Skip to main content

Evening Grosbeaks (sort of) invade!

Lest you've been thinking about what to return as in your next iteration, avoid choosing a sunflower seed. One of the giant black-white-and-yellow seed destroyers that follow might get you. Your fate would be crushing: ground between the robust and powerful mandibles of our most powerful grosbeak, your tattered remnants to be unceremoniously expelled later from the bird's aft end.

But if you're not going to be a morsel for one, an Evening Grosbeak is just about the coolest, baddest, most eye-catching songbird that can grace one's feeders. Some years ago, these showy grosbeaks of the North Woods made regular southward incursions into wintertime Ohio. Up until the early 1990's, fairly large-scale invasions could be expected every few years. And even in the off years, there would be a smattering of grosbeaks to be found.

For newer Ohio birders, some of whom may not have even seen an Evening Grosbeak in the Ohio Territory, some of the counts of yore are nearly unimaginable. For instance, the Ohio Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) of 1969 collectively totaled 1,430 birds. Winter 1976 CBC's tallied 2,077. A jaw dropping 2,686 grosbeaks were counted in the winter of 1984. The average CBC total over the past decade is a paltry 16 birds. The decade prior to that saw average CBC totals of 122 birds each winter. Go back another decade and the CBC winter average over the ten year span was 653 birds.

You get the point. There has been a precipitous downward slide in the number of Evening Grosbeaks invading Ohio. Thus, I was delighted to get two recent emails reporting grosbeaks, each with photos.

Photo: Bob Rafferty

Bob Rafferty reports five Evening Grosbeaks at his Knox County feeders on November 2, including this handsome male with a more somber female.

Photo: Rosalyn Rinehart

Last Saturday, November 3, Rosalyn Rinehart glanced out the window of her Logan County home to see five of the showy big-billed gluttons making mincemeat of her feeder's stock. Strangely, few people object to the hefty seed bills that will be incurred should a flock of ravenous Evening Grosbeaks descend and settle in at the feeders. An Evening Grosbeak is the feathered version of Joey Chestnut, and can gobble down the sunflowers like no one's business.

These weren't the only Evening Grosbeaks to be found. At least four or five other reports have come in from widely scattered locales. Keep an eye on those feeders. Thanks to Bob and Rosalyn for sharing their reports and photos with us.


Comments

dwhr said…
Hi Jim,
Have you researched the decline of the grosbeak? Growing up in northern New Hampshire, our back yard would be seasonally invaded by evening grosbeaks, 40-50 at a time, and occasionally a pair of rose breasteds would grace our crab apple. Would love to see a future update on the status of these birds in the northeast.
Thanks!
Jim McCormac said…
Hi, and thanks for your comment. I have not researched the decline of Evening Grosbeaks in the east very thoroughly, and am not sure what the causes of their demise might be. This species is a relatively recent arrival to eastern North America. The following link has some good data on their distribution, and some theories as to why they may be in decline in the east: http://www.birdsource.org/Features/Evegro/

Popular posts from this blog

The Pinching Beetle, a rather brutish looking bug

The world is awash in beetles, and they come in all shapes and sizes. Few of them can match the intimidation factor of a Pinching Beetle, Lucanus capreolus, though. Those formidable looking mandibles look like they could slice off a finger.

Today was one of those coolly diverse days. I started off down in Fayette County, visiting the farm of a friend. He has restored about 25 acres of wetlands, and the response by the animal community has been nothing short of phenomenal. Blizzards of dragonflies of many species, amphibians galore, and nesting Blue-winged Teal, Pied-billed Grebe, and Sora. Among MANY other things. And all in a short two years. Add water and they will come.

Then, working my way home, I ducked into a Madison County cemetery that has a thriving population of Thirteen-lined Ground Squirrels, and shot images of our native prairie dog. Then, I stopped at a spot along Little Darby Creek, waded on in, and procured some pretty nice shots of various stream bluets and dancers. …

Calliope Hummingbird in central Ohio!

A hatch-year male Calliope Hummingbird strikes a pose. Small but tough, the hummingbird was feeding actively yesterday in 39 F temperatures. It frequents feeders and gardens at a home in Delaware County, Ohio, about a half-hour north of Columbus.

Fortunately, the wayward hummer appeared at the home of Tania and Corey Perry. Tania is a birder, and knew right away that the hummingbird was something special. For a while, the identification was up in the air, which isn't surprising. The Calliope Hummingbird used to be placed in its own genus, Stellula, but has recently been submerged into the genus Selasphorus, which includes Allen's, Broad-tailed, and Rufous hummingbirds. The latter two, especially, are quite similar to the Calliope in subadult plumage. Rufous is the default "vagrant" hummingbird here, with dozens of records and birds turning up annually. There is but one Ohio record of Allen's Hummingbird, from late fall/early winter 2009. Ditto the Calliope Hummi…

Ballooning spiders

Fear not, ye arachnophobes. The subject of this entry is indeed about spiders, but the star of the show is about as cute as a spider can get. And you'll want to know what we're about to learn...

On my recent West Virginia foray, we were strolling down a seldom-used lane, when a bright yellow object caught our eye. It was a goldenrod crab spider, Misumena vatia, on top of a post! Not only that, she - it is a girl - was acting extraordinarily goofy. The spider would stilt up as high as she could go on her legs, weave back and forth, jig side to side, and otherwise engage in what appeared to be spider break-dancing.

Click the pic for expansion, and you can see two columns of silk issuing from her spinnerets. This is an important point, as we set about determining what this non-web-making spider is doing.


So fixated was our spider on her task that she even rejected what would seem to me to be a perfectly scrumptious meal. This little caterpillar climbed rapidly up the post and dire…