Bird #561 — Yellow Grosbeak

pheucticus (inclined to avoid, retiring) chrysopeplus (golden-robed)

Huerfano County, Colorado — Reagan Road

Saturday, May 29, 2021 — 9:51 am

The Yellow Grosbeak lives along the western edge of Mexico. It occasionally wanders north into Arizona, and there are a few sightings from New Mexico and Texas. I don’t believe it’s ever been seen in Colorado—or anywhere else this far north.

But one was spotted yesterday coming to somebody’s feeder in rural Huerfano County, about 25 miles south of Pueblo and 4 miles east of I-25. Access wasn’t available before 9:00 am. I arrived around 9:15 and found about 20 birders there before me. They packed the porch and were overflowing into the yard on both sides of the house. A steady parade of Black-headed Grosbeaks, Blue Grosbeaks, Bullock’s Orioles, Lewis’s Woodpeckers and a variety of other species kept us entertained.

The Yellow Grosbeak had been seen earlier in the morning and there was a fair degree of optimism that it would return. After I’d waited about 35 minutes, a woman saw it fly in and land in a cottonwood. The bird perched among the leaves for three or four minutes, looking at the large crowd that had gathered.

It flew to a couple other branches—creeping ever closer to the feeder it preferred. It made one final approach on a dead branch just off the porch.

It then flew to a hanging sunflower feeder and ate quietly for another 8 or 10 minutes. I was able to move to an angle where the light was good. Except when flying, it was a very quiet bird, perching in one place for minutes at a time, looking slowly around, and eating seeds without any unnecessary motion.

The consensus among birders is that the grosbeak is a male born last year. It has dark marks on its back and head, but not as many as would be expected on a female.

It took off and flew low across the yard, giving us great views of the black-and-white wings and tail and the bright yellow body. It looked something like a giant American Goldfinch. It was a beautiful bird—one that wasn’t on my radar to see and that I’ll likely never see again. I’m definitely glad I made the trip.

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