Pine Grosbeaks At Oxtongue Lake in Ontario

Pine Grosbeaks At Oxtongue Lake in Ontario

Pine Grosbeak (male) sits in Oxtongue tree

Bob and I were able to observe a group of Pine Grosbeaks on a visit to Oxtongue Lake, in Ontario.   What a marvelous opportunity to study their behavior and also take a few pictures.  Much like Gray Jays, Pine Grosbeaks are not put off by people, and actually are very easy to approach.

Pine Grosbeak (male) - a moment of thought

This adult male was busy snatching up some seeds on the ground.  Pine Grosbeaks are actually members of the finch family.  I love the rosy red color of this male, and the mixture of black and white on his wings really sets off his plumage.

2 female Pine Grosbeaks at Oxtongue Lake

These were but two of the many Pine Grosbeaks that we saw on that day.  The group numbered around 15 birds, but it is not uncommon to have upwards of a 100 traveling together.  These two females have a yellowish colored head and rump with grey backs and stomachs.

Pine Grosbeak (male) gives us a look

Given the weather we had in Ontario this past spring, a lot of hardwood and coniferous trees did not produce a lot of seed crops for these birds to eat.  The early frost in the spring also wiped out almost 90 per cent of the apple crop in Ontario.  Among the various types of apples wiped out were crab apples, a type of apple which Pine Grosbeaks love to eat.

As you see in this short video that Bob filmed, the Pine Grosbeaks, Blue Jays and Chickadees were taking full advantage of my dad’s, Marvin’s, birdseed.

Pine Grosbeaks ground feed - Oxtongue Lake

Pine Grosbeak (female) forages on ground - Oxtongue Lake

Given the shortfall on sources of food in the wild, this small group of Pine Grosbeaks certainly took full advantage of the sunflower seeds that my dad had set out for them.  Each winter for as long as I can remember, my parents have provided a well-stocked feeding station for the birds that visit them in the winter.

Pine Grosbeak (male) forages on ground - Oxtongue Lake2

According to the Ontario Field Ornithologists, many different birds truly need us to set out food this year at our bird feeders.  The O.F.O. notes that  early frost, along with dry weather, has wiped out many different native sources of food for wild birds.  This shortage includes foods like  hazelnuts and beechnuts that in good years were easily sourced by birds in the forests.

Blue Jay at feeder

Nuthatch, Milne Park, Markham, Ontario

They also note the loss of these nuts and cones is presently impacting many types of birds like Blue Jays,  Nuthatches and Evening Grosbeaks.  They hope that people while help these birds through a tough winter by setting out food in their bird feeders.

Pine Grosbeak (male) back

Pine Grosbeaks (female) - forage and take flight at Oxtongue Lake

Pine grosbeak (male) looks left

For now, the Pine Grosbeaks visiting my dad’s feeder are doing okay, but as all birders know, a  shortage of food in an area will lead most birds to move elsewhere in a desperate hunt for food.  Hopefully, in these times of climate change,  my children and their children will continue to have the benefit of hearing and seeing these lovely birds the way I have since being a child at Oxtongue.

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6 comments

  • Myrna Mason
    We were delighted to have these beautiful birds visit our feeder this winter on Oxtongue Lake (both male and female). Unfortunately one of the colorful males stuck a window in our home. He sat stunned on the ground for a couple of hours and than flew away.While he was recuperating from the hit -both male and female Pine Grosbeaks took turns to be at his side until he flew away on his own. The next morning he was back at the feeder with a male bird…still looking not well but able to fly. I feel so sad when this happens to such a gorgeous bird. I hope the seeds, suet and his fellow bird friends) will sustain him until he is fully healed.
    thank you for sharing your pictures and all the information on this bird species.

    • Wow! That is heartwarming behavior on behalf of the Pine Grosbeaks. To think that they would watch over an injured one of their own is quite surprising. We, too, have had birds fly into our windows, but in most cases, they recuperate after a short while.

  • I’m seeing them around Peterborough most days. I heard one in full song yesterday morning. Thanks for sharing your great pictures.

    • We have yet to see any Pine Grosbeaks at our feeders here in Scarborough. We came across a small flock of them when hiking on the Oak Ridges Moraine, but other than that, we have had to enjoy seeing them at my dad’s place at Oxtongue Lake. I am really happy with the complement of Northern Cardinals that frequent my backyard…4 females and 5 males on occasion. More often than not, though, it is two females and three males. Such a vibrant splash of colour.

  • We have a large group of Pine Grosbeaks here at The Wolf Den. Wonder if they are the same ones? Thanks for sharing

    • I wonder if they are the same birds, too. The flock that frequents my dad’s feeder seems to disappear for days at a time, so he is always glad when they reappear. Together with the Blue Jays, they really brighten up the winter landscape.