Photo: Garth McElroy/Vireo

Evening Grosbeak

Coccothraustes vespertinus

This chunky, big-billed finch wanders widely in winter, descending on bird feeders in colorful, noisy flocks, to thrill feeder-watchers and to consume prodigious amounts of sunflower seeds. Originally a western bird, almost unknown east of the Great Lakes before the 1890s, it now breeds commonly east to New England and the Maritime Provinces. Its eastward spread may have been helped by both the planting of box elders (a favorite food tree) across northern prairies, and the abundance of bird feeders in the Northeast.
Conservation status Extended its breeding range eastward during the late 19th century and early 20th century. In recent decades, eastern population has declined again, but reasons are poorly understood.
Family Finches
Habitat Conifer forests; in winter, box elders and other maples, also fruiting shrubs. Breeds in coniferous and mixed forests; often associated with spruce and fir in northern forest, with pines in western mountains. In migration and winter, may be equally common in deciduous groves in woodlands and semi-open country.
This chunky, big-billed finch wanders widely in winter, descending on bird feeders in colorful, noisy flocks, to thrill feeder-watchers and to consume prodigious amounts of sunflower seeds. Originally a western bird, almost unknown east of the Great Lakes before the 1890s, it now breeds commonly east to New England and the Maritime Provinces. Its eastward spread may have been helped by both the planting of box elders (a favorite food tree) across northern prairies, and the abundance of bird feeders in the Northeast.
Photo Gallery
  • adult male, Eastern
  • adult female, Eastern
  • adult male, Western
  • adult female, Western
Feeding Behavior

Forages mostly in trees and shrubs, sometimes on ground. Except when nesting, usually forages in flocks.


Eggs

3-4, sometimes 2-5. Pale blue to blue-green, blotched with brown, gray, purple. Incubation is by female only, about 11-14 days. Male may feed female during incubation. Young: Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 or 2 broods per year.


Young

Both parents feed the nestlings. Young leave the nest about 2 weeks after hatching. 1 or 2 broods per year.

Diet

Mostly seeds, some berries and insects. Seeds make up majority of diet, especially seeds of box elder, ash, maple, locust, and other trees. Also feeds on buds of deciduous trees, berries, small fruits, weed seeds. Will feed on oozing maple sap. Eats some insects in summer. At bird feeders, very fond of sunflower seeds. Will eat fine gravel for minerals and salts. Huge bill allows it to crack large seeds with ease.


Nesting

In courtship, male "dances" with head and tail raised, wings drooped and vibrating, as he swivels back and forth. Male frequently feeds female. In another courtship display, both members of a pair may bow alternately. Nest: Usual site is on horizontal branch (often well out from trunk) or in vertical fork of tree. Height varies, usually 20-60' above ground, can be 10-100' up. Nest (built by female) is a rather loosely made cup of twigs, lined with fine grass, moss, rootlets, pine needles.

Illustration © David Allen Sibley.
Learn more about these drawings.

Text © Kenn Kaufman, adapted from
Lives of North American Birds

Migration

Winter range in East very irregular, large numbers moving far south in some winters, little apparent movement in others. Such invasions have become smaller and less frequent in recent years. In the West, occasionally invades lowlands from nesting areas in mountains.

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Migration

Winter range in East very irregular, large numbers moving far south in some winters, little apparent movement in others. Such invasions have become smaller and less frequent in recent years. In the West, occasionally invades lowlands from nesting areas in mountains.

  • All Seasons - Common
  • All Seasons - Uncommon
  • Breeding - Common
  • Breeding - Uncommon
  • Winter - Common
  • Winter - Uncommon
  • Migration - Common
  • Migration - Uncommon
Songs and Calls
Song a series of short, musical whistles. Call note similar to the chirp of the House Sparrow but louder and more ringing.
Audio © Lang Elliott, Bob McGuire, Kevin Colver, Martyn Stewart and others.
Learn more about this sound collection.

How climate change could affect this bird's range

In the broadest and most detailed study of its kind, Audubon scientists have used hundreds of thousands of citizen-science observations and sophisticated climate models to predict how birds in the U.S. and Canada will react to climate change.

Learn more

Read more: climate.audubon.org
Finches Perching Birds

Evening Grosbeak

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season.

More on reading these maps.

Each map is a visual guide to where a particular bird species may find the climate conditions it needs to survive in the future. We call this the bird’s “climatic range.”

The colors indicate the season in which the bird may find suitable conditions— blue for winter, yellow for summer (breeding), and green for where they overlap (indicating their presence year-round).

The darker the shaded area, the more likely it is the bird species will find suitable climate conditions to survive there.

The outline of the approximate current range for each season remains fixed in each frame, allowing you to compare how the range will expand, contract, or shift in the future.

The first frame of the animation shows where the bird can find a suitable climate today (based on data from 2000). The next three frames predict where this bird’s suitable climate may shift in the future—one frame each for 2020, 2050, and 2080.

You can play or pause the animation with the orange button in the lower left, or select an individual frame to study by clicking on its year.

The darker the color, the more favorable the climate conditions are for survival. The outlined areas represent approximate current range for each season. More on reading these maps.
Winter
Summer

Winter Range
Summer Range
Both Seasons
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