Here is a bird that you don’t see too often. I have done many breeding bird surveys in Northern Ontario and have rarely encountered them. The only place that you have a good chance of seeing them is at bird feeders in remote communities such as Cochrane or Smooth Rock Falls.
These are Evening Grosbeaks. They are large and short-tailed with a massive head and bill. Females are gray-green with touches of yellow, a white throat and patches of white in the wing.
The males have yellow bodies, black wings and tail, a yellow stripe over the eyes and across the forehead and big white wing patches.
The bird resembles a large goldfinch at first sight. The singing note is something like a very resonant house sparrow chip. Evening grosbeaks are usually found in tight flocks and they do not mix with other species.
They feed mainly on insects or the seeds of trees. Evening grosbeaks nest in coniferous forests but visit deciduous woodlands and suburban areas in winter. A few showed up in Toronto’s High Park in December, 2015.
Numbers fluctuate wildly from place to place and from year to year; this unpredictability, added to their natural beauty, makes them a fascinating species to watch and study. In about the winter of 1975, there were large flocks of them in suburban Québec City. Some of the photos accompanying this article, which were taken at that time, clearly show this amazing congregation.