Since summer heat has re-enveloped central Missouri, activity at Eagle Bluffs Conservation Area was below par this morning. While red-winged blackbirds were abundant (as always) most other species were less common (or less conspicuous) than usual; exceptions included eastern phoebes, red-bellied woodpeckers, belted kingfishers and Carolina wrens.
Just before I left the refuge, however, I encountered a female rose-breasted grosbeak, the first I have seen at Eagle Bluffs. Feeding in a grove of trees with phoebes, downy woodpeckers and cardinals, she was easily identified by her prominent white "eyebrows", her heavy, conical bill and her streaked breast. Omnivorous, rose-breasted grosbeaks consume insects, berries, buds and seeds.
These attractive birds breed across the Midwest, Northeast, southern Canada and down through the Appalachians; Columbia (Missouri) lies along the southern edge of their summer range and they are uncommon in our region. By late summer, they begin to head for wintering grounds in Central and South America and this morning's visitor, adding a bit of spice to my birding jaunt, was likely on her way to the Tropics.