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Irruption Alert: Evening Grosbeaks are moving in largest numbers in 20+ years

Irruption Alert: Evening Grosbeaks are moving in their largest numbers in 20+ years.

By Tyler Hoar and Matthew Young:

The Evening Grosbeak irruption for winter 2020-21 is well underway! Similar to the Fall months of 2018, the last time the Evening Grosbeak moved southward in numbers, this year’s movement has mainly come out of the Province of Quebec as well (see below eBird maps comparing Sept-Oct 2020 to Sept-Oct 2018). The irruption has triggered eBird alerts across Ontario and the northeastern states down to West Virginia and Florida already.  In the last week more birds have also been noted in the Great Lakes region, where sightings have reached Indiana. This fall’s irruption appears to involve a larger number of individuals than 2018’s, and we’re only getting started with still almost a week left in October.  

Evening Grosbeak eBird map Sept-Oct 26th 2020

Evening Grosbeak eBird map Sept-Oct 2018

In September, observers at Tadoussac Bird Observatory in Eastern Quebec counted their highest numbers for their early fall count in 25 years, with the vast majority of birds moving southwest. In Mid October, almost 1000 Evening Grosbeaks were observed moving southwest at Rimouski Quebec. On October 20th, Toronto and southern Ontario had a widespread flight of birds moving west/southwest.  October 24-25th, a much larger and widespread flight moved southwest through Southern Ontario with single location counts in the 100s.  While there wasn’t a big single count noted in the northeastern states, dozens of eBirds alerts popped up on these same days across much of the region. With sightings already in Northern Florida (map below), the irruption may very soon reach the mountains of the Carolinas and Georgia. “Be sure to be on the lookout for birds on the Piedmont in the Carolinas as well”, says North Carolina Park Ranger and birder Dwayne Martin. 

Look for Evening Grosbeaks to be foraging on Maple, Box Elder, and Ash samaras, on Cherry and Crabapple seeds, and on Sumac fruit.  At feeders this species prefers platform or hopper feeders well stocked with Black Oil Sunflower seeds. As winter finches go, the Evening Grosbeak is perhaps the most gorgeous of all, and we hope that many of you are lucky enough to enjoy them at your feeder during this winter!  

Photo Credits Jay McGowan

The Evening Grosbeak is listed as a species of special concern in Canada, and FiRN is committed to researching and protecting these birds and other threatened finch species as well. We’ve included a link to donate below, and hope you’ll help support our efforts.

Here’s another great read about the Evening Grosbeak: https://finchnetwork.org/the-irruptive-evening-grosbeak-of-the-west-type-1

4 replies on “Irruption Alert: Evening Grosbeaks are moving in largest numbers in 20+ years”

Please note that this grosbeak has a very gross beak!! Yes, will eat black oil sunflower, but much prefers grey striped sunflower!! Same for Purple Finches. Big beaks means they can literally handle big seeds. Continuing to tout that they prefer black oil sunflower is not their actual preference in seeds for food. In the early 1970s some 40,000 tons of stripe sunflower in just one winter in the state of MA! My fingers may still show scars from banding this grosbeak in many winters in the 1970s and early 80s here in MD. Looking forward to this eruption!!

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