Birders anxiously await the publication of Ron Pittaway’s Winter Finch Forecast each autumn. His forecast for winter 2012-13 is out and the news is exciting for backyard birdwatchers!
“Winter finches” is a generic term that refers to a group of seed-eating songbirds that normally are found in the Canadian provinces. We refer to them as irruptive species because they periodically will move south into the United States in search of winter food sources.
Who are the winter finches? They include Pine Grosbeaks (like the one pictured), Evening Grosbeaks, Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills, Pine Siskins, Common Redpolls, Hoary Redpolls, and Purple Finches.
The report is a “forecast” in that Ron, for the Ontario Field Ornithologists, studies the various plant species that these birds depend on to estimate how much food will be available, and then predicts when and where they may spend the winter months. And this winter’s forecast is for the potential of lots of northern visitors in the backyards of the northeastern United States.
Having these beautiful species brighten your own winterscape is something to anticipate with great delight. Be sure to keep a careful eye on the feeders and take a close look at any unusual visitors. In my own state of Pennsylvania there are numerous reports of Red-breasted Nuthatches in yards. This suggests that our own resident population is already being joined by northern visitors. You can read Ron’s full forecast at http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/ff2012.