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The Black-thighed Grosbeak occurs only in the highlands of Costa Rica and western Panama, where it is an uncommon resident of the borders of humid montane forest, old second growth, and pastures with scattered trees. The Black-thighed Grosbeak has a typically thick Pheucticus bill. The plumage is mostly yellow, with a narrow black mask, black back and wings, a black tail, and black tibial feathers; there also is a white patch at the base of the primaries. This species is similar to both the Yellow Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysopeplus) of western Mexico and Guatemala, and to the Golden-bellied Grosbeak (Pheucticus chrysogaster) of the Andes of South America (and some earlier authors classified all three as a single species). The Black-thighed Grosbeak usually is solitary or in pairs, which usually forage high in trees for insects and for many different fruit and seeds.
20 cm; average 62·3 g (12 birds, Panama). Male has crown and nape to upper mantle bright yellow, lower mantle black with yellow edgings on central feathers, lower back and rump bright yellow, uppertail-coverts black with yellow tips, rectrices black; shoulder and upperwing black, primaries with broad white bases (conspicuous white flash); lores dull grey-black, ear-coverts and throat yellow with black mottling; chest deep yellow with diffuse darker mottling, rest of underparts yellow, thigh black; iris brown; upper mandible black, lower mandible grey; legs dull lead-grey. Female is less bright yellow than male, especially on head and neck; yellow edgings of back feathers more extensive and extending to scapulars, white flash on closed wing smaller. Juvenile is more olive, less yellow, on head, crown feathers often with fine central streaks, rump feathers streaky, breast with obscure mottling.
Diet and Foraging
Diet includes seeds and fruits, also invertebrates. Usually forages fairly high up in forest, occasionally descending to middle levels. Gleans items from tips of branches; sometimes takes them in mid-air.
Sounds and Vocal Behavior
Song a cheerful series of rich, varied leisurely musical whistles and phrases, interspersed with the phrase “tweek tseewee”, sometimes ending in canary-like trill. Call a sharp “pik”.