Jim Williams has been watching birds and writing about their antics since before "Gilligan's Island" went into reruns. Join him for his unique insights, his everyday adventures and an open conversation about the birds in your back yard and beyond.

Have your birds gone missing?

Posted by: Jim Williams under Bird biology, Bird feeding, Bird migration, Birds in the backyard Updated: December 23, 2009 - 4:03 PM

Are you missing some feeder birds, numbers smaller than you'd like? Not to worry. Birds move around during the winter.
The resident birds that we count on as regular customers -- chickadees, nuthatches, and finches in particular -- will migrate to an extent, sometimes movtivated by weather. They don't go far, and might not go at all, but some of the birds you're seeing just might be migrants from somewhere not too far north of you. They're moving into territory vacated by your summer birds. We had large numbers of both Goldfinches and House Finches in summer and fall. Our numbers are way down right now. We had half a dozen House Finches here yesterday, and it was a bit of a surprise; they've been scarce lately. The finches are more likely to move than the other feeder species you see. Their natural food is seed from wild plants -- flowers, weeds. They have to keep moving if they exhaust a location. Feeder birds, I understand, take about 20 percent of their daily nutrient requirements from feeders. If your neighborhood isn't filling that 80 percent gap, I suspect they move on. We've seen one Pine Siskin this winter. There have been years when we've had dozens of siskins, and redpolls, too. Those two finch species sometimes move down here from Canada in search of food. More often they don't. Their movement depends on the northern seed crop (trees, birches in particular). Be patient. The birds haven't deserted you. They're just acting like birds.(Pictured is a male House Finch.)

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