In many areas of western North America, the melodious song of the Black-headed Grosbeak is a familiar harbinger of spring. This species breeds from subalpine forests to desert riparian zones throughout western North America from southwestern Canada to southern Mexico. Relatively tolerant of human disturbance, it breeds in yards and gardens if adequate cover for nesting and feeding is available. Along river corridors in the Great Plains, the range of the Black-headed Grosbeak overlaps that of the closely related Rose-breasted Grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus), and the two species are known to hybridize.
The Black-headed Grosbeak is sexually dimorphic and socially monogamous. Adult males have a flashy black, white, and cinnamon plumage; females are relatively drab buff and brown. Despite their showy plumage, males share nest duties about equally with females.
Both male and female Black-headed Grosbeaks sing, and both sexes often do so from the nest. Male song appears to function primarily in territory defense. Female song is generally a simplified version of male song and appears to function in communication between mates and in maintaining family groups once the young fledge. Occasionally, females sing full "male" song, apparently to deceive mates about the presence of intruders and force greater nest attentiveness.
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