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Bird Habitat Conservation Toolkit

Image of Bird
The Pine Grosbeak is an inconspicuous species that is rarely observed except during years when their populations boom and they spread into new areas during the winter.

Pine Grosbeak

(Pinicola enucleator)
Overview
status
AlbertaSecure
British ColumbiaYellow
Primary Habitat
Coniferous
Nest Type
Canopy (coniferous/shrubs)
Territory Size
12 ha (uncertain)
Nest Reuse
Unknown; site fidelity
Breeding Window
Jan
Feb
Mar
Apr
May
Jun
Jun
Jul
Aug
Sep
Sep
Oct
Nov
Dec
Peak: early July to mid-August
Stand-Level
Retain mountain ash and berry-producing trees and shrubs, where available, in spruce harvests.
Landscape-Level
Large, old, open unharvested forests. Passive landbase (wet, subalpine, remote) is also important.

Habitat Ecology

  • The Pine Grosbeak lives year-round within the Boreal Shield and across most of interior BC. Populations east of the Rockies have periodic “winter irruptions”, during which large numbers of birds move outside of their usual range, sometimes as far south as the Canada-US border. These irruptions occur every 5–25 years and are thought to be driven by food availability.1
  • Pine Grosbeaks are most abundant in open coniferous (spruce, subalpine fir and tamarack) forests near the treeline (northern or montane), drainages and wet valleys.1
  • They only breed in subalpine and subarctic open coniferous forests.1 In the winter, they will occupy a range of habitats including mixed coniferousdeciduous, deciduous, and second-growth forests.2 Wintering habitats are thought to be driven by availability of mountain ash, ash, and maple.1
  • In BC, the Pine Grosbeak’s breeding range is now understood to be widespread. It is most common in the Northern Boreal Mountains and Sub-Boreal Interior ecoprovinces, particularly above 1,500 m, and in remote forests and parklands dominated by western hemlock, subalpine fir, white spruce, and Engelmann spruce.3

Response to Forest Management

  • Pine Grosbeaks are very rarely observed, making it difficult to draw conclusions about their response to forestry.
  • Studies in Finland show that Pine Grosbeaks are mainly observed in very old (>200 years) spruce or pine forests, and very rarely in thinned and/or fragmented forests.4,5 They are also positively associated with large, unharvested reserves, but negatively associated with the amount of pine forest in the reserves.6

Stand-level Recommendations

  • Based on known habitat associations, the following habitat features are recommended for retention within harvested areas:
  • Mountain ash trees and other berry-producing trees or shrubs.
  • Wet areas containing sparse black spruce, tamarack, or other conifers.
  • Given the Pine Grosbeak’s association with open coniferous stands during the breeding season, silviculture that promotes dense regeneration appears likely to reduce habitat quality. Harvesting is most likely to affect breeding habitats in BC, where they are more widespread, but more research is needed to determine the degree of overlap between breeding populations and harvesting, and the effect of harvest. 

Landscape-level Recommendations

  • While there is very little information available, it is likely that large, unharvested areas of old and/or open coniferous forests within the Pine Grosbeak’s breeding range will be of greatest benefit to this species.
  • The passive landbase likely provides important high-quality breeding habitat,  including wet, unproductive coniferous forests, sparse subalpine parklands, and remote or inaccessible forests. However, more research is required to confirm this assumption. 

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