Winter Finch Irruption
By – Dan Ziomek
Every year a man named Ron Pittoway in Ontario puts out his predictions on what birds such as Pine Siskins, Redpolls and Pine Grosbeaks will do during the winter ahead. He bases these predictions on the availability of the food these birds depend on to survive harsh Canadian winters. Many bird seed companies and some retailers base their purchasing of products, at least in part, on what this man says. This year he is predicting a major irruption of winter finches into New England due to scarce Mountain Ash and cone crops in northern Canada.
What does all this mean for home birdfeeders? It means we should stock up on Thistle seed and Black Oil Sunflower seed. Most of these birds headed our way have small, thin bills designed for opening Birch catkins and Hemlock cones. Therefore, Thistle seed or Finch mix is the way to go for them. Remember these birds often travel in large flocks so be prepared to put up multiple feeders filled with their favorite seed.
Pine Grosbeaks will also be in the area. Provide these large-billed birds Black Oil Sunflower and a platform feeder to keep them happy. Ron has also predicted that we will see an uptick in Red-breasted Nuthatches, Blue Jays and Purple Finches as well.
For me, this sounds like a very exciting winter to be feeding the birds. I have already witnessed higher numbers of Red-breasted Nuthatches and have heard numerous Purple Finches. We have received many reports of Pine Siskins coming to feeders in the area as well. So get those feeders cleaned and filled with the tasty treats (Thistle and Sunflower) these irruptive Winter Finches can’t resist!