The bright colour and impressive nature of these birds have made them one of the most welcomed species at backyard feeders despite the fact that roving flocks consume large quantities of sunflower seeds. The Evening Grosbeak is one of the easiest backyard birds to identify. The male is our only large, mostly yellow bird with a large seed-crushing bill. The female is much paler but is the same size and also sports that massive beak. Grosbeak is a good name for these birds as their beaks are larger than those of other songbirds of their size. The word "gros" is French for large. When Evening Grosbeaks were first discovered by Europeans, they were only observed singing in the evening so they were called Evening Grosbeaks.
The Evening Grosbeak is a very gregarious species and during the winter months it can form large flocks of up to 100 to 300 individuals. Typically, backyard birders see flocks that range in size from 6 to 50 birds. Like all our winter finches, Evening Grosbeaks are prone to irregular wanderings prompted by the availability of natural food supplies. (See Pine Siskin for additional information.)
In March you may want to keep your eye on the bill of the Evening Grosbeak. During most of the year, its beak is pale yellow, but in late March it changes to a beautiful lime green - a colour that is very appealing to look at. Unlike many species which have winter (non-breeding) and summer (breeding) plumage, the bill colouration is the most dramatic change the Evening Grosbeak undergoes between the seasons. If you have a feeder, watch Evening Grosbeaks closely when they are eating and you may discover that they also have large purple tongues. After they crack a sunflower seed open, it is also interesting to see how they use that tongue to scoop out the seed and fling it down their throats without chewing it.
Evening Grosbeaks have well developed personalities that can provide many hours of observing fun.