As a singer it has few superiors. It frequently sings at night, and even all night, the notes being extremely clear and mellow. It does not acquire its full colors until at least the second spring or summer. It is found as far east as Nova Scotia, as far west as Nebraska, and winters in great numbers in Guatemala. This Grosbeak is common in southern Indiana, northern Illinois, and western Iowa. It is usually seen in open woods, on the borders of streams, but frequently sings in the deep recesses of forests. In Mr. Nuttall’s opinion this species has no superior in song, except the Mocking Bird.
The Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks arrive in May and nest early in June. They build in low trees on the edges of woods, frequently in small groves on the banks of streams. The nest is coarsely built of waste stubble, fragments of leaves, and stems of plants, intermingled with and strengthened by twigs and coarser stems. It is eight inches wide, and three and a half high, with a cavity three inches in diameter and one in depth, being quite shallow for so large a nest.
Dr. Hoy, of Racine, states that on the 15th of June, within six miles of that city, he found seven nests, all within a space of not over five acres, and he was assured that each year they resort to the same locality and nest in this social manner. Six of these nests were in thorn-trees, all were within six to ten feet of the ground, near the center of the top. Three of the four parent birds sitting on the nests were males. When a nest was disturbed, all the neighboring Grosbeaks gathered and appeared equally interested.
It is frequently observed early in the month of March, making its way eastward. At this period it passes at a considerable height in the air. On the banks of the Schuylkill, early in May, it has been seen feeding on the tender buds of trees. It eats various kinds of food, such as hemp-seed, insects, grasshoppers, and crickets with peculiar relish. It eats flies and wasps, and great numbers of these pests are destroyed by its strong bill. During bright moonshiny nights the Grosbeak sings sweetly, but not loudly. In the daytime, when singing, it has the habit of vibrating its wings, in the manner of the Mocking-bird.
The male takes turns with his mate in sitting on the eggs. He is so happy when on the nest that he sings loud and long. His music is sometimes the cause of great mourning in the lovely family because it tells the egg hunter where to find the precious nest.