birds and hoped I would know what they were). She told me most of the residents were not able to be with their families on Thanksgiving Day and that watching the birds had lifted their spirits.

I have to agree, my spirits were lifted, too.

A pine grosbeak in a crab apple tree.

After eating the seeds inside the fleshy fruit, a pine grosbeak discards the remaining outer parts of the fruit.

A male pine grosbeak feeds on the seeds (samaras) of an ash tree. (This photo was captured several years ago in early January.)

(*often immature males will look like females before they molt into their red feathers – as noted in the last image).

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