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Evening grosbeaks return to area

Duluth birder Laura Erickson was surprised in early August when a flock of evening grosbeaks showed up at her feeders and her box elder tree to feed.

Male evening grosbeak
A male evening grosbeak sits on a bird feeder in Laura Erickson's yard. (Photo by Laura Erickson)

Duluth birder Laura Erickson was surprised in early August when a flock of evening grosbeaks showed up at her feeders and her box elder tree to feed.

Evening grosbeaks have been scarce for several years in Duluth and throughout the eastern United States, Erickson said.

"I stopped having big flocks of them in the early 1990s," she said. "By the mid-1990s, they were sporadic."

Naturalist Larry Weber of Wrenshall writes about the disappearance of evening grosbeaks in his 2010 book, "Webwood."

"When we first arrived on this site, evening grosbeaks were a very common winter resident. ... We have rarely seen them in the past 10 years, and I don't think any have come to our feeders in that time."

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Their population seemed to have declined, Erickson said. But a flock of 16 has been visiting Erickson's yard since Aug. 4.

"Lots of adults with their green beaks were feeding babies," she said.

The beaks of evening grosbeaks turn green when courting begins at the end of winter and remain green during the feeding of their young, she said. Evening grosbeaks nest in northern forests and do especially well during outbreaks of spruce budworm because they feed their young the budworms, Erickson said.

Erickson hasn't heard reports of other evening grosbeaks in the Duluth area, but she assumes other flocks must be around. They especially like feeding on the seeds of a box elder tree in her yard. She enjoys listening to the call of the grosbeaks.

"It's very easy to hear, but it's quiet, not piercing," she said. "It's a comfortable background music."

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