Evening Grosbeak numbers on the decline

Residents of Tulameen have reported their witnessing drivers plowing through flocks of Evening Grosbeaks and killing them.

A male Evening Grosbeak.

A male Evening Grosbeak.

A declining species of bird in our area and especially in the eastern United States is being further threatened by the carelessness of travellers along the Tulameen Road.

Residents of the area have reported their witnessing drivers plowing through flocks of Evening Grosbeaks and killing them.

Evening Grosbeaks are of the Finch family of birds. The males are yellow and black with a strong white patch within the wings and a dark yellow stripe over the eyes. Females and youngsters are mostly grey with black and white wings. They have a green-yellow tinge on the neck and flanks. The large bill on the male is pale yellow (almost ivory) and on the female is a greenish-yellow. Their bills take on the green pigmentation of the fresh deciduous buds in the spring.

Evening Grosbeaks mainly eat seeds from the cones of spruce, balsam fir, and pine trees. They are known as a “beneficial bird” as they also have a hearty appetite for budworm. They can eat up to 1,000 of the larvae a day and are known to nest and raise their young where an infestation of the budworm is present. Once the infestation declines, the Grosbeaks move on.

The birds generally travel in flocks during the winter. They ingest the salt and gravel off of winter roads which is why flocks of them are seen on the roads.

Madelon Schouten, member and founder of the Vermilion Forks Field Naturalists and local expert on birds says that at one time, the Evening Grosbeak was common in the area, but that there are periods of time where they had not been seen in years.

“During the 2013 Christmas Bird Count, only 35 Evening Grosbeaks were counted, only one on my property,” said Schouten.

Normally anywhere from 100 to 1000 have be counted during past years—a decline of approximately 91 percent.

Concerned with the reports recieved out of the Tulameen area, Schouten asks drivers to “Please slow down when you see a flock—they will fly up.” Given the already declining numbers, “it’s a shame if we are killing even more,” she said.

Madelon Schouten is the founder of several Naturalists Clubs: White Rock, Surrey, Vancouver, and Princeton. She is the creator of the Christmas Bird Count on the Lower Mainland and in Princeton.

She was also presented with the prestigious Steve Cannings Award from The British Columbia Ornithologists for her work and dedication for more than 50 years.