A Spruce Budworm outbreak in northern areas meant a lot of food for Evening Grosbeaks and Purple Finches this year. That, coupled with a smaller mast (seed and nut) crop, means there are more individuals of these species than there is food to support them, so many will move father south than usual this winter in the hunt for food. Our October 2018 blog post talks a bit more about irruptions and why they happen.
Winter is hard on birds in general, particularly for species that have to move a lot farther south than usual in search of food. You can help with this quest for food by keeping your well-cleaned feeders well-stocked with fresh, high-quality bird feed. Both species are seed eaters, with Evening Grosbeaks preferring sunflower seeds. (Check out Garden Gate Episode 123 for advice on cleaning feeders.)
This support can really make a difference. Evening Grosbeak populations have declined at an alarming rate: more than 90% over the past 50 years. This species experiences numerous threats, including loss of mature forest, window collisions, and being hit by cars while feeding on salt and grit along roadsides in winter. Ensuring that an adequate and reliable source of food available throughout the winter might allow more individuals to survive to make the return trip to their northern breeding grounds.
Evening Grosbeak photo credit: Len Cotton