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Winter Finch Report 2016: Here Come the Siskins

There’s no surer, and more anticipated, sign of the changing seasons that Ron Pittaway’s annual Winter Finch Forecast.

The focus of the annual “What to expect when you’re expecting irruptive finches” is always on Ontario, but Pittaway’s insights can be extrapolated to the rest of the north east and, indeed, much of the rest of the eastern half of the continent and even some of the west, too. And with nearly 20 years of accurate predictions under his belt, the predictions of the patron of Presque-ile is looked on as near-on a sure thing.

This year will likely see the most exciting winter finches, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks and White-winged Crossbills, socked up in the north. But it does look like it is going to be a good year for Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, and Red-breasted Nuthatches, the last having already begun to trickle in as far south as my home in North Carolina.

Out out your Nyjer feeders, it's going to be a Pine Siskin year. Photo: Philippe Bigue via Macauley Library

Put out your Nyjer feeders, it’s going to be a Pine Siskin year. Photo: Philippe Bigue via Macauley Library

Pittaway shares the following about these three species:

PINE SISKIN: Some will irrupt south because cone crops in the Northeast are generally poor. Siskins were moving south in mid-September at the Observatoire d’oiseaux de Tadoussac in Quebec. However, some eastern siskins have likely relocated to abundant spruce crops in western Canada. Siskins prefer nyger seeds in silo feeders. See link #4 which discusses siskin irruptions related to climate variability.

PURPLE FINCH: Eastern Purple Finches were moving in early September at the Observatoire d’oiseaux de Tadoussac in Quebec The poor seed crops on most coniferous and deciduous trees indicate that Purple Finches will leave northern breeding areas. Purples prefer black oil sunflower seeds at feeders.

RED-BREASTED NUTHATCH:  An early southward movement began in early summer and continues as this forecast is posted. This widespread movement is evidence of poor cone crops in the Northeast. It indicates that Purple Finches, White-winged Crossbills and Pine Siskins are on the move too.

For the entire report, see the Winter Finch Forecast at Jean Irons’ site.

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Nate Swick

Nate Swick

Editor, Social Media Manager at American Birding Association
Nate Swick is the editor of the American Birding Association Blog, social media manager for the ABA, and the host of the American Birding Podcast. He lives in Greensboro, North Carolina, with his wife, Danielle, and two young children. He is the author of Birding for the Curious and The ABA Field Guide to Birds of the Carolinas.
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