Birds – Evening Grosbeak

(Coccothraustes vespertinus) Finch family

Length—8 inches. Two inches shorter than the robin.

Male—Forehead, shoulders, and underneath clear yellow; dull yellow on lower back; sides of the head, throat, and breast olive-brown. Crown, tail, and wings black, the latter with white secondary feathers. Bill heavy and blunt, and yellow.

Female—Brownish gray, more or less suffused with yellow. Wings and tail blackish, with some white feathers.

Range—Interior of North America. Resident from Manitoba northward. Common winter visitor in northwestern United States and Mississippi Valley; casual winter visitor in northern Atlantic States.

In the winter of 1889-90 Eastern people had the rare treat of becoming acquainted with this common bird of the Northwest, that, in one of its erratic travels, chose to visit New England and the Atlantic States, as far south as Delaware, in great numbers. Those who saw the evening grosbeaks then remember how beautiful their yellow plumage—a rare winter tint—looked in the snow-covered trees, where small companies of the gentle and even tame visitors enjoyed the buds and seeds of the maples, elders, and evergreens. Possibly evening grosbeaks were in vogue for the next season’s millinery, or perhaps Eastern ornithologists had a sudden zeal to investigate their structural anatomy. At any rate, these birds, whose very tameness, that showed slight acquaintance with mankind, should have touched the coldest heart, received the warmest kind of a reception from hot shot. The few birds that escaped to the solitudes of Manitoba could not be expected to tempt other travellers eastward by an account of their visit. The bird is quite likely to remain rare in the East.

But in the Mississippi Valley and throughout the northwest, companies of from six to sixty may be regularly counted upon as winter neighbors on almost every farm. Here the females keep up a busy chatting, like a company of cedar birds, and the males punctuate their pauses with a single shrill note that gives little indication of their vocal powers. But in the solitude of the north-ern forests the love-song is .aid to resemble the robin’s at the start. Unhappily, after a most promising beginning, the bird suddenly stops, as if he were out of breath.