We have been seeing chickadees, white-breasted nuthatches, both the downy and hairy woodpeckers, and blue jays at our bird feeders this winter. But even though the feeders have been busy, I haven’t seen anything unusual or any of the birds from up north yet this winter.
I decided to check Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast. Pittaway assesses the seed and fruit crops in Canada’s forest from Ontario eastward. Based on that food abundance he predicts which species will stay or move southward during the winter in search of food. Even though we are outside the range of the forecast it does give us an inkling of what we might expect, particularly if the summer in Manitoba and Saskatchewan was similar to that of Ontario.
Pittaway reported that the various foods important to the finches, for example spruce, birch, pine, maple, and other seeds are abundant in eastern Canada this year. As a result, there is a good supply of seeds and other fruits to get the birds through the winter. So the birds are likely to stay put this winter. No need to move southward to find food.
No pine grosbeaks either. The fruit set for mountain ash was excellent in Ontario this year, so the grosbeaks will likely stay put too.
We often enjoy seeing the common and hoary redpolls, pine siskins, and red-breasted nuthatches during the winter months. But a heavy crop of birch, alder, and spruce seeds will likely keep them up north as well.
Each winter I look forward to perhaps seeing a few evening grosbeaks. Not likely this year. They consume seeds of several conifers and deciduous trees and they had a bumper crop this year as well.
Pittaway’s forecast is a good reminder that many of the birds that rather sporadically come to our feeders during the winter months do so by moving southward from their normal range in search of food. But even if these occasional winter visitors from Canada stay home this winter, we will still thoroughly enjoy our local feathered friends. And if you don’t have any bird feeders out, go get a couple and keep them well stocked. Feeding and watching the birds is just plain fun, and helps the birds.