I glanced out the kitchen window while I was emptying the dishwasher and noticed neighbor “Bird” Paul staring at the roof of our house. The dishwasher is empty, and now I’m loading in the morning dishes. I look out the window again, and Bird Paul is still there, still staring at the top of the house. This is getting weird. I get the recyclables together to take outside, planning to use this subterfuge as a way of getting a “whatcha lookin at?” conversation going, but by then he’s moved on. Once outside I look to see what was so interesting, and notice a couple of California Towhees on the roof. Was that the attraction? I like the Towhee as much as anyone, but they’re not exactly a rare bird around here. The only odd thing was their position on the roof, being more of a down-low bird.

So, evening chores completed, I take a look out the back door at the feeder. Hey, there’s a Spotted Towhee out there! First one this year. But wait. Doesn’t that beak look rather large? (That’s a clue for you birders.)

That’s right. This not a Spotted Towhee, but a Black-headed Grosbeak. New bird for the list.

Black-headed Grosbeak

There were actually two of them, a lady and a gent, but the lady went off foraging somewhere. I’m happy to report that this handsome fellow has returned to the feeder today, so maybe they’ve set up housekeeping nearby. My bird book says they’re common in forests, but will make “furtive visits” to backyard feeders. It also says they have a loud caroling song, which I have yet to hear.

By way of comparison, here’s the Spotted Towhee.

Spotted Towhee

At a distance, they share similar colors and size, but the large beak of the Grosbeak and the crazy red eye of the Towhee help you with the ID.

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