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Number of species: 71

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Rose-breasted Grosbeak - Pheucticus ludovicianus

Rose-breasted Grosbeak has a partial preformative molt, and a prealternate molt that is partial to incomplete in the first cycle (FCA/SY) but only absent-limited in subsequent cycles (DCU/ASY). Plumage can be used to distinguish sexes at all ages. Although males are generally easy to age based on plumage, 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 M-FCA (AHY) in spring and summer.

Quick tips

  • Consider overall plumage - any individuals with black feathers are males, although those lacking black are not necessarily female, as males also lack black until they reach FCA (SY).
  • 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 - FCF/FCA (HY/SY) birds often show a contrast between darker median coverts (and sometimes also inner greater coverts) and paler juvenile greater coverts, while on DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds the coverts are uniform, but beware this contrast is much more subtle on females.
  • Examine the tail - the presence of any brown and narrow juvenile feathers indicates an FCF/FCA (HY/SY) bird, but uniformly broad rectrices can occur on both FCF/FCA (HY/SY) and DCB/DCU (AHY/ASY) birds.

Species account prepared by McGill Bird Observatory (2016). Last updated by Marcel Gahbauer (Mar 2022)

The molt categories displayed below may be filtered by month.

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Click on any image below to bring up the side-by-side comparison tool.

Individuals not in molt

FCJ - (HY: June - July)
Brownish above and pale with dark streaks below; cinnamon wing bars; underwing patch yellow (F) or with at least some pink (M)
No images available yet
FCF - (HY: July - December; SY January - April)
Brownish above and pale with dark streaks below; most to all rectrices relatively narrow and pointed; often a contrast between darker inner and paler outer greater coverts; underwing patch yellow to orange (F) or pink (M); no to little (F) or substantial (M) white patches on primaries
M
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91617-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3449.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91617-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3447.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91617-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3448.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51568-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3457.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51568-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3454.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51568-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3456.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51568-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3455.jpg
FCA - (SY: March - October)
Black (M) or dark brown (F) greater coverts contrasting sharply (M) or slightly (F) with dull brown primary coverts, primaries, and secondaries; at least some rectrices often narrow and pointed (but all may be freshly replaced, broad, and rounded); head and back brown (F) or mottled to solid black (M); no to little (F) or substantial (M) white patches on primaries
M
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72702-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3421.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72702-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3419.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-72702-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3420.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MH3-2231-72713-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-449.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2231-72713-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-450.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2231-72713-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-452.jpg Thumbnail - MH3-2231-72713-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-451.jpg
DCB - (AHY: July - December; ASY January - April)
Brownish above and pale with dark streaks below, with no to little white patches on primaries (F); mottled blackish above and white below with rose breast patch and large white patches on primaries (M); rectrices all broad and rounded
No images available yet
DCU - (ASY: March - October)
Wing black with large white patches (M) or uniformly brown with white patches small to absent (F); rectrices all broad and rounded
M
Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91537-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3414.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91537-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3411.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91537-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3413.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1891-91537-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3412.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51553-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3418.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51553-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3415.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51553-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3417.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-1951-51553-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3416.jpg

Individuals in active molt

FPJ - (HY: June - July)
Similar to FCJ; some natal down remaining and/or juvenile flight feathers still growing in
No images available yet
FPF - (HY: July - November)
Similar to FCF; some to all median coverts and occasionally a tertial and/or one or two central rectrices being replaced
No images available yet
FPA - (HY: December - December; SY January - May)
Body feathers, and often some greater coverts, tertials, and rectrices being replaced
No images available yet
SPB - (SY: July - November)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained juvenile primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts distinctly pale brown and quite worn
No images available yet
DPB - (AHY: July - November)
Flight feathers being replaced, with retained primaries, secondaries, and/or primary coverts either distinctly adult (blackish - M / dark brown - F, and with only moderate wear) or intermediate
M
Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70535-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3431.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70535-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3429.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2421-70535-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3430.jpg
F
Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66176-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3440.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66176-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3438.jpg Thumbnail - MG2-2231-66176-Pheucticus_ludovicianus_AOU_7_52-3439.jpg
DPA - (AHY: December - December; ASY January - May)
Similar to DCB, with some body feathers being replaced
No images available yet

Applicable unknown plumage/age classes

Molt classes Age Months Key traits
M-FPF / UPU (FPF, SPB, DPB) U July - November Undergoing preformative or prebasic molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCF / UCU (FCF, SCB, DCB) U/AHY July - April In formative or basic plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FPA / UPA (FPA, DPA) AHY December - May Undergoing prealternate molt, but cycle is not reliably distinguishable
M-FCA / UCA (FCA, DCA) AHY March - October In alternate plumage (molt completed), but cycle is not reliably distinguishable