• Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Part II: EVENING GROSBEAK. Records from NYC and Environs 1905-2020

Updated: Nov 13

Male Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, 28 January 2016

Deborah Allen

12 November 2020

Bird Notes: Weather for the Sat/Sun/Mon walks looks good - see you in Central Park. We had two very successful owl walks last week (details below). Our next OWL WALK will be 4:30pm on Thanksgiving Day (Thursday, 26 November). We are after the pair of Barred Owls at the north end of Central Park. See the SCHEDULE Page on this web site for all details.

In the previous issue of this Newsletter, we presented the "early" history of the Evening Grosbeak in northeastern North America. Starting in 1890, these birds moved into the New England/mid-Atlantic region in winter, primarily mid-December through March. In this issue, we focus on the Evening Grosbeak's history in the NYC area. Starting in the mid-1960s and continuing for some 25 years, flocks of these birds began arriving here (especially Long Island) in mid-October. The high count for Central Park was 38 on 15 October 1961; and one Evening Grosbeak spent 10+ days in lower Manhattan in July 1975! More info below in our HISTORICAL NOTES.

Virginia Rail, Central Park (Triplet's Bridge), 6 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

In this week's Historical Notes we present 1905-2020 information/observations about the Evening Grosbeak in the NYC area, though supplemental info comes from Long Island, New Jersey and Connecticut. We again provide a number of anecdotal (non-scientific but quite interesting) observations from NYC including the first occurrence of the Evening Grosbeak in the city: 8 January 1911 in Forest Park, Queens, which was then in the borough of Brooklyn. For those who want to understand the nitty-gritty changes in the number of Evening Grosbeaks seen on migration in the area from approximately 1923 to the present, we present summary articles by Ludlow Griscom, Geoffrey Carleton, Allan Cruickshank and John Bull. Finally, we end with an article on the importance of Spruce Budworms to Evening Grosbeaks in their breeding area in the Boreal Forest - and a possible explanation for these birds periodic irruptive movements south into our area.

Red-tailed Hawk, Central Park (The Dene), 8 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

[below] Cooper's Hawk in Central Park, 6 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

[below] Barred Owl, Central Park, night of 8 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for mid-November

All Walks @ $10/person - All walks in Central Park

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found here

1. [CANCELLED: Rain] Friday, 13 November at 8:30am - Conservatory Garden at 105th street and 5th Avenue. Walk down the front (main) steps and straight ahead by 150 feet to the area between the men's room (on the right/north) and ladies' room (left/south) $10

2. Saturday, 14 November at 7:30am and again at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive $10

3. Sunday, 15 November at 7:30am and again at 9:30am - Boathouse Cafe; 74th street/ East Drive $10 - Standard Time begins as Daylight Savings Time ends

4. Monday, 16 November at 8:30am - Strawberry Fields (Imagine Mosaic) at 72nd St. and Central Park West $10


OWL WALK - Thursday 26 November (Thanksgiving Day) at 4:30pm - meet 106th st. and 5th Ave for BARRED OWLS. $10. See SCHEDULE page of this web site for details!


If you do the 7:30am walk you can do the second (9:30am walk) for free. You get two for one. Weekend walks will continue through August and into December. Monday walks at 8:30am begin on Labor Day, 7 September and will continue through the end of October. Friday morning walks start 25 September and through October at least. What are you waiting for?

Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions: rdcny@earthlink.net

Red-bellied Woodpecker; Central Park (North End) on 6 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive). Please note: the Boathouse is not one of the buildings that surround the nearby Model Boat Pond - people make this mistake all the time! Fridays we meet at Conservatory Garden; Mondays at Strawberry Fields - check the "Meeting Points" page of this web site for exact meeting location.

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is (rdcny@earthlink.net). If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; you can get a cup of coffee and a muffin there (around $6 total) - though the Boathouse is closed right now and will re-open in April 2021 according to the owners. Walks last about 3 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please.

Nashville Warbler in Central Park (North End) on 6 November 2020 by D. Allen

Here is what we saw last week (brief highlights)

Friday, 6 November 2020 (Conservatory Garden at 8:30am): I don't recall anything exceptional today, except for the Nashville Warbler (photo above by Deborah Allen) that came flying over while I was playing the call of a Dark-eyed Junco. The other bird of note was a Field Sparrow at the Green Bench. This species has been uncommon this fall...by comparison it has been an exceptional fall for Lincoln's Sparrows as well as Vesper Sparrows in Central Park - the best year for these two species I can remember. Finally the owl walk on Thursday night (5 November) in the warm evening air was wonderful - a very close Barred Owl that called back to us several times - see Adam Bagun's photo below.

Deborah's List of Birds for Friday, 6 November: https://tinyurl.com/y448nu2h

Barred Owl on Thursday night 5 November on our owl walk - very close!

Photo by Adam Bagun

Saturday-Sunday, 7th-8th November (Boathouse Restaurant at 7:30am and again at 9:30am): Please note: the bathrooms at the Boathouse are NOT open. However, we do pass two other sets of bathrooms on the walk. Saturday, 7 November: Of the two weekend days, Saturday was easily the better of the two and I don't know why! We had the ongoing Virginia Rail (photo way above); flyover Red-shouldered Hawks (5) on the very mild southwest winds; nice groups of Pine Siskins, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Cedar Waxwings - and even a Purple Finch here and there - all coming in to the calls from my speaker. On 8 November (Sunday) birding was much slower. We had the Virginia Rail again in the same area (Triplet's Bridge); but the four warbler species including American Redstart and Black-and-white Warbler were the best. That night, the Owl walk was fantastic - the Barred Owl very close and following us around the Loch area in the North Woods. Don't miss the owl walks at night - they are fun, exciting and amazing - even for kids.

Deborah's List of Birds for Saturday, 7 November: https://tinyurl.com/y3pscvd8

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 8 November: https://tinyurl.com/y2mc497w

Monday, 9 November (Conservatory Garden at 8:30am): well, birds are slowing up: we went to visit the Virginia Rail (still there), but the Conservatory was cutting down trees and removing much debris in the area...We had fun with an aggressive Red-bellied Woodpecker near the Ramble - many close swoops at our heads...and despite Bob's best efforts to turn a Pine Warbler into something exotic, it really was a Pine Warbler at the Pinetum - so truth, justice and the American way prevailed.

Deborah's List of Birds for Monday, 9 November: https://tinyurl.com/y2gkxw3f

Male Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Provincial Park, Ontario, Canada, 28 January 2016

Deborah Allen


Evening Grosbeak - NYC Historical Info (1905-present)

The First Evening Grosbeak Record for New York City [1911]

In the May number of this journal just received, I notice in 'Notes from Field and Study' that Mr. Harold K. Decker records the occurrence of Evening Grosbeaks on Staten Island, January 9, 1916, and that Mr. Lee S. Crandall reports one from the New York Zoological Park, February 15, 1916. Mr. Decker believes his record to be the first definite record for Greater New York.

Miss Lelia M. Childs and myself saw an Evening Grosbeak on the morning of January 8, 1911, in Forest Park, which is in the Borough of Brooklyn, Greater New York.

I have since become acquainted with the Evening Grosbeak in the West, and the bird I saw in Forest Park was a female Evening Grosbeak. Therefore I can definitely record the appearance of an Evening Grosbeak in Greater New York, January 8, 1911 [see following article].

I should like to report, too, the Prothonotary Warbler seen by Miss Childs and myself May 6, 1916, also in Forest Park. We watched the bird make the circuit of a small pond, feeding about the roots of the trees. It finally came onto an old log within ten feet of where we were sitting, then flew into a low bush directly in front of us and preened its feathers. It showed no fear even when we stood up and walked away.

Mary W. Peckham, Brooklyn, N. Y.

BROOKLYN, N.Y. 8 January 1912: Evening Grosbeak. I saw, in Forest Hill Park, Brooklyn, a bird which was undoubtedly a Grosbeak. It was about the same size and shape as a Rose-breasted Grosbeak, but the bill was even heavier and larger than theirs, and wax-yellow in color. The body was a grayish olive with a decidedly yellowish cast, almost bright yellow on the rump and lighter and yellower on the breast and sides. The outer wing feathers looked to be black their entire length, but the inner feathers, the secondaries, had a good deal of white in them, so that they had the appearance of being striped cross-ways with white. The tail was black, but also had white on it. The head was more grayish, also a grayish mark along the sides and breast. The bird had the clumsy movements of a Grosbeak-hopped along the branches. It was in a dogwood tree, and was feeding on the buds at the ends of the twigs.

It showed absolute unconcern at our presence, and kept right on eating even when we came directly under it. It gave, occasionally, a note like a thrilled chur-r-r, very soft and low. Unfortunately, some boys saw us looking at it and came under the tree. I tried to interest them in the bird, and, upon leaving they promised me they wouldn't harm it. We were no sooner out of hailing distance, however, before they began to throw stones at it. It then flew into another tree not far away, and its note then was a single note, rather sharp and high, as if alarmed.

Could it have been an Evening Grosbeak? I have a picture of a pair of these birds, and it was not like the picture of the male. It had no black cap and its forehead was not yellow, and the secondaries were black and white; and yet the bird was much yellower than the picture of the female.

MARY W. PECKHAM, Member of Bird Lovers' Club, Brooklyn.

[Mrs. Peckham's bird, which very evidently was an Evening Grosbeak, is the first bird of this species to be recorded from Long Island. - EDITOR]


Evening Grosbeak in New York City [Bronx] and Utica, N. Y [1916]

I should like to report the appearance of a female Evening Grosbeak in the New York Zoological Park [the Bronx], on February 15, 1916. The bird, which was quite alone, was feeding on cedar berries and the green tips of the twigs. As usual, she was fearless and easily approached. I am not aware of a previous record of the species in New York City, aside from Staten Island. Mr. George W. Weston, of Utica, N.Y., informs me that on March 21, 1916, he observed six Evening Grosbeaks feeding on the ground near one of the main streets and within the city limits. --- Lee S. Crandall.


The Evening Grosbeak in Greater New York City [1916] - Staten Island

Though there are a number of records of the occurrence of the Evening Grosbeak in New York State, chiefly in the central, western, and northwestern parts, there seems to be but one possibility that it has ever before been observed in New York City. In a catalogue of birds observed in New York, Long Island, Staten Island, and adjacent parts of New Jersey, George N. Lawrence (1866) lists it merely as rare and gives no specific locality. A more recent observation is that made at Plainfield, N. J., in 1914, by Waldron DeWitt Miller. It is highly gratifying then to report the first definite record for New York City which was made at 3.30 p.m. on Sunday, January 9, 1916, by the writer and Theo. L. Herman.

About a half mile southwest of Castleton Corners, Staten Island, is a section of country partially cleared by a real estate company, but still supporting a growth of scrub white oak, green briers, birches, and the usual characteristics of land left to survive abuse. The leaves of the scrub oaks are crisped and curled into bunches at the top, and the rattling of these leaves first drew attention to the presence of the birds, which proved to be a fine male and female Evening Grosbeak. It was easy to get within eight or ten feet of the birds at any time, so unsuspecting were they, and it would have been reasonably possible to knock one down with a stick.

The only calls, rather short whistling notes, were given by the male, and he was especially conservative in this respect. On the following morning the birds were again observed in the same vicinity and in practically the same place, but did nothing of peculiar interest. Rain kept the birds from their normal routine and made things disagreeable in every way for further observation. On the three following days the birds could not be found and doubtless left the locality, though a nearby pine grove offered an excellent roost. At this time it was supposed that the Grosbeaks might have gone to the Moravian Cemetery at New Dorp, three miles away, where an extensive pine grove offered suitable cover; but frequent trips revealed nothing there. Not until March 12, did the unexpected happen. Mr. Howard H. Cleaves, Mr. Theo. L. Herman, and the writer were photographing birds in the cemetery when Mr. Cleaves discovered the female Evening Grosbeak in an oak tree. She soon departed but returned later with the male and together they fed on the buds of a white maple. Here they stayed but a minute when they became alarmed and flew away, each giving a soft whistle.

Harold K. Decker, Staten Island, N. Y.


The Evening Grosbeak in New York City [1917] - the Bronx Walking along the path by the upper lake near the Botanical Garden Museum, on the morning of Nov. 23, of this year (1917), I passed almost under three male Evening Grosbeaks. They were feeding in an Ironwood tree on which a few old seeds still remained, and allowed me to pass not more than four or five paces away. While looking at and admiring the birds, which I had been acquainted with for many years in the West, the Assistant Director, Dr. Murrill, came by and I called his attention to them. He at once pronounced the birds to be similar to eight he had seen a week earlier in the Garden at no great distance from this point, and feeding on the same species of tree. This is the earliest date, I believe, recorded for their far eastern range, and I can find only four other birds mentioned in the past as having been seen within the city limits. Up to the time of writing this note, Dec. 25, I have seen or heard nothing more of these strikingly showy visitors.

R. S. Williams, Administrator Assistant, New York Botanical Garden.

Male Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Park, Canada, 28 January 2016; Deborah Allen

The Evening Grosbeak on Long Island, N.Y [1919]. On the afternoon of February 4, 1919, my attention was attracted by a series of finch-like notes uttered by a flock of Evening Grosbeaks (Hesperiphona vespertina vespertina) that was flying eastward. An excited, but rather poor imitation of their call notes caused them to swerve from their course and pitch into a clump of wild cherry trees standing in a hedge-row about a quarter of a mile away. Hastening to the spot, I found them on the ground busily feeding on the pits of the wild cherry. With their powerful bills it seemed an easy task for them to split the pits and remove the kernels. Although not shy, they appeared to be very restless, keeping up an almost continuous calling, flying back and forth between the trees and ground. The birds, thirteen in number, were all in the plumage of the female with the exception of three or four that were in the black and yellow dress of the male. A portion of the flock soon flew to a yellow locust tree overgrown with vines of the poison ivy, and began picking among the ivy seeds. On my near approach they took fright and flew away to the eastward. No others were seen until March 26, when a flock of eleven was seen in the same locality. On the morning of April 4 a flock of fifteen was seen flying north near the railroad station at Miller Place. Their flight was high and very direct. They were very noisy, keeping up a continuous calling, but refused to be diverted from their course by my imitations of their calls. April 9 a small flock spent most of the day among the maples and black alders in a small swamp. I believe that all of the birds noted were merely transients and did not remain anywhere in the vicinity during the periods between the dates on which they were noted. The winter of 1918-1919, one of the mildest on record, would not lead one to expect a visit from these birds. The two preceding winters were of unusual severity, yet nothing was seen or heard of these birds on Long Island. There was a scarcity of suitable food for these and similar birds during the past two winters, more noticeable, perhaps, during the winter of 1918-1919 than in 1917-1918. A similar condition existed in many sections of the north, and may have been a contributive cause to the Grosbeaks wandering so far from their normal range in search of new feeding grounds.

A. H. Helme, Miller Place, Long Island, N.Y.


Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertina) on Long Island, New York [1930]. While cooking lunch on the Long Island Sound beach, below the high sand banks of Wildwood State Park, Wading River, Long Island, on January 1, 1930, I heard a none too familiar whistle, and turned to see a pair of Evening Grosbeaks alight in the scrub growth above. The birds remained quiet, but watchful, while I clambered up toward them and examined them through glasses. Later they flew to the topmost twigs of a tall bare tree, where Mrs. Murphy and I watched them for some minutes. The Evening Grosbeak has been recorded on Long Island before, though not for a considerable number of years. Moreover, in the visits of this species, "it never rains but it pours," and I suspect that this note will be but one of many sent in from the Eastern States.

Robert Cushman Murphy, American Museum of Natural History, New York.

[above] Male Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Park, Canada, 28 January 2016; Deborah Allen

[below] Female Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Park, Canada, 28 Jan 2016; Deborah Allen

A Recent Visit of the Evening Grosbeak [1905] - Connecticut Somewhere about February 1, 1905, a flock of black and white birds flew over in rapid flight. They were rather high up, and I took them for White-winged Crossbills. Their course was undulating, with a succession of rapid strokes and then a break, as so many of the Fringillid practice. I was struck with the somewhat bizarre effect of the black and white colors, even in the rapid flight of the flock past me.

This fact I recall on looking back. But I kept watch of the tamarack and other coniferous trees, even going out on snowshoes to visit them. But I found no Crossbills. During several seasons, in other years, these birds have been very abundant here. On February 11, 1905, directly in front of my house in the broad street of Litchfield, I saw a number of black and white birds, running about in a nervous way in the middle of the road, and flying one over the other. I still thought them to be the White-winged Crossbill, only I wondered at several things:

First, they were picking up the undigested grains from the horse droppings in the middle of the road. This I had never seen the Crossbills do. Second, the birds looked too large. And, third, the black and white were so pronounced. When the flock took wing, the bizarre effect of their flight was so striking as to suggest the blurring of one's eyes in vertigo, or extreme dizziness. The birds took to the elms bordering the street, but were very soon down in the road again. I reckoned that the flock numbered about thirty. In a moment I had the glass in hand, and then the revelation came that I was looking at the Evening Grosbeak. There was no pink tinge about the birds, but there was a very decided suggestion of yellow. This color was most prominent on the forehead and nape. The breast and throat were lightish. The wings, back and head were black, and the tail black and rather short than otherwise. There was the white on the different parts which it would be hard to locate unless one had the bird in his hand, and I am describing only the impressions made upon one standing at a distance. But the feature that impressed me was the vividness of both the black and the white. A passing vehicle put up the birds again. This time they simply circled round and pitched again into the road behind the sleigh. Its two male occupants, I made note, were so blind to the rare wonders of bird life that they did not even look up at the beauties. Drawing quite near again, for the birds were very tame, I could discover that the strikingly black and white ones made up seasons, in other years, these birds have been only a part of the flock. On these the yellow of the forehead was also more decided and clearly defined. These may have been the older and more matured males. Although very tame on approach, the birds were as actively nervous as any which I have ever seen. They ran about up and down and across the road, picking the seeds from their snowbed; and then, too, the rear guard, as they were all moving forward, would take wing and fly over the heads of those in advance, in order to get better picking, just as I have often seen the Wild Pigeon do, forty-five years ago. On February 12 and 13 the birds were still hanging about the village, and I had a report of them on the 14th. I had hoped that they would do as their cousins the Pine Grosbeaks have often done, and stay about during the whole winter. A report only yesterday, February 21, from the neighboring village of Bantam, said they were there, feeding near the grist-mill. And this may have been true. But as all of our own bird-loving contingent, when they saw the Evening Grosbeak, at first thought they were looking at the Snow Bunting; so someone, seeing the Snow Bunting, may have thought that he was having a sight of the Grosbeak which I had described in the local paper. The books report this Grosbeak as having been recorded in New England only once, in the winter of 1889-90, when there were a number of records. But now, from his home in the far Northwest, he has come again all the way to our North Atlantic states. Should he make himself seen again, this journal shall have further intelligence.

John Hutchins, Litchfield, Connecticut on 22 February 1905.


Bird-Notes from Dutchess County, N.Y. [1918]. Some Pine Grosbeaks were first seen by the writer in this vicinity on 13 December 1918. There were a dozen of them in some maples and in a white-ash tree, the seeds of which they seemed very fond of. The birds were mostly in gray and white plumage, a few showing rosy feathers, and one was quite resplendent in bright rosy red. Some of these birds, of the same flock it would seem, were around about every day for three weeks, and on January 31 the Grosbeaks were seen for the last time in our neighborhood. These Pine Grosbeaks were a decided novelty here, and I watched them whenever possible. Their uncommon tameness was demonstrated in an amusing manner when three of these birds alighted in a choice little cherry tree and began nipping off buds. One of our household, not liking this procedure walked toward the tree and when about 6 feet away took off his cap and waved it at them. This the Grosbeaks did not notice in the least, nor did a clapping of hands serve to startle them. He then took hold of the branch whereon the birds were feeding and shook it vigorously. Then the Grosbeaks flew away. We regretted not having the camera there on that occasion.

I admired the musical and rather plaintive song of these Grosbeaks. Their notes seemed quite similar to those of the Evening Grosbeak. The latter I have on record as first appearing at our station on December 29, 1916, and they, too, caused a sensation here by their handsome plumage and large size. I did not see more than three at a time, but they were around for nearly a month. The first one identified appeared on an apple tree close by my window, and as he bent to peck at a frozen apple, the rich yellow and black of his head was glorious to behold.

The absence of the Brown Thrasher from our neighborhood during the spring and summer of 1916, and again this bird's complete disappearance during 1918, has been a puzzle that we cannot solve. The Thrashers were never abundant here, but we have always been favored with the songs of one or two at least every spring and early summer.

Purple Martins disappeared from this town of Stanford about forty-five years ago, so the old residents say. The increasing scarcity of birds is quite noticeable and is not a very cheering prospect.

The little Screech Owls are rather plentiful here, as we are near a woods, and we usually see a brood of young Owls around the house-yard in summer. An apple tree quite near the house usually shelters a Megascops each winter, and we wonder if these Screech Owls do persecute the smaller birds or rob their nests, thus making our native song-birds scarcer here. Can anyone inform us?

Mary Hyatt, Stanfordville, N. Y.


Evening Grosbeak in Connecticut [1920]. It may be of interest to note that yesterday,

December 17 [1920], I saw a flock of from six to eight Evening Grosbeaks. The flock contained birds with the bright-colored plumage of the males and also a number of the duller colored females. This is the second time I have had the pleasure of seeing these birds, the other occasion being in 1911, when a large flock stayed for some time in this vicinity. I have heard Mr. Job in one of his lectures express regret that although he had been informed of this large flock of Evening Grosbeaks on account of business reasons he was unable to come here and secure photographs of them.

W. E. Fuller, Norwich, Conn.

male Evening Grosbeak at a bird feeder in Michigan by Doug Leffler

Winter Birds at Ridgewood, N.J. [1920]. This last winter was the severest in the memory of most of us, and, while filled with many hardships, it brought great pleasure to some of us living in the country. At Ridgewood, N. J., we fed many rare birds. Our pleasure was, however, somewhat marred when we realized that their visits pointed to the fact that they must have been great sufferers from the severity of the season, as so many were utter strangers to this section, the largest numbers being the Evening Grosbeaks. They were first observed, 5 in all, on January 23 [1920] at the home of Mrs. Carl M. Vail. The next day 11 arrived, and, after that, more and more each day. On February 15, 29 were at the feeding-table at one time, and more were in the trees. They were reported at seven different homes here, where the winter feeding of birds is carried on systematically. They came, invariably, between 6.30 and 7 am, and ate greedily of the sunflower seeds put out for them. They ate cracked corn, also buckwheat. but preferred the sunflower seeds. Their habit was to remain around the feeding place all the morning, when they would disappear for two or three hours and then return for more seeds. As late as 9 April, 42 were counted in one place. On April 11, two pairs came, and on the 15th the last pair paid a short visit, then departed.

Other winter visitors were Pine Siskins, seen nearly every day during this past season, 11 counted at a time. After a heavy ice storm, 2 White-winged Crossbills were noted and 1 Pine Grosbeak. December 25 and February 22 a Robin appeared. One Sharp-shinned Hawk, many Redpolls, flocks of Fox Sparrows, and also large numbers of Purple Finches were seen. Of course we had our usual winter feathered friends.

(Miss) Florence de la Montagne Bunce, President of Ridgewood Branch of New Jersey Audubon Society.

Florence de la Motagne Bunce (info): https://tinyurl.com/y3ebaxe4


EVENING GROSBEAK (Hesperiphona vespertina) 1890-1923. This northwestern species is apparently extending its winter range to the eastward. The phenomenal incursion of 1890, now a matter of history, barely reached our limits. The second appearance of the Evening Grosbeak was in the winter of 1910-11, when it was recorded from several localities in northern New Jersey and Westchester County. Since then it has reached New England every year, and has occurred in this territory during the winters of 1912-13, 1915-16, 1916-17, 1918-19, and 1919-20. It must be classed as an irregular winter visitant, occurring much more frequently than the Pine Grosbeak or White-winged Crossbill. No attempt has been made to cite all more recent records.

Long Island. A single female seen at Forest Park on January 8, 1911 by Miss Mary W. Peckham; February 4 to April 9, 1919 at Miller Place (Helme); flock of twenty at Forest Hills, February 8, 1920, and one specimen brought to L. S. Crandall at the Bronx Zoological Garden; about twenty at Amityville, February 23, 1920 (J. T. Nichols) and an adult male in the same place February 26, 1920 (Griscom and Janvrin); a flock at Douglaston [Queens] on April 26, 1920 (G. Clyde Fisher).

New York State. Reported at Port Chester, January 8 to 9, 1911 and January 29, 1913 (Cecil Spofford); first on Staten Island, January 9 to March 12, 1916 (H. K. Decker and others).

BRONX REGION. November 13, 1915 (R. S. Williams) to February 15, 1916 (Lee S. Crandall) in the Zoological Garden; also February 8, 1920 (E. G. Nichols) to April 3, 1920 (L. S. Crandall).

New Jersey. Near Summit March 6, 1890 (W. O. Raymond); Andover, Sussex Co., December 13, 1910 (Blanche Hill); Newton, Sussex Co., January 6 to February 5, 1911 (Miss Kanouse and S. D. Inslee); Plainfield, January 29 to March 5, 1911 (W. DeW. Miller and others); Englewood in spring of 1916 (several observers). In the winters of 1916-17, and 1919-20 reported from numerous localities. The earliest arrival date is December 16, 1916 at Morristown (R. C. Caskey), the latest date is April 15, 1920 at Ridgewood (Miss F. M. Bunce).

ENGLEWOOD [NJ] REGION. First recorded March 24, 1916 by Miss Ina C. Dewitt; December 21, 1916 (Weber) to April 11, 1917; February 15 (Rogers) to March 5, 1920 (Bowdish).



Eastern Evening Grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertina) - 1942

Allan Cruickshank in Birds Around New York City

This handsome species from the northwest has extended its winter range to the eastward and is now a rare and irregular winter visitant in the New York City region. Before the phenomenal invasion of 1890 it was virtually unknown in the east, but since that winter it has occurred annually in New England, though its numbers from year to year vary considerably. Our region is just south of its new wintering grounds, yet almost every year now a few reach the highlands of northern Rockland and Westchester Counties and northern New Jersey and in three years out of five we have a few records of small flocks elsewhere within our boundaries.

Though local records are now far too numerous to list, I must emphasize that the recording of this species in the New York City region is still a red-letter occasion and I know many an active observer who has yet to see this species locally.

An analysis of the seventy-three records before me reveals that the Evening Grosbeak has been recorded in every county in our region. The species has been seen near the Hall of Fame, New York City, as early as October 27, 1927 (Cruickshank), and in Bronx Park as early as November 13, 1915 (R. Williams), but such dates are exceptional as the bird seldom arrives before Christmas and the large majority of records are grouped in January and February. Records after the end of March are few, yet I find one from Douglaston [Queens], Long Island, as late as April 26, 1920 (G. C. Fisher), and another from Bronx Park as late as May 6, 1920 (R. Williams).


EVENING GROSBEAK (Hesperiphona vespertina) in the NYC Region (1964)

John Bull

Range: Nearctic species, the nominate race has greatly extended its breeding range eastward in recent years ; prior to 1950, east to Ontario and Michigan; since 1950, east and south to Quebec, northeastern New York (Adirondacks); Maine (1959); virtually reaching the Atlantic seaboard by 1960 (New Brunswick); south to western Massachusetts (1957); by 1962 breeding in central and southeastern New York, southern Connecticut, and northern New Jersey.

The most notable range extension occurred in 1962. Evening Grosbeaks were found breeding south of their boreal range for the first time in the east: in New York State at Rochester, Ithaca, Schenectady, and Stissing (Dutchess County); Wallingford, Conn. and in our area in northern New Jersey, the most southerly penetration to date (see under breeding).

Status: Now (1962) a regular and locally common to occasionally abundant winter visitant inland, arriving much earlier and departing much later than 20 years ago. Irregular and relatively rare on Long Island and anywhere on the coastal plain, except in flight years when locally very common.

Change in status: The Evening Grosbeak was unknown in our area prior to 1890, only one occurrence in northern New Jersey; not reported again for 20 years; first specimen taken in 1911 at Plainfield, N.J., Feb. 12 (Miller), A.M.N.H.; and reported for the first time the same year in New York State (Port Chester) and on Long Island (Forest Hills), both on Jan. 8; adult male collected on Fisher's Island, March 10, 1920 (Ferguson). Prior to 1925 not arriving before mid-November and departing by late April.

Cruickshank (1942) spoke of it as still a "rare and irregular winter visitant," almost every year a few reaching the northern sections, and he knew of only 73 "records." Since about 1945, and especially 1947, it has enormously increased, regular and locally numerous, thus coinciding with its gradual but steady spread eastward and southward as a breeder; large flocks, especially at inland feeding stations.

Since 1950, several "huge" irruptions, particularly 1951-52 and 1954-55; "hundreds" reported at feeding stations, as proved by banding; also regular and in flocks each fall along the "hawk" ridges. Now arriving much earlier and departing much later (see extreme dates).

This species is especially fond of the fruit of the box elder or ash-leaved maple (Acer negundo), also choke cherry and Eleagnus (the so-called Russian Olive). It is best known, however, as an enormous consumer of sunflower n seeds, as anyone knows who is fortunate enough to have these birds at the feeding station. Most numerous from late January to early March.

Maxima: Flocks up to 50, early October 1959 and early May 1958; winter concentrations of 150 to over 300 (banded) at certain inland feeders, particularly in northern New Jersey. During the 1951 invasion, there was a conservative estimate of 6000 Evening Grosbeaks at all feeders combined in the New York City area. Big coastal flight, winter of 1945-46: 45, and Massapequa, Dec. 30; 80; Baldwin, March 8 (both at feeding stations).

Extreme dates: Sept. 21 to June 7. Usually rare before late October and after April.

Breeding: This species has now (1962) been found breeding within our area. During July of that year breeding evidence was obtained at two localities in northern New Jersey: young being fed at Smoke Rise, Morris County (H. Smith and N. Wade), and a male feeding sunflower seeds to a the young bird at Branchville, Sussex County (P. Truex).

Egg dates: No data. Male Evening Grosbeak, 28 January 2016; Deborah Allen


John Bull

Inwood Hill Park, Sept. 6, 1966 (Norse); earliest fall occurrence by 15 days. The following Long Island maxima are at hand: 150, Locust Valley, Nov. 5, 1965 (Astle); 80, Oakdale, Dec. 28, 1963; 150 banded, Blue Point, winter of 1963-1964 (Terry); 160, Eastport, Feb. 12, and 100 there, Apr. 14, 1964 (Wilcox); 100 plus remained at a Brookhaven feeder to May 7, 1966 (Puleston). The species has greatly increased on the south shore, chiefly at feeding stations, and is also lingering later in numbers each year. One at Orient, July 3, 1964 (Latham) is the only known local summer occurrence, other than two casual breeding records.


Evening Grosbeak in Central and Prospect Parks 1930-1970

Geoffrey Carelton Central Park 1958. Rare Transient. 21 October 1951 (Maumary, William Gordon) to 8 December 1957 (Peter Post); 11 February 1948 (Helmuth); 29 April 1956 (Harrison, Post); to 18 May 1958 (Post). First recorded in 1948. Maximum 25 on 31 October 1954 (Carelton). 1970 (Update). Rare Transient. Recorded First time in 1948, annually in May since 1955, and sometimes also in other months. 5 October 1961 (Post; Guy Tudor) to 15 December 1961 (Post). Two winter records. Spring: 23 April 1964 (Tudor) to 24 May 1960 (Maumary). Maximum 38 on 15 October 1961 (Bloom) ---- Prospect Park 1958. Rare Transient. 3 October 1957 (Carelton, Restivo) to 2 December 1945 (Russell) and 21 December 1957 (Whelen); 5 May 1950 (Jacobson, Whelen) to 19 May 1956 (Whelen, Brooklyn Bird Club). First recorded in 1945. Maximum 74 in early November 1951 (Brooklyn Bird Club). 1970 (Update). Continuous records from 2 December (1945) to 24 December 1963 (Raymond). 12 April 1966 (Raymond) to 22 April 1960 (Cashman).


Evening Grosbeak in lower Manhattan (Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village) 4-16 July 1975; found by Sheila Madden

male Evening Grosbeak, Algonquin Park, Canada, 28 January 2016; Deborah Allen

Evening Grosbeak (2018) in the Bronx

Paul Buckley

NYC area, Current (2018): An irruptive, erratic fall migrant, winter visitor/resident, and spring migrant, occurring singly, in small groups, or by the hundreds during major irruptions. There are often many decades between major irruptions, yet during them they have bred as close as northern NJ. Peak New York City area numbers occurred between the late 1950s and late 1980s, and since then they have been relatively scarce. Like certain warblers, their inter-annual variation in abundance is tied to Spruce Budworm cycles, but their New York State breeding populationis believed to be moderated more by bird feeder maintenance.

Bronx region, historical:

Bicknell's Riverdale 1872-1901: unrecorded;

Eaton's Bronx + Manhattan 1910-14: unrecorded;

Griscom's Bronx Region as of 1922: irregular winter visitor, 3 recent records

Kuerzi's Bronx Region as of 1926: irregular winter visitor, 13 November to 6 May

NYC area, historical:

Cruickshank's NYC Region as of 1941: irregular, rare winter visitor, 27 October-6 May

Bull's NYC Area as of 1968: greatly increased after 1946; 6 September to 7 June, once in July; most have been seen at feeders, especially during major irruption in winters like 1951-52, when 6000 were estimated at all area feeders (including northern NJ); first spring return flights in April-May; maxima spring 100, fall 150

Bull's New York State as of 1975: second July record

Bronx Area, historical and current:

Not found in the Bronx until the 1915-16 winter, this erratic visitor occurs in irruptions large and small, during which they may pass by, remain for the winter, or some combination. Feeders sustain most flocks locally.

Beginning in the 1910s-1920s, recorded in all 4 extant subareas where the absence of feeders limits occurrences to mostly vocalizing fly-overs. Area winter residents typically (a term used with reservations) arrive in October, remain through the winter in varying numbers, then depart in March, while those overwintering farther south pass back through in April-May. Extreme dates are 3 in Van Cortlandt Park on 9 September 1958 (Kane) and 2 there on 9 May 1964 (Russak), with fall and winter maxima of 50 in early November 1943 (Komorowski et al.) and from 1-8 January 1944 (Soll et al.), an irruption winter.

Until June 1967, the fall maximum in Central Park was 38 on 15 October 1961 (Bloom), and in Prospect Park 74 in early November 1951 (Brooklyn Bird Club). It has been unrecorded in the study area since 4 on 24 April 1966 (Kane); on the entire Bronx-Westchester Christmas Bird Count since 1987 has been found only in 1995 (1) and 2003 (5).


Cause and Effect: Spruce Budworm Outbreaks and the Irruption of Boreal Birds American Birds (1915) Nicholas C. Bolgiano Spruce Budworm and the 1970s Infestation: Eastern spruce budworm moths lay their eggs during the summer on needles of conifers, primarily balsam fir (Abies balsamea), white spruce (Picea glauca), red spruce (Picea rubens), and black spruce (Picea mariana). Caterpillars overwinter and in the spring feed upon the needles, flowers, buds, and shoots of their host. Large-scale infestations of the eastern boreal forest periodically occur with combinations of consecutive warm, dry springs; expanses of mature forests, especially of balsam fir; and heavy conifer flowering. Over the last century, clear-cutting, replanting with susceptible white spruce, fire suppression, and use of pesticides may have contributed to larger expanses of susceptible forest, thus leading to bigger budworm outbreaks. Twentieth century infestations grew larger over time; those of 1910-1920, 1945-1955, and 1968-1985 defoliated approximately 10, 25, and 55 million hectares, respectively. To put 55 million hectares into perspective, the combined area of New York, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, and North Carolina is about 57 million hectares. The 1970s spruce budworm infestation started during the late 1960s in small areas of eastern Ontario, western Quebec, and New Brunswick. In 1974, a spectacular advance coincided with heavy conifer flowering, resulting in the defoliation of large expanses of boreal forest from Lake Superior to the Atlantic by the 1975 peak. By the mid-1980s, the outbreak had collapsed in most areas, except in northwestern Ontario. Collapse of budworm outbreaks usually occurs when caterpillars starve after eating the available food or die from unfavorable weather, biological agents, or applied pesticides. Host tree species differ in their vulnerability to budworms, which has implications for birds. Balsam fir is a preferred host of spruce budworms and the most likely to die from repeated defoliations. Mortality is typically 70-100 percent in mature balsam fir stands and 3070 percent in immature stands. Historically, balsam fir has been the second most common conifer in much of the eastern boreal forest, especially in eastern Quebec, western New Brunswick, northern Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland, all areas widely defoliated during the 1970s budworm outbreak. White and red spruces also are vulnerable, while black spruce, the most common conifer of the eastern boreal forest, is less vulnerable. As a result of the 1970s infestation, half or more of the affected forest was dead by the mid-1980s, and many of the weakened and dead trees were felled for salvage. In recent years, forest managers have utilized these vulnerability differences to try to minimize future budworm outbreaks. The trend has been toward cutting younger trees and replanting with black spruce and jack pine (Pinus banksiana), which is not a preferred budworm host. These measures could affect birds as balsam fir forests support some of the highest bird concentrations of Canadas forests, while the same area of jack pine forest supports many fewer birds. Evening Grosbeak Evening Grosbeaks were infrequently found in eastern North America until the late 1800s, when they began a range expansion from the west. Expansive pulses occurred during 1883-1890, during 1901-1917, and between the early 1940s and the mid-1950s. The classic theory for this range expansion is that the planting of ornamental box-elders (Acer negundo) around urban areas attracted irrupting Evening Grosbeaks. However, Ouellet (1974), thought that spruce budworm caterpillars were the attraction. Evening Grosbeaks are known to congregate in budworm infested areas to feed upon the caterpillars. Some of the Evening Grosbeak expansions concurred with budworm outbreaks; Blais (1983) documented one budworm outbreak beginning around 1877, and, as previously mentioned, those of 1910-1920 and 1945-1955. Brunton (1994) discounted the classic theory, for in his view, box-elders were too restricted in distribution and too late in becoming established to explain the Evening Grosbeak range expansion. He thought that the grosbeak expansion could only be explained by a major landscape change, the most likely impetus being lumbering and subsequent fires during the early 1900s leading to colonization over large areas by pin cherry (Prunus pensylvanica), whose seeds are another favored food of Evening Grosbeaks. Few Evening Grosbeaks were reported from eastern CBC sites before the winter of 1945-1946, with just 160 reports from sites in Ontario and Minnesota eastward. The percent of sites reporting grosbeaks increased to sustained high values between 1968 and 1985 in Great Lakes states and Mid-Atlantic and southern New England states. In eastern Canada and northern New England, the peak period lasted longer, until 1991. There was close agreement in report patterns among states and provinces within these three regions. The seesaw pattern indicative of alternate-year irruptions is evident before and after the peak period. The Evening Grosbeak counts adjusted for party-hours increased less rapidly than did the percent of sites reporting grosbeaks, but the peak periods were approximately the same in each region. Regression analysis of both percent sites reporting grosbeaks and effort-adjusted counts showed significant statistical evidence for declines since 1980 in each region. These results, and CBC results for the other species discussed here, were unaffected by data from sites starting up after 1970. In recent years, Evening Grosbeaks have been consistently found during the CBC only in sites in or near boreal forests, while at many locations to the south, they have become difficult to find. In comparison, during the 1968-1985 period, Evening Grosbeaks were found as far south as Louisiana and Georgia. The CBC data suggest that the 1970s budworm infestation had a direct effect upon Evening Grosbeak numbers, by increasing their food supply and reproduction level.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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Northern Mockingbird, Central Park (North End) on 6 November 2020 by Deborah Allen

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