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Evening Grosbeaks Returning From Southern Wintering Grounds

evening grosbeak 022Until the mid-1800s evening grosbeaks were considered uncommon to rare east of the Mississippi River.  Today evening grosbeaks can be found year round in northern New England.

The eastern expansion of evening grosbeaks is mainly attributed to the accessibility of winter food in the form of box elder fruits.  These trees were planted as windbreaks on the prairies, and as ornamentals in northeastern cities.  Their seeds persist into the winter, allowing erratic winter flocks from the west to overwinter further east.  Some overwintering birds remained here to nest, and thus began the expansion of their breeding range.  Some ornithologists also believe that the recurring spruce budworm outbreaks in boreal forests facilitated eastward expansion by providing food in the summer months.  Feeding birds became popular in the 1930’s, and may also have contributed to this range extension.

In a typical year in the Northeast, many birds migrate south of their breeding grounds to spend the winter.  From March to early May, most of these individuals return to northern and western coniferous forests to breed and we have a greater chance of seeing them at feeders (along with hungry bears). (Photo: male evening grosbeak.  Note bill is beginning to show the green tint it has during the breeding season.)

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6 responses

  1. Walking My Path: Mindful Wanderings in Nature

    Nice shot! I am waiting for ours to come back (northern NM).They have so much personality!

    April 13, 2016 at 7:56 am

  2. J. Moody

    Just before 6:00 is fine. That’s when the first pancakes are ready.

    Sent from my iPad


    April 13, 2016 at 8:44 am

  3. Hi Mary: I have experienced year round grosbeak visitors in Corinth going back to the very early ’80’s at the least, and on occasion a Rose Breasted mating pair will visit the sunflower feeder. This morning the feeder is inundated with Gold Finches, Purple Finches and of coarse Black Capped Chickadees, with Blue Jays, Hairy & Downy Woodpeckers swooping in, clearing space real quick. :<)

    April 13, 2016 at 9:30 am

  4. We used to get them in the winter here in western MA, but now they are rarely seen. I love their striking good looks!

    April 13, 2016 at 9:56 pm

  5. Pingback: 20160407-15 Birdies | Brtthome's Blog

  6. Dee Dee Niswonger

    Twenty years ago I saw evening Grosbeaks every winter in big flocks of 50-75 birds. They arrived in western Ma in late Nov and fed heavily on sunflower seeds, and also maple “helicopters” (maple seeds). One winter about then they stopped coming and I haven’t seem one since. What happened?

    May 2, 2016 at 8:52 pm

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