Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.


You are here

Black-headed Grosbeak Sings!

One of the most distinctive voices of the West and Southwest

The song of this male Black-headed Grosbeak has been described as that of a drunken or scat-singing robin. Compare the songs of both birds, and draw your own conclusion! Singing Black-headed Grosbeaks can be heard from May well into summer, especially in streamside woods.

Full Transcript



Black-headed Grosbeak - Singing Under the Influence?

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!

[Black-headed Grosbeak song] 

A lilting, brightly whistled song erupts from a source hidden by the leaves of a tall alder tree. [Black-headed Grosbeak song] The song continues, but where the heck is the singer? [Black-headed Grosbeak song] At last a bird appears atop the alder, still singing. It’s a stocky, orange bird with a black head, a large, thick bill, and bold white blazes on its black wings. You’ve just found a male Black-headed Grosbeak. 

[Black-headed Grosbeak song]

Its song rings out from May well into summer, one of the most distinctive bird voices of the West and Southwest. The song has been described as that of a drunken or scat-singing robin. (It does slur some of its notes and the song does have a syncopated feel to it.) 

Why not draw your own conclusion? 

Here’s the lovely but more methodical song of the American Robin-- 

[American Robin singing] 

And now the up-tempo performance of the Black-headed Grosbeak-- 

[Black-headed Grosbeak song]

Listen for the rollicking song of the Black-headed Grosbeak this summer, especially in streamside woods. Its singer could have come all the way from Southern Mexico. 

[Black-headed Grosbeak song]

Writers for BirdNote include Bob Sundstrom, Todd Peterson, Dennis Paulson, Ellen Blackstone, and Chris Peterson. Our producer is John Kessler. I’m Michael Stein. 


Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Song of Black-headed Grosbeak [126546] T. Sander and song of American Robin [105684] recorded by G.A. Keller. 

BirdNote's theme music was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.

Producer: John Kessler

Executive Producer: Chris Peterson

© 2014 Tune In to  June 2014  Narrator: Michael Stein

ID#061406BHGR          BHGR-01b

Sights & Sounds

Related topics:

Related field notes: