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Evening Grosbeak – Full of Surprises

The Evening Grosbeak might be one of the most misunderstood birds in North America. Even its name – meant to suggest that it sings only in the evening – is based on a misconception.

This species is definitely more than meets the eye. There could be at least three distinct subspecies of Evening Grosbeak in North America. Populations from different regions vary slightly in their appearance and sounds. More research is needed to untangle this thoroughly.

Seeing a big, bold Evening Grosbeak at your feeder may come as a surprise. This finch sometimes – but not always – migrates south of its northern forest strongholds in winter in response to changes in food availability. The seeds of trees and shrubs, spruce budworm caterpillars, and sunflower seeds are some of its preferred meals.

This species’ range was once restricted to western North America but expanded eastward beginning in the 1800s. Its Canadian range now includes all provinces and territories except Nunavut. This dramatic spread might seem to suggest that the species is flourishing. Another surprise – results from Project FeederWatch and the Breeding Bird Survey indicate that it is in steep decline. The Evening Grosbeak is now listed as a species of Special Concern in Canada.

(Photo: May Haga)