Monday, July 28, 2014

Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Eophona migratoria)

Field marks:  large, very thick yellow bill, black wings and head, grey under parts, yellowish green (17-18 cm.)

The Yellow-billed Grosbeak, also known as the “Chinese Grosbeak” is a handsome and familiar bird of parks and woodlands in eastern China. Identification of this species is quite easy. Its huge yellow bill with a blackish tip, from which it derives its name is absolutely diagnostic. Another much less common grosbeak species, the Japanese Grosbeak, has a similar appearance and the large yellow bill, but it lacks the black tip.

The Yellow-billed Grosbeak is a songbird and a member of the finch family. Grosbeaks are generally bigger than other finches, and the name, “grosbeak,” means “large beak.” The enormous beak of the bird is an adaptation for feeding on the bird’s favorite food, nuts. The large, thick and powerful bill is ideally suited to cracking open very hard nuts that other nut-eating birds cannot manage. This special adaptation gives this species and other grosbeaks an absolute monopoly on certain foods.

The Yellow-billed Grosbeak is considered a “locally common” species meaning that in certain parts of its range it is quite common while in other parts of its range it may be uncommon or even rare. Certainly, in Qingdao, and surrounding Shandong province this species is extremely common. It can be said for certain, however, that the species is doing well and maintaining a healthy population.

Yellow-billed Grosbeak (Photo by Charles Lam)

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