Posted by: atowhee | July 22, 2022


The following email came from a birding and bird-feeding friend who lives in a forested area west of McMinnville, near a year-round creek and many mature Doug-firs:
“In the 30 years that I have lived out here, I have seen EG’s occasionally at our feeders, but they have never been regular visitors.  New neighbors moved in next to us in 2017 and, like us, put up bird feeders.  I am not sure if it was just serendipitous, multiple feeders filled at exactly the right moment for an irruptive species looking for food, or the becalmed nature of that first spring of the pandemic in which two households could actually be slowed down enough to attend to a migratory species, but in the spring of 2020 we fostered an occupation of Evening Grosbeaks.  Three feeders at their house up on the road, three at ours, down in the trees, all filled with black sunflower seed, and open geography filled with maples and firs, played host to nearly 60 birds for more than two weeks.  Then they were gone. 

“We planned for the spring of 2021 and this time it was a wild party.  Again, at least 60 birds, gregarious, garrulous, busy, ‘bird Coachella’ I liked to call it, living their life.  EG’s are a dramatic presence.  Not just their sound, but the dapper flash of their yellow, black and white.  Sunbursts in tuxedos.  Graphic elements filling the trees and the skies.  They stayed for the entire month of May.  In our house we went through 40 pounds of seed every 5 days.  It was an occupation.  We all fell on the lawn exhausted when the last of them left. 

“My sweet bird loving neighbors moved and so I wasn’t sure how this spring would play out.  Seven males arrived early in April and then were gone.   A few more traveled through and then the flocks started showing up in May. I have 4 big feeders…it was up to our house and again we played host to their incredible presence.  This year, at any one time, I counted 50 birds.  They stayed through May and showed no signs of leaving come June.  This spring they stayed for nearly 7 weeks.  We were gone for a couple of days and the feeders drained.  They left, leaving room for the black headed grosbeaks, who nest here and the towhees and yellow and red finches as well.  I guess we sort of shooed them out the door.  Except that I continued to see 3 pairs still coming to the feeders.  I figured they were nesting here and sure enough these last couple of weeks they have been bringing young males and females around in the yard.  Feeding them from the feeder and foraging along on the ground.  We have a nice little flock.  Now we have a colony. 

“I am not sure where they are coming from when they land here, parts north I know, and where they are going when they leave, bodies heavy with seed and hormones, to do their spring nests.  They are extraordinary and it is something to live with the flock.  They chirp constantly….great food, good weather ahead, the sounds of a very concerted bird life, I imagine.  I want to understand those vectors of direction and destination.  I love their beaks. 

“I have never seen them anywhere else.  Not in town, not in other yards, not at bird refuges, not in other parts of the state or other states even. 

“We love having them!!”

EGs are the world’s largest finch. There are over 230 finch species worldwide. They are not closely related to our Black-headed Grosbeaks.

Here are some photos from the good old days when they crowded our feeders each May while we lived in Ashland:

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