Connecticut Audbon Society

Evening Grosbeak

October 24, 2018

Evening Grosbeak
Coccothraustes vespertinus

By Greg Hanisek
The iconic “winter finch.” Nobody cares how much sunflower seed a flock can decimate, as long as they do it at your feeder.

Where To Find Them: Evening Grosbeaks are birds of woodland edges and are wide-ranging in irruption years. This is predicted to be one, and migrants have been seen in the past few days. I saw a dozen at Lighthouse Point Park in New Haven on Monday, and single birds were also reported in Brookfield, and Southbury.

Since they are diurnal migrants, it’s possible to see some overhead anywhere, although it helps to recognize their flight calls. The best place, though, is out a window at your house, so keep feeders stocked with sunflower seed.

When To Find Them:
In flight years migrants begin to show up in October and November. If it’s a really good year, some will stay all winter, usually departing in March. There is at least one confirmed nesting (1962), but there have been a number of more recent summer reports, usually birds coming to feeders, that are suggestive of breeding. They nest in northern New England.

What They Look Like: The adult males are unmistakable, with their golden tones, high contrast black and white wings and massive ivory bills. The females are just drabber versions of the males.

Status in Connecticut: This account is from Connecticut Birds (Zeranski & Baptist, 1990): “This species has increased markedly in New England in historical times. It has extended its nesting range eastward from south-central Canada since the mid-1800s. A large flight occurred during the winter of 1890-91, which accounted for most of New England’s first records. The first Connecticut specimen record was on March 10, 1890, at New Milford.”

The species remained a rare visitor in the first half of the 20th century, then large winter flights became regular after about 1950. Flocks were regular and exciting winter guests at feeders for several decades, but these irruptions became greatly diminished to almost non-existent beginning in the 1990s. There have been signs of a small uptick in recent years with flocks wintering occasionally in northern Litchfield County.

Greg Hanisek is the editor of The Connecticut Warbler, the journal of the Connecticut Ornithological Association.

Photo by Alan D. Wilson,

Evening Grosbeaks are one of 432 species on the North American Bird Conservation Initiative’s Watch List for species “most at risk of extinction without significant conservation actions to reverse declines.”






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