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Critters of the Week

Critters of the Week

A wild critter we spotted in the RVA area and a critter up for adoption by RACC.




This week’s Critter is not usually in this area. Birders have been flocking to Pony Pasture to get a glimpse of the flock of Evening Grosbeaks that have been hanging out at Pony Pasture for over a week. Considered an irregular migrant. When cone crops in northern coniferous forests are poor, Evening Grosbeaks “irrupt” in fall and spend the winter far south of their normal range. These irruptions formerly happened every 2–3 years in the eastern United States but have become less frequent, particularly in the East, since the 1980s.

Where Spotted: Pony Pasture
Common Name: Evening Grosbeak
Scientific Name: Coccothraustes vespertinus
Length: 6.3-7.1 in (16-18 cm)
Weight: 1.9-2.6 oz (53-74 g)
Wingspan: 11.8-14.2 in (30-36 cm)

Quick Facts from Cornell Lab

  • The Evening Grosbeak is a songbird without a song—that is, it does not seem to use any complex sounds to attract a mate or defend its territory. It does have a small repertoire of simple calls, including sweet, piercing notes and burry chirps.
  • With their enormous bills, Evening Grosbeaks can crush seeds that are too large for Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins to open. These smaller birds often seek out the grosbeaks and glean the food scraps they leave behind.
  • Though they’re ferocious seed-crackers in the wintertime, in summer Evening Grosbeaks eat insects such as spruce budworm, a serious forest pest. The grosbeaks are so adept at finding these tiny caterpillars that the birds often provide a first warning that a budworm outbreak has begun.
  • In the mid-1800s, Evening Grosbeaks were uncommon to rare east of the Rockies, but then they began moving eastward with each winter migration, reaching Rhode Island in the winter of 1910–1911. By the 1920s they were considered a regular winter visitor in New England. This eastward expansion may be related to the growing number of ornamental box elders, which provide a steady food supply for the grosbeaks.
  • Evening Grosbeaks are irregular (or “irruptive”) winter migrants. Some years these spectacular finches show up at feeders far south of their normal winter range—providing a treat for backyard bird watchers. By joining Project FeederWatch you can keep track of visits by these and other winter birds—and the data you record will help scientists keep track of bird populations.
  • The oldest recorded Evening Grosbeak was a male, and at least 16 years, 3 months old when he was found in New Brunswick in 1974. He had been banded in Connecticut in 1959.

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Joey at RACC

Sex: Male
Pet ID: 87332
Primary Color: Black
Weight: 1.2
Age: 0yrs 0mths 12wks


Adopt Joey at Richmond RACC

Due to COVID-19, the shelter is currently closed and adoptions are scheduled by appointment only. Adoptions are scheduled on a first come, first serve or best fit basis.

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Richard Hayes is the co-founder of RVAHub. When he isn't rounding up neighborhood news, he's likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest board game.