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Evening Grosbeak, male
© Stephen J. Krasemann/Photo Researchers, Inc.

Perching Birds

Evening Grosbeak  Coccothraustes vespertinus

Family: Finches, Fringillidae

Audio: Martyn Stewart, ©

An estimated 45% of the species' North American population breeds within the Boreal Forest.

Description  7 1/2-8 1/2" (19-22 cm). Starling-sized, stocky finch with a very large, pale greenish or yellowish conical bill. Male has brown head shading to yellow on lower back, rump, and underparts; bright yellow forehead and eyebrow; bold white wing patches. Female similar but grayer.

Habitat  Nests in coniferous forests; visits deciduous woodlands and suburban areas in winter.

Nesting  3 or 4 pale blue-green eggs, lightly speckled with dark brown, gray, and olive, in a shallow, loose cup of twigs lined with rootlets and placed in a conifer.

Voice  Song a series of short, musical whistles. Call note similar to the chirp of the House Sparrow but louder and more ringing.

Range  Breeds from British Columbia east to Nova Scotia and south to northern New England, Minnesota, Mexico (in mountains), and California. Winters south to southern California, Texas, and South Carolina.

Discussion  This grosbeak formerly bred no farther east than Minnesota, but more food available at bird feeders may have enabled more birds to survive the winter, and the species now breeds east to the Atlantic. Like most of the northern finches, however, these birds are more numerous in some years than in others. In winter they feed in flocks mainly on the seeds of box elder or on sunflower seeds at feeders. In spring the outer coating of the bill peels off, exposing the blue-green color beneath.

Banner photo credit: CPAWS Wildlands League