This bird sure earns its name! An evening grosbeak’s oversized, cone-shaped bill has sufficient strength—about 25 lbs of pressure—to crack the pit of a wild cherry, a favourite food. That bill is also dextrous enough to extract the pit from the cherry in the first place. Grosbeaks don’t like fruit—they only go after the crunchy, delicious seeds.
Female evening grosbeaks are grey-brown, but males are distinct, with golden feathers and thick yellow bands, like unibrows, above their eyes. Both have beaks that are bone-coloured in winter and turn pale green in spring, possibly because of hormonal changes that happen near breeding time.
Got any grosbeaks at your winter bird feeders? That might cost you: one bird can scarf 20 sunflower seeds per minute. On the other hand, that big appetite can do a lot of good in the spring, at least in forests infested with destructive spruce budworm. Evening grosbeaks helpfully eat budworm larvae and keep populations of these tree-killing pests from exploding. Thanks, guys!