Traditionally, grosbeaks have been grouped with cardinals in the taxon Cardinalidae. This classification was based mainly on their stout, conical beaks and other shared life history traits. Recently, however, Piranga tanagers such as the Scarlet Tanager have been placed in the Cardinalidae group as well. This reclassification was based mainly on mtDNA studies of the New World nine-primaried oscines, a large and diverse group of songbirds that live in the Americas.
Our goal this summer is to investigate the life histories of members of the Piranga and traditional Cardinalid clades to see if, in addition to sharing similar DNA, they also share life history traits such as nest-building and foraging habits, habitat preference, and fledgling and juvenile behavior. Specifically, we have targeted Rose-breasted Grosbeaks (Pheucticus ludovicianus) and Scarlet Tanagers (Piranga olivacea). We’ve also found other birds along the way! Some of our favorites are Ovenbirds (Seiurus aurocapillus), Veerys (Catharus fuscescens), and Red-eyed Vireos (Vireo olivaceus).