About us: We own the Wild Birds Unlimited nature shop in East Lansing, Michigan,
a store that provides a wide variety of supplies to help you enjoy the birdwatching hobby.

This blog was created to answer frequently asked questions & to share nature stories and photographs.
To contribute, email me at bloubird@gmail.com.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Fun Facts About Evening Grosbeaks

Growing up I used to watch the Evening Grosbeak all the time in the trees and on the feeders. Now they are hit or miss. Is their population shrinking? ~ Gladstone, MI

According to Project FeederWatch: “The Evening Grosbeak is a yellow, black, and white finch with a bill that appears too big for its body. Its winter range typically covers the entire northern half the United States and it is found year-round in many western states and southern Canada.

Evening Grosbeaks are an irruptive species, meaning their migration is irregular, linked to the availability of food. They may be abundant in an area one year and nearly nonexistent the next. However, the long-term trend shows that these irruptions have almost ceased in many areas of the East, and declines have been documented in their core western range as well.

The reasons for the decline are unclear—are the birds dying, are they failing to reproduce, or are they simply moving elsewhere? Scientists are not sure.”

Project FeederWatch is a program to count the birds at the feeders from November through early April. The data is used to alert scientists to particular species or questions that may require more detailed follow-up studies.

Wild Birds Unlimited is also a major sponsor of the GreatBackyard Bird Count (GBBC), a joint project between the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society. GBBC is an annual four-day event that engages bird watchers of all ages in counting birds to create a real-time snapshot of where the birds are across the continent. Anyone can participate, from beginning bird watchers to experts. I urge everyone to participate in the next GBBC on Feb. 17-20, 2012 to gather additional information.

Fun Facts about Evening Grosbeaks
• Other birds like to eat wild cherries, but only Evening Grosbeaks target the pits. The slippery seeds are held firmly with special pads on the “gross beak” and are simply crushed. So favored are cherry pits that Evening Grosbeaks sometimes seek out the pits voided by American Robins.

• Evening Grosbeaks manipulate cherries in their beak to remove the outer skin and flesh, the remaining seed is then swallowed after it is cracked open with their beak.

• Evening Grosbeaks can break open food items that require up to 125 pounds of force to fracture apart in testing devices.

• As with many finches whose diet is primarily vegetarian, Evening Grosbeaks are attracted to natural salt and mineral sources.

• The Evening Grosbeak is an irruptive migrant that makes irregular appearances at winter feeding stations throughout much of United States.

• The Evening Grosbeak was not commonly found east of the Rocky Mountains before the 1850’s. Winter irruptions now occur in all of the 48 contiguous states. This expansion may be attributed to widespread planting of box elder trees in landscapes across the east. Its seeds persist on the tree throughout the winter and provided flocks with a reliable source of food.

• The Evening Grosbeak was named in 1825 based on erroneous accounts that they became vocal and active only “at the approach of night.” This erroneous belief persisted for years, and the name is still a misnomer.

• Evening Grosbeaks seem to delight in snipping off the twigs of Sugar Maple trees and sipping the sweet sap.

Related Articles:
Probability of seeing Evening Grosbeaks: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/pfw/News/EvegrosProbability02.htm
How to participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count: http://bit.ly/pQYMON
Winter Finch Forecast: http://bit.ly/pXR2Qz

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