Thursday, December 3, 2015

missing in action

Have you seen this bird?

Evening grosbeaks are found in the mountains of the western United States and Canada; their breeding grounds the boreal forest of Canada and along the northern edge of the United States. In the winter, they migrate south but historically, these chunky grosbeaks were virtually unknown east of the Mississippi River until about 1850. Then their range expanded toward the Atlantic—peaking in the mid 1980s.

Perhaps illustrating the fluidity of nature, the rather large, even rotund yellow finches are now experiencing a sharp decline in population: 78 percent in 40 years. This places this grosbeak as number two on Audubon's list of Common Birds in Decline.

An irruptive species, evening grosbeaks were one of the birds that sometimes could be found in the Tennessee Valley in the winter. They eat invertebrates, especially spruce budworm larvae, and small fruits and seeds, particularly from maples. In the non-breeding season, i.e. this time of the year, they feed on both coniferous and deciduous tree seeds and buds, and are common visitors to backyard birdfeeders stocked with sunflower seeds.

Growing up in Gatlinburg, gateway to the Great Smoky Mountains, some winters large flocks would be move into the area but it’s been years since anyone locally has seen one.

Today, seeing a flock or even just one would be big news. Be one the lookout!

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