Black-headed grosbeak surprises PROWLS members

Black-headed grosbeak

STRANDED AND ALONE: Having hopped over to a nearby greenhouse for protection, this young black-headed grosbeak, about three weeks old, was found in Tla’amin, standing dazed with its left wing drooping.

Someone had removed a large brush pile where its nest was situated and this little family had been living. When Powell River Orphaned Wildlife Society president Merrilee Prior arrived, she couldn’t find any others; all were possibly scooped up in the brush removal process.

Females lays two to five eggs and males shares parental duties, including incubating the eggs for up to two weeks and feeding nestlings for another two weeks. Fully feathered with beginning markings, they would have just been learning to fly.

Songbirds migrated early this year; who knows why? So there was concern this nestling with its drooping wing would miss the fall migration to Mexico and have to spend the winter at PROWLS. It surprised us, though, and was released in time to join a flock and head south.

Voracious omnivores, black-headed grosbeaks are one of the few birds that can feed on monarch butterflies, which have deadly toxins in their bodies. Feeding on monarchs in eight-day cycles allows time for grosbeaks to eliminate the toxins.

As well, their massive bills quickly shell and consume sunflower seeds, hard-bodied insects and snails. Berries, grains and orchard fruit complete their diet.