BRAINERD, MINN. – While it’s true many of our colorful songbirds took wing to warmer climes months ago, winter birds that remain in Minnesota can still provide vibrant viewing over the holidays.
In these final weeks of the year, we can even spot birds adorned with the popular Christmas colors of red, white and green.
The king of red is, of course, the male northern cardinal. But even the basically black and white chickadee, perched on the branch of an evergreen, can conjure holiday thoughts, as can any bird that rests on a twig bearing colorful red fruit.
All the better if the branches are covered with snow or rime frost.
So, where does one look for vibrant winter birds?
The best location may be your backyard, if you’ve been feeding birds this winter. Other prime locations include fruit-bearing trees or shrubs still holding a crop. Ornamental crabapple trees are prime locations because the birds feed not just on the fruit but also on seeds contained within. The bright orange berries of mountain ash trees also are winter favorites for birds.
Some holiday seasons feature more birds, some fewer. How many birds move south through the state depends in part on the amount of food available in Canada. So far, this winter season has been a bit lacking for winter finches such as common redpolls. Pine grosbeaks and both Bohemian and cedar waxwings have been a bit scarce, too. Minnesota’s North Shore has seen the most winter bird activity.
But that can change in an instant. A few days ago, a flock of about 15 Bohemian waxwings suddenly appeared in my yard near Brainerd.
Even resident winter birds provide a kaleidoscope of color. How about the attractive red crown displayed by our largest woodpecker, the pileated? Other common winter birds that sport at least a bit of holiday cheer are red-bellied woodpeckers and downy and hairy woodpeckers.
This holiday season, gather your family at a window — perhaps with a cup of hot cider or beverage in hand — and see how many species of birds you can spot.