Winter Finch Forecast


It is not too early to start thinking about feeding the birds this winter. As those of you with bird feeders in your yards know, there is considerable yearly variation in the visitors to the feeders.  Much of that difference is related to the seed and fruit crop in Canada.

Each summer, Ron Pittaway, an ornithologist from Ontario, along with the help of many observers, assesses the abundance of important fruit and seed crops of finches and some other birds across eastern Canada.  He can then make predictions on the movement of these birds during the upcoming winter.  He also occasionally includes estimates on the fruit and seed crops in western Canada.  Although his estimates are more accurate for the eastern areas of the U.S. and Canada, his finch forecast can give us some indications of what feathered friends from the north might show up in our feeders.

Pittaway’s general forecast for this winter is that many of these birds will probably stay up north because of a bumper crop of conifer seeds in eastern Canada.  As a result, we can expect the usual visitors, but probably not many northern year.

One of the winter visitors that I look forward to seeing is the evening grosbeak, but it doesn’t look good for this winter.  The bumper crop of conifer seeds in eastern Canada combined with spruce budworm infestations will keep them up north this winter.

Pine grosbeaks will also likely stay north because of an abundant crop of mountain ash fruits across much of Canada.  The situation is similar for purple finches, particularly eastward.


I have, however, already been seeing a few pine siskins hitting our sunflower feeders. That is a little unexpected, considering the bumper crop of conifer seeds in eastern Canada.

The presence of pine siskins may, however, may be a result of the many forest fires in western Canada and the United States this summer and fall.  So perhaps we will see a few visitors from the west at our feeders this winter.  So keep your feeders well stocked.  And if you do not have any bird feeders, now might be a good time to start feeding the birds!

Chuck Lura

Natural North Dakota is supported by NDSU Central Grasslands Research Extension Center and Dakota College at Bottineau, and by the members of Prairie Public. Thanks to Sunny 101.9 in Bottineau for their recording services.

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