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Irruption: Finches at the Feeder

January 22, 2013

Last year in mid-January, there were several Common Redpolls and Pine Siskins visiting my feeder, but this year, there have been none. I did see both species briefly earlier in the winter.  Both of these species, along with Pine Grosbeaks and Bohemian Waxwings, are “irruptive” species. They do not always show up here in winter, but they do come in large numbers in some years.


Common Redpoll female staying warm in the snow


A Common Redpoll male that visited my feeder in 2012.


A colourful Common Redpoll male


A Pine Siskin


A Pine Siskin wating out the snowfall

Perhaps there was a food shortage up north last year and the birds moved further south searching for food.   This year may have been a good food year in the breeding areas.

Redpolls are a northern bird well adapted to finding and surviving on whatever food is available.  They have, for instance an “esophageal diverticulum” – a  large food storage pouch that allows them to collect food quickly and store it as they feed.  They can then take cover from predators and eat the stored food in safety. The food in their pouch can help them make it through the long northern winter nights.


A Pine Siskin perched outside my window in 2012

Snowy Owls, too can be irruptive migrators. A young Snowy Owl was seen in the area a month or so ago. There are Pine Grosbeaks in the area, but the large number of Bohemian Waxwings that I saw in the two previous years are not evident.

But, as these things often go, as soon as I write these observations down, hordes of “feeder finches” will show up at my feeder. Maybe even a Snowy Owl!  There are worse ways to be proven wrong!

All photos and writing on this blog copyright J.A. Siderius, 2013

  1. lovely bird pics…

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