- Black-thighed Grosbeak
 - Black-thighed Grosbeak
 - Black-thighed Grosbeak
 - Black-thighed Grosbeak

Black-thighed Grosbeak Pheucticus tibialis Scientific name definitions

David Brewer
Version: 1.0 — Published March 4, 2020
Text last updated January 25, 2019

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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.

Systematics History

Has been treated as conspecific with P. chrysopeplus and P. chrysogaster; a recent molecular phylogeny indicated that the former is paraphyletic with respect to present species, albeit without strong support (1). Monotypic.




Mountains from N Costa Rica (from Volcán Miravalles, in Guanacaste) S to W Panama (Bocas del Toro, Chiriquí and Veraguas).


Forest edges, clearings, pastures with residual trees. In Costa Rica from c. 1500 m to at least 2600 m, but down to 1000 m on Caribbean slope; mainly 750–1200 m in Panama, in W Chiriquí higher, mostly above 1800 m.


Resident. Some evidence of altitudinal migration on Caribbean slope of Costa Rica, numbers of migrants varying from year to year.

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”.


Season Mar–May in Costa Rica. Nest a frail cup of rootlets, built on to bulky base of twigs or mosses, 3–9 m up in small tree or vine tangle. Clutch 2 eggs, pale blue with dots or blotches of dull chestnut-brown and purplish-lilac. No other information.
Not globally threatened. Restricted-range species: present in Costa Rica and Panama Highlands EBA. Fairly common in Costa Rica; local or uncommon in Panama.
Distribution of the Black-thighed Grosbeak
  • Year-round
  • Migration
  • Breeding
  • Non-Breeding
Distribution of the Black-thighed Grosbeak

Recommended Citation

Brewer, D. (2020). Black-thighed Grosbeak (Pheucticus tibialis), version 1.0. In Birds of the World (J. del Hoyo, A. Elliott, J. Sargatal, D. A. Christie, and E. de Juana, Editors). Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, NY, USA. https://doi.org/10.2173/bow.bltgro1.01