Winter bird

Flying in a bit late for Draw-a-Bird-Day, this immature or female Pine Grosbeak (Pinicola enucleator) was eating tiny crabapples in Mill Creek Ravine Park, in late November 2017. Pine Grosbeaks bite through the skin of crabapples, eat the seeds and discard the pulp. They do the same with mountain ash berries. Realistically, the feathers of immature and female birds are grey and orange, but I coloured them on a cold, grey day, so I decided to go with golden brown and reddish orange instead – warmer and more festive!

Pine Grosbeaks do not breed in Edmonton. They mostly breed in subartic and subalpine open coniferous forests and the closest breeding areas to Edmonton are to the west, in the Canadian Rockies. Depending on the availability of their winter food sources, Pine Grosbeaks will either overwinter in their breeding areas or they will travel some distance away. During irruptive years, when nearby winter food supplies are particularly low, they travel much larger distances than other years.

Last year, I saw a few small flocks of Pine Grosbeaks from November to January, but this year, I haven’t seen a single one. Maybe it is because I spent less time on forested trails than last year? I checked out eBird to see if Pine Grosbeaks made appearances on other peoples’ birding lists in the Edmonton area. There were less appearances than the previous year. Then I looked at Pine Grosbeak winter-whereabouts in western Canada in the last 5 years. I was going to post a few maps, but I made some mistakes with my map screenshots. Maybe the maps will appear in a future blog post…

17 thoughts on “Winter bird

    1. Nice to hear that you pay attention to the birds around you, Kerfe :-). I like that we can access a wealth of natural history information because people have paid attention. In the moment, I find making bird lists a bit stressful, but I really like having them to look back to and, even cooler, that I can see other people’s sightings and they can see mine. Did you see the famous Central Park Mandarin duck?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve seen plenty of photos, but my brother and sister-in-law were visiting and actually saw it while taking a walk in the park! My sister-in-law helps with bird counts in a local reserve near where she lives in California, so she was very pleased with the experience.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I love your pine grosbeak art, and also the great info about the species. Spitting out the pulp, indeed! What is the medium for your pine grosbeak rendering (I hesitate to saw “drawing” or “painting,” since I don’t know).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Marian :-). I find it a bit odd that they spit out the pulp, but it explains why they get so much fruit mush on their beaks when they eat. I used a 0.1 Micron pen to draw the bird outline and some details, and some colouring pencils for the colours.


  2. Nice colored pencil drawing! The expression is animated and the overall composition is strong, and graphic. I love that detail of the partly eaten fruit – that really drew my eye. Wonderful. And it’s interesting to hear about going for the seed and leaving the pulp. I guess they need that protein.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Lynn :-). I’m glad you like the composition. I photographed this bird in many, many positions and I thought this one would make an interesting drawing. I like walking on forest trails and noticing that some trees have whole fruit only and others have partially eaten fruit and still others only have one or two lonely berries left. And there are also the berry piles that the squirrels make. Traces of animal activity! I assume like you that the grosbeaks eat the seeds for protein. I guess the amygdalin in the seeds doesn’t bother them for some reason. I tried to find some information about that but nothing turned up.


    1. Thanks for the article link, Lynn. I downloaded the whole article and so far it is quite interesting. No time to finish at the moment… but I’ll get back to it in 2 weeks and learn a little more.

      This winter, until February, has been much milder than last winter here. -20 to -25 Celcius during the day was more common last year. We did have -32 one morning this week. That is the coldest weather I’ve ever been out in. I chickened out of taking the bus and called and Uber. 🙂 Was there a cold spell in your area?


      1. Yes, there’s one now, coming in from the Pacific ocean and affecting a lot of the state. We’ve had below freezing temperatures overnight and much of the day for over a week now, I think, and we’re on our second snowstorm. Typically, snow is uncommon and melts quickly but the last snow, though not deep at all, stayed on the ground. And today we have a “real” snow coming down steadily and covering everything. A few inches. We could get more early next week, and the cold continues til the end of the week. The deer that visits our yard looks bewildered. But -32 C? I don’t know what I’d do!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Bewildered deer look comical :-).

          When it is colder than -20 C, I wear snow pants, a down jacket, a balaclava and a double lined tuque. Only my eyes are visible. If I absolutely had to go out in -32 C, I would add some ski goggles to that look… no exposed skin! Very cosy.


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