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Grosbeaks' Beaks

...the long and the short of it!

Black-headed Grosbeaks and Evening Grosbeaks belong to entirely different families of birds. Both groups evolved oversized bills for opening tough seeds. The Black-headed Grosbeak is closely related to the cardinal, while the Evening Grosbeak is close kin to the goldfinch. The common name they share, "grosbeak," means large beak or bill. And those common names were in use long before science began sorting the birds into their genetic affinities.

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Transcript: 
BirdNote®

Grosbeaks’ Beaks—
What is a grosbeak?

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!
 Watching at the edge of a shallow pool this May day in the West, we see two birds bathing. One is stocky, the size of a starling, feathered orange with a black head and a large, thick bill. [Black-headed Grosbeak song]
 The other, about the same size, is brown set off by vivid yellow. It also has a conspicuously large and conical bill. [Evening Grosbeak trills]
  Let’s look them up in our bird guide. Here’s the first. It’s a Black-headed Grosbeak.  [Black-headed Grosbeak song] But where’s the second? There must be some mistake. Wait, here it is – it’s an Evening Grosbeak – but it’s not described until nearly the book’s end! [Evening Grosbeak trills]
 That’s because, the Black-headed and Evening Grosbeaks belong to entirely different families of birds. Both groups evolved oversized bills for opening tough seeds. The Black-headed Grosbeak is closely related to the cardinal, [A few Northern Cardinal notes] while the Evening Grosbeak is close kin to the goldfinch [American Goldfinch flight call].
 The common name they share, “grosbeak,” means large beak or bill. And the common names were in use long before science began sorting the birds into their genetic affinities.
 [Black-headed Grosbeak song]
 For BirdNote, I’m Frank Corrado.
###

Bird audio provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York.  Black-headed Grosbeak song and single trill of Evening Grosbeak recorded by T.G. Sander.  Northern Cardinal call recorded by G.A. Keller.  American Goldfinch recorded by D.A. Sibley. 
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Chris Peterson
© 2010 Tune In to Nature.org           May 2010

ID# 2008-05-29-grosbeak-01-KPLU           grosbeak-01

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