Black-backed Grosbeak is largely uncommon, though locally fairly common, throughout its range on the eastern Andean slope. They occur in arid intermontane valleys and at forest edges, where they are often seen in gardens and agricultural areas. They forage at a variety of heights but generally sing from a high perch; in general, they are fairly conspicuous. Although there are several subspecies, all share a black head and back with bright yellow underparts. Most subspecies have a yellow rump, though this varies in extent. Females share similar patterning to the males but are fainter overall. Their song is a series of melodic whistled phrases, and their call is a sharp “tink!” note.