The much-anticipated Winter Finch Forecast has been released and the news is not too good for us: we'll be seeing few to no winter finches this season.
Ontario ornithologist Ron Pittaway bases his annual forecast on the availability of the finches' preferred natural foods. And this summer has produced good to excellent crops of seed-bearing cones on conifer trees and seeds and fruits on deciduous trees to the north of us. As a result, irruptive winter finches like Common Redpoll, Pine Siskin, and Evening Grosbeak do not need to move much in search of food.
When cone and/or berry crops are low in Canada's boreal forest, we here in eastern upstate New York can be inundated with large flocks of these winter finches. Our last really big irruption was in the winter of 2007-08, when scores of redpolls drained our bird feeders. Evening Grosbeaks as well as uncommon Pine Grosbeaks made appearances in many area yards. We've had smaller irruptions since of either redpolls or siskins. But this year looks like it's going to be slow times at the finch feeders.
But here's the good news: winter flocks of Black-capped Chickadees, White-breasted and/or Red-breasted Nuthatches, Tufted Titmice, and Downy Woodpeckers are starting to form and are taking note right now of reliable food patches for winter feeding. So keep your bird feeders up, clean, and at least partially filled so these winter flocks choose to return to your yard patch as natural food sources deplete.
Read Ron Pittaway's entire Winter Finch Forecast.