Evening GrosbeakCoccothraustes vespertinus (Cooper)
Status Uncommon in summer, irregularly common in winter. Breeds. A first major invasion of New England and eastern Canada took place in winter 1889-90, but the species did not occur in Nova Scotia until 1913 (Lewis 1913). This bird was not reported again until early March 1926, when a small flock was observed at Annapolis Royal by J.L. DeVany. On 28 January 1928, one that had been killed by a cat was brought to a taxidermist at Truro (Piers' notes). On 24 April 1929 a specimen collected at Windsor by Victor Gould was presented to Acadia University.
The next recorded appearance was on 25 January 1932 when John W. Piggott saw a small flock in Bridgetown, Annapolis County: 3 males and 20 females were recorded at Windsor on 5 April (Mrs. R. Curry). In 1938 the Evening Grosbeak was coming regularly, arriving in early November and leaving in April, with stragglers into June. It is now one of the most familiar winter birds at feeders in town and countryside. The first summer occurrence was in July 1947, when C.S. Eaton saw a male feeding on cherries at Wolfville; on 9 September of that year Merritt Gibson reported two males and a female eating sumac berries on the Wolfville Ridge. By 1984 it was widely established as a breeding bird, especially on Cape Breton Island.
Description Length: 16.5-21.5cm. Adult male: Forehead, line extending over eye, back, rump and belly bright yellow; top of head, wings and tail black; wing coverts and half of secondaries conspicuously white; nape, sides of head, and chin dark seal-brown; breast brown, shading into yellow; legs and feet reddish brown; bill pale whitish gray in late fall and winter, changing to pale greenish gray in early spring. Adult female: Above olive-brown, with yellowish wash on nape and sides of breast; scapulars grayish white; rest of wing black; tail black, the feathers tipped with white; throat white to upper breast; rest of underparts gray suffused with yellow.
Breeding Nest: Made of coarse twigs, with lining of fine roots and mosses; at heights of 5-10 m or more, a preference being shown for pine trees. Eggs: 3-5; greenish blue, blotched with brown of varying shades. For years the only proof of breeding was parent birds seen feeding "bob-tailed" young. The first incidence of this occurred at Ingonish Beach, Victoria County, on 1 August 1958 (S. Bleakney); such observations have since come from almost every county in the province. The first nest with young was found by Murray A. Bent on Wolfville Ridge in spring 1971.
Range Breeds in central British Columbia, central Saskatchewan, northern Michigan and central Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia, and south in the western mountains to southern Mexico. Wanders widely in winter.
Remarks Many Evening Grosbeaks have been trapped and banded at feeding stations over a wide area in recent years, shedding light on the interesting habits of these nomadic creatures. It appears, for instance, that small flocks have some sort of affinity that holds them together in their wanderings. Two birds trapped at Wolfville, from a small flock, wore bands with similar dates, placed on them at a station in New Hampshire. Two individuals handed by me at Wolfville on 6 December 1954 were recaptured together by Willett J. Mills at Halifax on 13 February 1955; obviously they had been together during the interim. That these birds travel on some sort of schedule is suggested by the behaviour of one I banded on 8 March 1952 which, having wandered hither and yon for a whole year, was recaptured on my tray on 4 March 1953.
When they come to us in the fall their beaks vary in colour from horn to very pale pinkish white. These shades are retained until late March, when they gradually change to a greenish tinge, which becomes slightly more pronounced during the following weeks until they forsake our feeding trays, usually in early May.
This bird was first discovered in 1823 and named "Evening Grosbeak" because, coincidentally, it was then heard to sing only in the evening. Chapman (1934) describes the song as a wandering, jerky warble, beginning low, suddenly increasing in power and then suddenly ending as though the performer were out of breath.
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