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Evening Grosbeak populations decline

January 21, 2011

One of the most common winter visitors to bird feeders across North America is becoming less common. The Evening Grosbeak is an irruptive migrant, occasionally moving out of its boreal and montane breeding ares to winter at lower latitudes and elevations. These yearly fluctuations have been documented by participants of Project FeederWatch, allowing researchers at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology to track changes in the abundance and distribution of the species. According to a recent study, reports of Evening Grosbeaks at FeederWatch sites declined by fifty percent between 1988 and 2006. At sites where Evening grosbeaks continue to be reported, average flock size had decreased by twenty-seven percent.

Evening Grosbeaks at a feeder in Manitouwadge, Ontario. Photo by Tammie Haché.

Unfortunately, the factors behind these declines are still not clear. While Evening Grosbeaks are gregarious during the winter, foraging together in large flocks, they are relatively solitary during the breeding season. There are currently significant gaps in basic life-history information for this species. Developing a plan to slow the decline of the Evening grosbeak will require better information on their breeding biology and reproductive success.

More information about the Evening Grosbeak can be found on All About Birds.

Source: Bonter D. N. and M. G. Harvey. 2008. Winter survey data reveal rangewide decline in Evening Grosbeak populations. Condor 110:376-381.

44 Comments
  1. Tammie Hache permalink
    January 21, 2011 4:35 pm

    How I miss ‘my’ Evening Grosbeaks. I’ve seen less than a half dozen of them all this winter so far. I remember years where I had over 50 coming to the feeder daily …. it wasn’t that long ago, within the past 5 years. I hope they return in spring.

    • Rick permalink
      January 24, 2011 5:45 pm

      Tammie,
      you need to plan a winter trip this year to the San Francisco Bay area. There are a whole lot of the Grosbeaks showing up there this winter.

      Rick in Fargo

  2. raili kuntzel permalink
    January 21, 2011 4:43 pm

    I have not seen any lately at all either!

  3. Brandon permalink
    January 21, 2011 5:05 pm

    Some, such as Ron Pittaway, argue that the numbers of EVGRs back in the 1970s and 1980s were unnaturally inflated by large outbreaks of spruce budworm (a food source) in Eastern Canada. It is possible (and likely) that factors besides a regression to the mean of the spruce budworm population are currently in play. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have more accurate records of EVGR populations in the early and mid 20th Century, as that would give us a more accurate and long-term baseline for comparison.

  4. Penney permalink
    January 21, 2011 7:44 pm

    We’ve had ‘mobs’ of them, 20+, at our feeders this month. Until this week, they suddenly disappeared, except for a few now & then. Largest numbers were during a time when snow was on the ground, not a long term condition in the PNW. We’ve always had a pair that seems to stay around in the summer. Hope the decline is abated and a balance in the populations occurs.

    • Doug permalink
      January 24, 2011 2:41 pm

      Here in Central Wisconsin I’ve seen perhaps two Evening Grosbeaks at my feeders in the last 20 years. Be sure to put your location in your message so everyone knows your geographical location.

  5. Chris Lubinski permalink
    January 22, 2011 3:03 am

    I have more evening grosbeaks this winter than I have ever had in the 18 years we have lived here! If there’s a decline somewhere else, they must have decided to come to my feeders!

  6. January 22, 2011 11:14 am

    I have heard this about my beloved EVGRs…but, lucky for me, they continue to thrive here in La Veta, CO (~7000′). This time of year I have as many as 75 at my feeders at a time, every day…though it is true those numbers drop later in the year. Still, they are always around.

    Aaron Haiman, working on his PHD in CA, was here banding them (during the summer when we only had half a dozen!). It was fascinating to watch; he caught, measured, weighed, sampled for DNA and banded all he could…I hope he discovers some good stuff.

    Remember to be nice to your scientists; they work hard for us!!!

  7. Bill Moramarco permalink
    January 24, 2011 6:09 pm

    They are rare here in southern California. Still I like to here how they are doing.

  8. January 26, 2011 8:30 pm

    I had the wonderful pleasure of seeing these birds up close and personal when I lived in Searsport, ME. They were attracted to a tray feeder that I had hanging off of our deck. I will never forget the sightings. Two seasons passing through on their migration (2005-2006). I have not seen any since and don’t expect to where I live now – a small village but probably too urban for their liking – Clayton, NY. I feel privileged to have seen them “live.” They are so very striking. I love to hear that they are still thriving in some areas.

  9. Lynda Hundertmark permalink
    February 26, 2011 12:32 pm

    This is the first year evening grossbeaks have consistently stayed in mountains outside Albuquerque at 7600 ft. There’s a group of about 8 here since early Nov 2010, drawn by flowing water as well as food.

  10. Ginny Moore permalink
    March 2, 2011 7:46 am

    I started this FeederWatch season with 9 evening grosbeaks. It was wonderful to see them. By early December I had a count of 30, by early January that number was up to 62. My highest count appears to be 82. While it’s been nice having them here and learning their behaviour ( they arrive early in the day and are gone to roost by 2 p.m.), it has also been an expensive season. I’ve gone through a 40 lb. bag of black oil sunflower seeds every week this winter. The numbers are still good here though for how much longer I don’t know.

    Now if someone could do something about the redpolls also eating me out of house and home. For my last two count sessions, I’ve had counts of 300 and 210.

  11. one2travelfar permalink
    May 19, 2011 11:08 am

    We just had our first pair visit the feeder in the Adirondack Mountains. Beautiful and BIG!

  12. John permalink
    June 3, 2011 7:31 pm

    This is the first year that we have had any EVGR’s at our feeders! In 18 years of watching our feeders we now have four pairs showing up. I’m in Arnold, Ca. which is in the central Sierras at 4,000 ft. It seems as if they are pushing their range a little further south.

  13. Beverly Boe permalink
    June 23, 2011 1:33 am

    We have had our first ever sighting of EVGRs at our feeders this Spring. About 30+ have been here daily for 4-6 weeks. We’re a few miles out of Kalispell, MT, elevation just over 3,000 ft. in the Flathead Valley not far from Glacier National Park. They (and our other visitors) have been going through over 10# of black oil sunflower seed a day. I cut them back about 2# the last two days and today hardly any EVGBs came. Coincidence? We’ve enjoyed them so much, but I was beginning to wonder how long they would stay with the feed costing about $30/50#. Incidentally, about 55 years ago a teacher introduced me to bird watching. The EVGR was one of the first birds I identified other than common, abundant ones (robins, sparrows). I never forgot that experience. I didn’t start my life list until more recent years and am very much an amateur. Project Feeder Watch has awakend my awareness of my own backyard and the drama that is played out by my feathered visitors.

  14. August 23, 2011 9:46 pm

    My friend and I were just arguing about the topic you referred to in your blog post and apparently, I win the discussion! Thank you for clearing it out.

  15. Salia permalink
    November 1, 2011 12:49 pm

    They used to arrive around the week of my Mother’s Birthday (Dec. 30) in Kinston, NC, back in the 70’s and maybe into the early 80’s. My Mom used to say that they were “Nature’s Birthday Present to her” since she loved seeing them. They never stayed long, though. I live in Cary, NC, and I haven’t seen any in several years. 😦

  16. glow permalink
    November 18, 2011 12:38 pm

    i have lived in princeton b.c. for 5 years and have always had them at my feeders from fall till early summer. i have counted over 100 at the peak of winter but notice a decline last winter with 0 birds so far this fall.i believe that the aluminum from chem trails (watch your skys then google What in the world are they spraying.) is effecting our wild critters. I can,t believe that i have seen no chickadees as well.

  17. birdwatcher permalink
    November 19, 2011 1:01 pm

    I live in South Snohomish county in washingon state about an hours drive on hwy 2 west of Stevens pass. Our housing developement is located at 500 feet in elevation. I put out feeders for the first time this summer in June. Evening Grosebeaks showed up here in flocks of 6 or so since a week or so before Halloween. The temperatures in the cascades have dropped considerabley this past week bringing in much snow for skiers. I noted that Evening Grosebeaks then began to come to my feeders in larger flocks of 18-25. We had an inch of snow on the ground here this am and I counted 18 a few moments ago. I suspect that they will show up agian early this afternoon. They will sit and eat for quite sometime so you can really get a good look at their coloring and behavior. We will see if they stick around or migrate to lower elevations as winter progresses.

  18. Greg reinhardt permalink
    January 14, 2012 1:01 pm

    We live in northern Wisconsin where ten years ago we’d get evenings by the dozens. Now we havent even seen one!!!! Miss them!!!

  19. March 9, 2012 7:28 am

    We seldom see them at our feeders here in Central Saskatchewan but other FeederWatchers have told me they have sizeable flocks in their 11/12 winter observations.

    Another observation: We have a cabin in Prince Albert National Park. Every year when we go up in late April (there’s still snow on the ground) to open up the cabin, we can hear the Evening Grosbeaks calling throughout the townsite. Then the Park officials (especially those involved with the Golf Course) spray the area for moths and biting insects and within days the EVGR are gone… By and large, Golf Courses use very questionable chemicals to make the links insect-proof for the golfers.

  20. Barb Albrecht permalink
    April 16, 2012 9:36 pm

    Had about 6 at my feeder this weekend here in Evergreen Colorado. I was very excited, I had not seen them here before. It was cooler with some snow which has been in short supply.

  21. Bonnie White permalink
    April 25, 2012 11:09 am

    I’ve got somewhere around 100 at my feeders this spring. Six feeders, lots of sunflower seeds. I didn’t realize this was so unusual. This is the largest number I’ve had in years or maybe ever.

  22. Ken permalink
    May 5, 2012 2:42 pm

    Right now I have more evening grosbeaks on my feeder than ever before. Sorry about the decline where you are. They only show up here in the Spring and are one of our favorite visitors to the feeders.

    • Ken permalink
      May 5, 2012 2:45 pm

      Northern Willamette Valley in Oregon, BTW.

  23. Frank Vanecek permalink
    July 9, 2012 7:42 pm

    We have not had evening grosbeaks at our feeders since the late 70’s here in Ladysmith Wisconsin. They usally came in such numbers that they kept me running to the feed mill for sunflower seeds.They always brightened up the winter.
    Frank Vanecek

  24. Liz permalink
    August 7, 2012 5:02 am

    We live in Monrovia, California and we have a pair who visit for a few weeks or so in the early spring every year. They love the sunflower seeds we put out for the finches. I used to confuse them with the Orioles who show up a few months later and stay all summer.

  25. September 9, 2012 2:07 pm

    Yesterday was September
    I had a pair of evening grosbeaks at my
    feeders they spent the day here I was hoping
    to see them today but I haven’t seen them yet
    I live in southern Maine
    It was nice I got to see them for the day
    As I read up on them and it’s sad we are loosing them.

  26. October 30, 2012 4:04 pm

    New to Northern Wisconsin we have been a bit disappointed in our birdwatching,but today we have had 6-10 Evening Grosbeaks! How fun to see a new and colorful bird. Hopefully we will continue to find new birds as the word gets out that there is a new diner in town!!!

  27. Lisa Pierce permalink
    October 30, 2012 4:22 pm

    We are new to the So Ogden, UT area, and are still getting used to our new surroundings and it’s inhabitants. Today, though, I was very excited to have 6 to 10 Evening Grosbeaks at my feeders. I hope there will be more to come!.

  28. Elizabeth Mastopietro permalink
    November 5, 2012 5:39 am

    In 15 years, this is the first time I’ve seen Evening Grosbeaks. At first just 2,3,4. then a small flock. You can hear them a good distance away cracking open seeds. I’m in Salisbury CT.

  29. Dave Graham permalink
    November 5, 2012 10:46 am

    We are in Hilliard, Ohio which is a western suburb of Columbus. We just had a pair of EGBs at our feeder. November 5, 2012. We have never seen this bird in 35 years of bird watching at our feeders in Ohio. We do have White Pine and Austrian pine that I planted 20 years ago. What a treat!!!!!!!!!! This May we had six Rose Breasted GBs for only the second time here. We also currently have a Rose Breasted Nut Hatch.

    • Paula Jones permalink
      January 28, 2013 12:13 pm

      I hope the EGBs make it to Malvern, Ohio! We’re just south of Canton at Lake Mohawk. We have also seen the red breasted nuthatches at our feeders since November.

      • January 29, 2013 1:52 pm

        We moved to Hayward Wi in Aug 2012 and have been slowly acquiring birds to our feeders. The biggest thrill so far has been several pairs of Evening and Pine Grosbeaks. They barely leave the feeders when I go out to re-fill so I do get close up and personal!

  30. bonnie sparks permalink
    November 5, 2012 12:21 pm

    Since this is a new visitor for us I had to look it up. In over 35 years we have never had an Evening Grosbeak. Had one male and three females visit the feeder this morning…hope they stay. HE was so bright!! We are in NW Indiana

  31. Debbie Cameron permalink
    November 7, 2012 2:12 pm

    I just saw 2 female EGB’s at my feeder. This is a first for me, so I had to get my bird book out to identify them. I’m hoping now to see a male. Very exciting! I live in NE Maryland.

  32. Lorna Perry permalink
    December 5, 2012 11:56 am

    Just had a male and a female EGB show up at our feeder. We are in Northern Wisconsin (Florence). So very pretty. We will be keeping a good watch out for any more.

  33. Millard Skidmore permalink
    January 12, 2013 9:02 am

    Live in South Central Kentucky retired and love to watch the birds in winter months.

    My sisters have about twenty-five Evening Grosbeak’s at there feeders.My wife said there was one at our feeder. Looks like they have come south for the winter.

  34. Kathryn permalink
    January 14, 2013 6:59 pm

    We had six at our feeder in North Eastern New Mexico. They seem to have integrated with a flock of rosy finches. Those came to the feeder in a flock of about 60 and were willing to let the grosbeaks feed with them.
    i

  35. Holly Peterson permalink
    January 19, 2013 5:59 pm

    I saw one female Evening Grosbeak at my mom’s platform feeder in Blair, NE this morning. She was eating sunflower seeds for a long time, perched in a tree for a bit, and came back for some more seeds. I have seen them in the Sax-Zim Bog in northern Minnesota but never in Nebraska before today.

  36. wiskerbob permalink
    February 3, 2013 4:52 pm

    1st sighting ever at my feeder…not to common in vancouver bc. had bout a dozen do a hit and run lunch very cool

  37. Vickey permalink
    February 13, 2013 11:47 pm

    Over two dozen showed up at our place in Northern Idaho last week. They were hearty eaters then most vanished with a couple males that lingered for another day then one female at the feeder that night alone. Today a lone female was on the top of a tree calling for her mate but not a one grosbeak answered. I am feeling awful with a hunch that the reason they may be declining in population is they overeat sunflower seeds and get sick and die. Tomorrow I will walk in the woods to see if I find any on the ground. I truly hope not. I have decided not to feed them anymore in case we people are the cause of their disappearance. Its odd that the chickadees, nuthatches, wrens, etc. don’t seem to be bothered by the seeds. I am wondering if the grosbeaks are pigging out without eating grit to help them digest? Though they bring joy with their presence, perhaps it is best not to interfere with the ways of the Animal Kingdom.

  38. richard permalink
    March 6, 2013 9:18 am

    They all must be at my house, I regularly have 30 to 50 in my flock. Maybe its the sunflower seeds

  39. Joe Zelinsky permalink
    June 27, 2013 7:58 pm

    Joe. June 27, 2013. Moon Twp. PA
    I have been watching the Evening Grosbeak for four years. They seem to show up in June and then disappear in early July. They have a great fondness for the black oil sunflower seeds.

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