Last week, I saw seven Evening Grosbeaks at my feeders, which is the largest group I've seen at my upstate NY feeders in 16 years of feeding. In all those years, if I saw 3-4 birds, it was significant. Two more visited our feeders today.
Wanda, a Wild Birds Unlimited customer, recently sent us this photograph of Evening Grosbeaks at her feeding station. She counted 12 grosbeaks and has never seen this many of them at her feeder either.
Photo courtesy of Wanda Perkins
And back in April, a male grosbeak visited the feeders, his huge bill a brilliant chartreuse indicative of breeding plumage. Read our "Evening Grosbeaks Return" post of April 27 that includes an audio clip of the grosbeak call.
Customers tell us stories of years past when they would have huge flocks of Evening Grosbeaks descend upon yards and feeders. Just imagine seeing and hearing hundreds of these large, vocal birds - what a spectacle that must have been!
Unfortunately, few people have experienced that. In the last few decades, Evening Grosbeaks are most often reported in groups numbering only in the single digits.
Yet there are predictions of a strong irruptive year of winter finches like the grosbeak. Just within the past couple weeks, we're hearing of more frequent sightings of the Evening Grosbeak and sightings of "higher numbers" (it is all relative) at feeders. Why is this so important? What is so significant about sightings of Evening Grosbeaks?
Earlier this year, Audubon issued a list of Common Birds In Decline based on years of citizen science projects such as the Christmas Bird Count and the Breeding Bird Survey. Their study revealed an alarming decline in many of our most common birds and the Evening Grosbeak was number 2 on that list, second only to the Northern Bobwhite.
Since 1967, in just 40 years, the population of the Evening Grosbeak has declined 78%, from 17 million to 3.8 million.
All 20 birds on the national Common Birds in Decline list lost at least half their populations in just four decades. Read more about all the birds on the Common Birds in Decline list.
The study warns, "The one distinction these common species share is the potential to become uncommon unless we all take action to protect them and their habitat."
Each of us can take individual action that can help make a difference. Audubon suggests:
- Conserve energy at home
- Fight global warming and urge your lawmakers to pass laws to fight global warming
- Monitor feeders keeping them clean and healthy for all birds including the Evening Grosbeak
- Become a citizen scientist in such projects as Project FeederWatch, The Great Backyard Bird Count, eBird, or Audubon's Christmas Bird Count.
- Protect Local Habitat
- Support Sustainable Forests.
- Learn more about the Boreal Forest in the Northern U.S. and Canada. (The boreal is essential breeding territory for many species of birds, including Evening Grosbeaks.)
The next time you see Evening Grosbeaks in your yard, close your eyes and imagine them GONE. Not just flown away, but GONE and never to return. At the current rate of decline, that is not beyond the realm of possibility. Audubon's study is a call to action. A call to each of us to do what we can in our daily lives to protect these "common" birds so they do not become uncommon, or worse yet, rare, endangered, or extinct.
ADDENDUM: Since this post was written in the fall of 2007, we've heard from readers across the continent! Please tell us about your Evening Grosbeak sighting, and be sure to let us know where you are located.