Blue Grosbeak

Passerina caerulea
Range Map

Most scientists consider the Blue Grosbeak more closely related to buntings than to the Cardinal/Grosbeak complex. These birds breed coast-to-coast across southern USA, further north in the Mississippi Valley, and in to northern Mexico, often raising two broods per season. They spend winters in Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, where some stay year-round. Their preferred habitat is shrubs and scrubby brushlands.

Science has divided this species into six subspecies. These are regionally different from each other, three of which spend time in the USA, while the others spread their populations through Mexico and Central America:

  • P. c. caerulea breeds in the southeastern USA from Nebraska to Pennsylvania and New Jersey and south to east Texas and the Gulf of Mexico. They spend winters in southern Mexico, Central America, and the West Indies.
  • P. c. interfusa breeds in the southwestern USA and northwestern Mexico from southern Nevada east to Colorado and south, east of the Colorado River, through Sonora and Chihuahua (Mexico). They spend winters in western Mexico from Sonora south to Jalisco and the Valley of Mexico.
  • P. c. salicaria breeds in central and southern California and northern Baja California, east to the Colorado River valley. They spend winters in southern Baja California (Mexico).
  • P. c. eurhyncha lives in central and southern Mexico.
  • P. c. chiapensis lives in Chiapas (southern Mexico).
  • P. c. lazula lives on the Pacific slope of Central America.

First year males often show blue on their heads like their fathers, but cinnamon-colored bodies like their mothers. Despite my many encounters with these birds, I never met a first year male before visiting Texas in the spring of 2020. Though not as showy as their bright blue dads, they are still something wonderful to behold.

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