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Number of species: 41

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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.


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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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