Evening Grosbeak

Hesperiphona vespertina

Dave Menke, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service
  • FRINGILLIDAE
  • Passeriformes
  • Picogordo desértico
  • Gros-bec-errant
Introduction

The Evening Grosbeak is a rotund, robin-sized bird found in the mountains of the western United States and Canada; the boreal forest of Canada and the northern edge of the United States east to Nova Scotia. One of Audubon's Common Birds in Decline, the population of Evening Grosbeaks has plummeted an alarming 91 percent since 1967.

Fun Fact

The Evening Grosbeak is the only existing bird species capable of opening the extremely hard cones of the bald cypress tree in Florida and South Carolina, even though it is now extremely rare in those places.

Bird Sounds
© Lang Elliot, Nature Sound Studio
Vocalization

Loud "peeer."

Appearance Description

Rotund, robin-sized, black-and-yellow songbird with black-and-white wings and a triangular yellow beak; females drabber than males; usually seen in flocks.

Range Map
Kenn Kaufman
Range Distribution

Mountains of the western United States and Canada; boreal forest of Canada and northern edge of the United States east to Nova Scotia; disappearing in eastern portions of its range.

Habitat

Breeds primarily in coniferous forests, secondarily in deciduous forests.

Feeding

Feeds on invertebrates, especially spruce budworm larvae, and small fruits and seeds, particularly from maple trees. In the non-breeding season, it feeds on both coniferous and deciduous tree seeds and buds, and it is a common visitor to birdfeeders stocked with sunflower seeds.

Reproduction

Breeding is very secretive, and there is no song or showy display during courtship. As is common with birds breeding at high altitudes, the Evening Grosbeak usually only lays one brood of 2-5 eggs per year due to the short nesting period. The most important consideration for a nest site is the abundance of spruce budworms. Although nests are spare and appear rather fragile, they are surprisingly strong and can last several years.

Migration
  • 3.8 million
  • 3.8 million
  • 17 million 40 years ago
  • 91 percent since 1967
Population Status Trends

The Evening Grosbeak teaches us how dramatic changes in bird populations can be. Virtually unknown East of the Mississippi until about 1850, it expanded East—peaking in the mid 1980s—then experienced precipitous declines. The Evening Grosbeak’s future will depend on maintaining healthy habitat in the boreal forest.

Conservation Issues

Evening Grosbeaks are birds of boreal and montane forests and are therefore susceptible to all the incursions into those habitats: logging, mining, drilling, acid rain, and human development for transportation and housing. Chemical control of spruce budworm and other tree pests lowers this species’ food supply and may also cause secondary poisoning. Competition and the spread of disease among house finches, goldfinches, and other feeder birds may also be playing a role in the decline. Global warming is predicted to cause boreal drying and deforestation due to increases in insect populations and fire frequency.

What You Can Do
  • Protect the Boreal Forest
    Promote conservation of the Canadian boreal forest by supporting the Boreal Songbird Initiative that works to save Canadian boreal habitat for all birds, specifically by fighting inappropriate logging, mining, and drilling, and by promoting the designation of protected areas.

  • Help Halt Global Warming
    Back strong federal, state, and local legislation to cap greenhouse emissions, and spur alternative energy sources. Conserve energy at home and at work (http://www.audubon.org/globalWarming/BePartSolution.php).

  • Monitor Feeders
    If you see dead or diseased birds on or near your feeders, don’t put out food for two weeks to allow birds to disperse, and clean feeders before using them again.
More Information
Natural History References

Gillihan, S.W. and B. Byers (2001). Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes verspertinus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Birds of North America, Inc. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Evening_Grosbeak/

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.

Conservation Status References

Gillihan, S.W. and B. Byers (2001). Evening Grosbeak (Coccothraustes verspertinus). The Birds of North America Online (A. Poole and F. Gill, Eds.). Philadelphia: The Birds of North America, Inc. Retrieved from The Birds of North America Online database: http://bna.birds.cornell.edu/BNA/account/Evening_Grosbeak/

Kaufman, Kenn. Guía de campo a las aves de Norteamérica. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005.