Three juncos and a Red-breasted Nuthatch were in our yard this week, first sign of northern birds moving south for the winter. This is as predicted in the annual winter finch forecast prepared by Ron Pittaway of the Ontario Field Ornithologists. It is broadcast via the email network BirdChat.


Information for the predictions is gathered from dozens of birders and naturalists in Ontario, Quebec, Manitoba, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, Alaska, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York State. Observers base their comments on the vigor of various tree seed crops. Food available for seed eaters, like finches, is likely to keep birds in or near their summer Canadian territories. Poor seed crops can push birds south.


Here is a summary of what Pittaway wrote:


Generally, as relates to us, cone crops average poor in southern Ontario, the opposite in the northern part of that province. In this case, some birds could move north instead of south, others will be seen here. The forecasts are general; exceptions can be expected.


Pine Grosbeaks — predicted to stay north. 


Purple Finches — expected to move south. They like black oil sunflower seeds.


Red Crossbills — their expected movement will make them more likely seen in eastern states.


White-winged Crossbills — a scattering of these birds is expected in southern Canada and our northeast states. Southern Canada birds are likely to wander across the international border. Look for the birds on spruce trees with cones. Both crossbills will come to feeders for sunflower seeds.


Common Redpoll  — Birch seed crops are regarded as poor in southern Canada and our northern states. That makes the chances of redpolls at feeders better than average. These birds prefer niger seeds.


Pine Siskin — Some will move south out of Canada. Again, niger seed is preferred.


Evening Grosbeaks — this spectacular finch is, as usual, more likely to be seen in northern Minnesota than elsewhere in the state, always in small numbers. The North Shoer and Grand Marsis are good places to look. Check mountain ash trees.


Blue Jays — A larger than usual southern movement of jays is being seen.


Red-Breasted Nuthatch — Poor cone crops in Canada will being these birds south. Sunflower seeds are favored at feeders. (Photos below.)


Bohemian Waxwings — some have been moving south reliably each winter lately to feed on buckthorn berries. Here, these birds are mostly easily found along the North Shore. Check mountain ash trees.


Juncos are annual and reliable visitors to our yards.


For more information on the relation of these species to seed crops see