Buntings and Allies

The New World family Cardinalidae consists of about forty-three species of medium-sized, brightly-coloured songbirds with large seed-eating beaks; of the thirteen species found in North America, six occur in Saskatchewan. They are all migratory. The only species which is common is the well-named rose-breasted grosbeak (Pheucticus ludovicianus) which nests in the southern boreal forests and aspen parklands region. This boldly black-and-white marked bird with its contrasting rosy breast is seen regularly as a migrant in the grasslands and townsites. The others are rare. The black-headed grosbeak (P. melanocephalus) is a regular summer resident throughout the south, as far north as Saskatoon. The western lazuli bunting (Passerina amoena) breeds in the brush and shrubs of coulees and river valleys in the south, including the Qu’Appelle system, where it may hybridize with its eastern counterpart, the indigo Bunting (P. cyanea), which is known only from the southeast. The dickcissel (Spiza americana ) is now rarely seen. This dry-grasslands denizen, which looks much like a miniature meadowlark, was reported more commonly in the dry years of the 1930s. The distinctive Northern cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis) is vagrant, with the unusual pattern of many winter records, rather than spring or fall transients.

Diane Secoy

Further Reading

Alsop, F.J., III. 2002. Birds of Canada. New York: Dorling Kindersley.