Evening Grosbeaks (Hesperiphona vespertina) are stunning birds with bright yellow and coal-black markings. They are about the same size as a cardinal, but thicker-bodied with strong, wide conical bills. These songbirds are found throughout most of the United States and Canada. Depending on the season, you may be lucky enough to spot a pair at your feeder.
When it comes to identifying males and female Evening Grosbeaks, it's pretty straightforward, as each sex has different colored plumage.
Female evening grosbeaks are easy to differentiate from males, as they are not as brightly colored. Adult males are primarily golden yellow, and black. Whereas, females are mostly gray. The female grosbeak's more muted coloration makes her less of a target for predators, which helps her ensure the safety of her young.
Females are also generally less dominant than males and take on different responsibilities when nest building and raising young. This article will discuss the characteristics that set the female evening grosbeak apart. Read on to discover more!
Female Eastern Grosbeak perched on a branch
Female and male evening grosbeaks are not sexually dimorphic, which means it is easy to tell them apart because their plumage differs in color.
Females are primarily gray-brown, with subdued yellow occurring on the upper back and flanks. However, adult males are bright yellow with black on the head, upper back, wings, and tail. Males also have distinctive yellow stripes over their eyes.
It is not as easy to identify an immature evening grosbeak as either male or female. All juveniles tend to be primarily gray like the female.
However, they can be differentiated from adult females without much concern. Young evening grosbeaks have a downy, almost disheveled appearance, whereas adult plumage is smooth and well-kept.
Male Evening Grosbeak
Female Evening Grosbeak
Female evening grosbeaks are thick-bodied, with a compact build and large, conical bills. Their plumage is primarily soft gray-brown with muted yellow on the ear coverts, upper back, and flanks. Occasionally the rump will also appear pale yellow.
A female’s wings and tail are black with distinct white patches. Her underbelly is usually a slightly lighter gray-brown to buff-peach color.
Close up of a female Evening Grosbeak
Female evening grosbeaks are not bigger than males. Overall, males are slightly larger than females in bill, wing, and tail length. In mass, the bird’s size range can vary depending on season and location. However, males are generally larger than females even if the difference is insignificant.
Male (left) and female (right) Evening Grosbeaks perched
Plumage coloration is not the only way to differentiate male and female evening grosbeaks. As you might expect, there are also noticeable behavioral differences between the sexes.
Unlike many other bird species, male and female evening grosbeaks do not exhibit differences in singing and calls. The same vocalizations appear to be utilized by both sexes. However, these birds show behavioral differences in other areas.
Female evening grosbeaks are the primary nest builders. They collect the majority of the nesting materials, while the male follows closely behind, occasionally picking up twigs to assist the female in construction.
Once the nest is built, and the eggs are laid, the female incubates for an average of 12 to 14 days. During this period, the male provides the female with food, usually via regurgitation. He also remains in sight of the nest for the majority of incubation.
The brooding period begins immediately after the eggs have hatched. This stage is also primarily the responsibility of the female evening grosbeak. Her mate will continue to bring food for both her and the nestlings. However, the female feeds her young more often than the male.
A mixed group of male and female Evening Grosbeaks, foraging on the grass
Males exhibit more aggressive and dominant behaviors than female evening grosbeaks. An adult male is typically the initiator of scuffles over food and territory. They are dominant over adult females and juveniles of both sexes. Even immature males will exert dominance over adult females regarding food.
Female evening grosbeaks can potentially raise young along, particularly at a later stage - such as after the brooding period. At this point, the female does not need to be at the nest constantly and is not reliant on the male to bring food for both herself and the young.
On the other hand, if something happened to the male during the incubation or even the brooding stage, the odds would be less in the female’s favor. Generally, females only leave the nest for about 10 minutes during incubation.
Any longer could result in loss of the eggs. The female's absence also increases the likelihood of predation.
However, if the female were alone, she would have no choice but to leave and find food for herself (and her young once hatched). Such forays could take longer than 10 minutes. The longer she is gone, the more vulnerable her chicks become.
Female Evening Grosbeak at a bird feeder
Female evening grosbeaks are primarily gray to gray-brown, with soft yellow coloration on the upper back and flanks. Her wings and tail are black, with noticeable white patches. The underbelly is typically a light gray to buffy peach color.
Female evening grosbeaks utilize a small array of vocalizations, generally associated with the mating and nesting period. Outside of this season, both male and female grosbeaks are relatively quiet. Thus, little is understood about their call behavior.
Evening grosbeaks sing so rarely that it is difficult to say whether it is solely the male or if females sing also. Unfortunately, little is known about evening grosbeak song because it is an uncommon occurrence.
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