The Pine Grosbeak
The Pine Grosbeak is usually a bird of the northern boreal spruce and fir forests, but in winter when food up north is deficient these birds will sometimes come southward. Not used to people, they can be unusually tame, allowing a close approach and making them easy to photograph! There was a little southern invasion of Pine Grosbeaks in 2008-9 and again in 2012-13, so if they continue that pattern maybe this will be another fallout year.
William Brewster in his Birds of Cambridge describes an incredible invasion of Pine Grosbeaks during the winter of 1892-93. He relates having a flock of 27 on December 21, 1892 in his garden on Brattle Street, a flock which later increased to 45. They were everywhere in Cambridge that year. At Mount Auburn Street by Elmwood, virtually across the street from Mount Auburn, over 100 birds wholly denuded the fruit of a crab apple by three o’clock in the afternoon and then attacked the fallen fruit on the ground, finishing them before sunset.
The Pine Grosbeak is the largest finch, larger than the Purple and House finches. The male is a pinkish red while the female is gray and olive in color. They are slow and deliberate as they move about, often staying at one berry for a long time.
At Mount Auburn, look for them in fruit trees and also in Ash trees, whose seeds they enjoy. I have yet to encounter one in the Cemetery myself and there is just one record of a single bird seen on March 13, 1978. Be sure to share the word if you see one!
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