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PRETTY IN PINK

By Nic.Korte

A month ago, I wrote about birding in Minnesota when it was twenty-two degrees below zero (http://www.gjsentinel.com/blogs/birds_and_more/entry/what-next-for-the-sob). I am not always so crazy. A couple of weeks ago, here in Grand Junction, the day wasn’t as frigid, but it was cold and windy with blowing snow. My wife and I and a visiting friend had planned a day in the mountains. Instead, we went to the new “Star Wars” movie! Posted in the coming attractions, a Valentine’s Day special, was the coming-of-age classic, “Pretty in Pink.”

I thought of that movie’s title the next day when x-country skiing above the town of Collbran. Why? There was a beautiful flock of Pine Grosbeaks on a snow-flocked shrub. Their pink color was gorgeous, simply overwhelming the white and gray of the surroundings.


 (Male Pine Grosbeak by Jackson Trappett. Pine Grosbeaks show some color variation with some being distinctly pink. Check out images on the internet if you are curious.)


Lucky for my wife and I, this was our third encounter with Pine Grosbeaks in just a few weeks. On our visit to Northern Minnesota in January, we surprised our local guide by being so familiar with Pine Grosbeaks. He had forgotten that Colorado has its own boreal forests. Our other viewing was about two weeks later on the Skyway x-country trail on Grand Mesa. A group of six or eight Pine Grosbeaks were feeding in the top of a tall spruce as we skied by.

Pine Grosbeaks are widespread—breeding in boreal forests from Alaska to Newfoundland and Nova Scotia as well as in the high mountains of the Western US. In that previous cold weather blog, I recounted searching for a Boreal Chickadee, and noted how that species proved proved Bergmann’s rule, (the further north, the larger the species). Boreal Chickadees are slightly bigger than the varieties common in most of the US. (Bergmann’s Rule: http://www.biosci.ohio-state.edu/~awolfe/class/Biogeography/Readings/Barrett%20article.pdf). Similarly, Pine Grosbeaks are our largest finch.

 (Photo by Jackson Trappett. Female Pine Grosbeaks are less colorful than males.)

Finch? Didn’t I say they were grosbeaks? They do have a big beak, and once upon a time (but not in a kingdom far away), all of the Grosbeaks were classified as finches. Those Bird Guides on my shelves that are almost as old as I am, list all of them as finches. Recent research, made possible by advances in genetic research, has caused scientists to remove three “grosbeaks” from the Finch family. Two of the Grosbeaks are still finches. One is the Pine Grosbeak. No matter, what is most important is that pink color brightening up a snowbound world.

Typically, Pine Grosbeaks are not wary so while enjoying the snowy winter we are having, look for a flash of pink in the top of a pine or spruce.

This post provided by Nic Korte, Grand Valley Audubon Society. Send questions/comments to audubongv@gmail.com. [To learn more and to participate in the activities of Grand Valley Audubon, please see our website at audubongv.org and “like” us on Facebook!]
 

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