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How To Attract Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks (6 Tips)

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are beautiful birds that you may be able to attract to your backyard feeders if you live in the eastern half of the United States or parts of Canada. In this article we will give you tips for attracting rose-breasted grosbeaks, including what types of food to put out for them, which feeders they like and when you are most likely to see them. 

How To Attract Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks

We put together a list of 6 tips to give you the best chance of attracting rose-breasted grosbeaks, let’s check them out.

1. Be ready during their migration

This grosbeak spends the winter along the southern coasts of Mexico, Central America and northern South America. They then travel north in the spring to reach their breeding grounds in the northeastern half of  the U.S. and parts of  Canada. The best time to see them at your backyard feeders is during their spring migration during April and May or fall migration during September.

Making that long journey takes a lot of energy. This is when they are most likely to be stopping often to eat at bird feeders and replenish their reserves. Even if you live slightly outside of their range, you might get lucky as they pass through during migration. Most people have the best luck during the spring, but you can also catch them on their return trip south in the fall. 

Female rose-breasted grosbeak

During the summer the rose-breasted grosbeak likes to spend its time in dense foliage looking for insects and wild fruits. They often remain high up in the canopy, hidden from sight. So many people experience a flurry of them at their feeders in the spring, only to have them “disappear” again by the start of summer as they head for forest, woodland, thicket an orchard habitat.  

I live in the suburbs, and migration is the only time I get to see them. They will grace my yard and feeders for about 4-5 weeks during the spring, then I won’t usually see them again. Sometimes if I’m lucky they will stop by again in September as they are heading south, but not as often as spring.

rose breasted grosbeak male redbud
Rose-breasted Grosbeak male perched on a blooming redbud tree | image by mtruchon
via Deposit Photos

So make sure your feeders are out and keep them stocked during the peak migration time of April-May, and again in September. Especially for dish or tray feeders that may not hold a lot of seed, check them daily. That brings us to the next point, which feeders to use.

2. Grosbeak friendly bird feeders

Rose-breasted grosbeaks are stocky birds about the size of a cardinal. In fact, if you have cardinals that visit your feeders, think about which ones they like best. That will likely also be the one the grosbeak uses. 

Grosbeaks don’t usually like to cling, so mesh feeders, tube feeders with small perches, suet cages or other cage feeders won’t be too attractive to them. They need plenty of room to perch. A large tray, dish or platform feeder is the best option.

Male rose-breasted grosbeaks eating from our platform feeder

They will also eat from a hopper feeder or large tube feeder, as long as there is plenty of perch room. I have had some luck with the squirrel buster plus because of the “cardinal ring” around the bottom that gives extra support to larger birds. However I’ve attracted the most grosbeaks by far with a hanging platform feeder.  

3. Provide Grosbeaks favorite birdseed

You may have guessed from their name that these birds have larger beaks. Members of the grosbeak family have heavy, cone-shaped bills that are great at crushing seeds. They love black oil sunflower like many backyard birds, but can also handle the thicker striped sunflower.

Safflower is another seed they seem to really enjoy. They will also eat peanut pieces, cracked corn and seed mixes, however sunflower and safflower are more likely to keep them coming back.

4. Provide Water

All birds need water for bathing and drinking. Bird baths and water features can be a great way to attract more birds, including grosbeaks, to your yard. 

As with the bird feeders, your bird bath will need to be big enough to accommodate their size. You don’t need anything huge, but a small dish might not give them enough room to bathe. Any height off the ground will do, just make sure the basin is wide and shallow. 

Adding a simple solar fountain can also go a long way to getting their attention as they listen for the sound of running water. 

male rose-breasted grosbeak perching on iris
Male rose-breasted grosbeak perching on an Iris

5. Provide Wild Foods by Planting

Rose-breasted grosbeaks have a varied diet in the wild that includes insects, seeds, tree buds and wild fruits. Berries are a big portion of their diet during the fall. By planting native flowers, shrubs and trees you can attract more birds as they hunt for insects among the leaves, eat their seeds and buds, or are attracted to their fruits and berries.

Some great plants for rose-breasted grosbeaks include: American elderberry, arrowwood viburnum, blueberries, flowering dogwood, mountain ash, red mulberry, maple trees, serviceberry, Virginia creeper, wild cherry, American elderberry, elm trees, hickory trees, and wild blackberry.

Just remember when planting, it’s always best to stick with what is native to your region.

6. Shelter and Nesting Areas

Rose-breasted grosbeaks will not use birdhouses. But you can still provide good nesting spots for them. Males and females will build the nest together, building a cup of sticks, twigs, leaves and grasses. They are known to nest in maple, balsam fir, eastern hemlock, spruce and red-berried elder. 


While rose-breasted grosbeaks do enjoy many types of birdseed, they can often be difficult to attract to backyard feeders. They are birds of the forest and prefer to stay hidden among the foliage of dense trees and shrubs. Most people have the best luck attracting them during their spring and fall migrations. Food is slightly less abundant in the wild during these times, and they need the extra fuel. A water feature, sunflower seeds on open platforms, and some native plants should do a lot to get these beautiful birds to stop by your backyard. 


2 thoughts on “How To Attract Rose-Breasted Grosbeaks (6 Tips)”

  1. What are the chances of a red breasted grossbeak staying in my wooded yard in Westrrn Pennsylvania instead of continuing its migration further north? if

    • I believe the entire state of Pennsylvania is within their breeding range so it wouldn’t be odd at all of some choose to nest there!


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