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Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus

AHY/ASY and SY male Rose-breasted Grosbeaks are among the easiest of all passerines to age and sex at a glance due to their bold and distinct plumage patterns.  At the other extreme, ageing of females can be quite tricky, and even with a good view of the wing and tail, some may be reliably aged only by skull in fall, and should be considered AHY in spring.

Quick Tips:

  • Consider overall plumage - any individuals with black feathers are males, although note that prior to their first prealternate molt, body plumage of HY/SY males is similar to that of females.
  • Check the underwing coverts - they are pinkish on males, and yellowish-orange on females
  • Look for molt limits among the greater coverts or between the median and greater coverts - HY/SY birds often show a contrast between darker median coverts (and sometimes also inner greater coverts) and paler juvenile greater coverts, while on AHY/ASY birds the coverts are uniform
  • Examine the tail - the presence of any brown and narrow juvenile feathers indicates an HY/SY bird, but uniformly broad rectrices can occur on both HY/SY and AHY/ASY birds

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory

Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.
Age / Sex  Image sets 
Hatch year / Male
Brown overall; moderate white patches on the primaries at the bottom of the primary coverts; pink patch on the underwing; rectrices narrow
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66282-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3452.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66282-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3450.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66282-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3451.jpg

Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66279-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3453.jpg
Hatch year / Female
Brown overall; white patches on the primaries small or absent; yellow patch on the underwing; rectrices narrow
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91473-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3461.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91473-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3458.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91473-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3460.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91473-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3459.jpg
After hatch year / Male
Wings and tail black and white; variable amount of black on head and back, and red on the upper breast
Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70532-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3434.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70532-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3432.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70532-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3433.jpg

Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91405-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3437.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91405-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3435.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91405-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3436.jpg
After hatch year / Female
Brown overall; usually with small white patches on the primaries at the bottom of the primary coverts; yellow patch on the underwing; rectrices broad and rounded
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66278-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3443.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66278-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3441.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66278-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3442.jpg

Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91611-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3446.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91611-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3444.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91611-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3445.jpg
Second year / Male
Generally blackish upperparts, but with extensive brown on the wings and sometimes also on the tail and head
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89719-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3424.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89719-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3422.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-89719-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3423.jpg
Second year / Female
Brown overall; usually with little or no white on the primaries; subtle molt limits on the wing; rectrices may be broad, narrow, or mixed
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72727-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3428.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72727-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3425.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72727-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3427.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72727-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3426.jpg
After second year / Male
Solid black head and back; wings and tail entirely black and white
Thumbnail - MH3-1951-51541-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-446.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1951-51541-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-447.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-1951-51541-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-448.jpg

Additional age / sex class descriptions

The following additional age / sex class descriptions were found for this species:
Age / Sex   Age / Sex class description
After second year / Female Brown overall; usually with small white patches on the primaries at the bottom of the primary coverts; wing uniform in colour and wear; rectrices broad and rounded
Juvenile / Unknown Similar to HY plumage, including difference in underwing colour by sex
Number of species: 80

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