Expect a mixed year for winter finch sightings in Minnesota in coming months.
Here is a forecast for finch activity this winter, discussing which species are possible Minnesota visitors. The forecast is prepared each year by Ron Pittaway of Toronto, and a member of the Ontario Field Ornithologists. He collects information from many sources throughout Ontario to make these predictions.
Finch movement depends upon food supply. If the birds need to move to find their usual winter food, they will. In most cases, the impact in Minnesota will be in the north.
Pine Grosbeaks should move south in small numbers, Pittaway says. They feed on Mountain Ash berries, and that crop is slim this year.
"Many Purple Finches should migrate south out of Ontario," he says. Cone and deciduous tree seed crops are generally low in Ontario.
Red Crossbills are the usual toss of the dice. They look for large crops of spruce cones. In Ontario, these crops are low, but the birds are expected to be seen more often in eastern Canada, New England, and New York state.
Expect to see Common Redpolls, along with the occasional Hoary Redpoll mixed into the flocks.
Don't expect to see many Pine Siskins, Pittaway says. He expects these birds to head west where White Spruce cone crops are large.
Evening Grosbeaks have grown in numbers because increasing outbreaks of spruce budworm has provided ample food for nestlings. Minnesota always sees some of these birds, usually far to the north. Perhaps more will be here this winter.
Pittaway says we will see few Red-breasted Nuthatchs because of a heavy crop of Balsam Fur cones in Canada.
He predicts moderate southward movement of Bohemian Waxwings. They feed on Mountain Ash berries.
Generally speaking, the best winter finch searches, if they're not at your feeders, generally is along the North Shore.
My thanks to Mr. Pittaway for sharing.
Below, a Common Redpoll, photo taken in the Sax-Zim bog north of Duluth.