Irruptive Winter Finches

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We have been seeing a great number of these Irruptive Winter Finches here in Field Township. I am guessing that just about everyone who feeds birds has seen a few if not quite a few coming to their feeders. I am talking about Pine Siskin, Common Redpolls, Purple Finch, and Pine Grosbeaks although there are others. These are the ones I am seeing frequently this winter. You might be wondering why they are called irruptive? Well, they do not always spend their winters in the same place. They are very capable of surviving cold winter weather but to do that they need to eat a lot. If their natural food supply is low in their normal wintering range, they will wander until they find an area with a good supply and settle in. Sometimes this can be well outside of their normal wintering range. When this happens it is called an irruption. We are in their wintering range but we are certainly seeing greater numbers of them this year. Their winter foods include seeds from weeds, trees and shrubs, fruits and berries that remain on the branches of Mountain Ash, Buckthorn and Crabapples, and also the buds of certain trees and shrubs.

The birds that are here in the greatest numbers right now are the Common Redpolls and Pine Siskin. If they find a bird feeder they are more than willing to add both sunflower and thistle seeds to their diet and to bring all their family and friends. It is not unusual to see flocks of a hundred plus birds. Even if you do not feed birds you might be noticing flocks of small birds when you are out and about. There is a good chance these are what you are seeing this winter. We have also had good numbers of Purple finch and Pine Grosbeaks in the area. I have a group of about a dozen of each coming daily to my feeders. As for the Redpolls and Siskin coming, well, there are so many I find it hard to count. They can put away a lot of seed in a day but they are certainly fun to see and hear. Their constant chatter warms my spirit when frigid winds are howling.

There are actually two species of Redpoll visiting this winter. If you notice an individual that looks frostier than the rest you might be looking at a Hoary Redpoll. They have minimal to no streaking on their undersides and rump. The pink on the male`s breast is paler. Their beaks are slightly smaller than the Common and often you will only see one or two individuals mixed in with a flock of Common. I have been seeing them off and on at my feeders.

Pine Grosbeak (male) with Pine SiskinPine Siskins Spring is coming and these birds may soon be heading back to their breeding territories. I have enjoyed their company and even though they will be leaving, we are soon to start seeing spring migrants arriving and I can hardly wait.

Did you know that a group of finches are collectively known as a “trembling”, “charm” and also a “company” of finches. A group of redpolls is known as a “gallop” of redpolls. A group of grosbeaks is known as a “gross” of grosbeaks. Just a few fun facts I noticed while reading from a birding app I purchased this past fall.

If any of you are seeing something of interest at you feeders or anywhere else for that matter, I would love to hear about it.

Happy Birding,

Julie Grahn