Nov 7, 2018 | Featured in: Watching Backyard Birds, December 2018

Finch Invasion! Put Out the Welcome Mat

Pine siskins visit a backyard thistle seed feeder. Photo by Cephas / Wikimedia.
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This winter is going to be an interesting one at bird feeding stations in the eastern half of North America: The famous Finch Forecast from Ron Pittaway in Canada is calling for a southward movement of northern finches. According to various reports, the natural crop of seeds and fruits from birch, alder, spruce, fir, pine, and mountain ash trees is below normal amounts across most of eastern Canada, which will force grosbeaks, siskins, redpolls, crossbills, and purple finches to move south in search of food. Other species are forecast to move south in large numbers, too, including blue jays, Bohemian waxwings, and red-breasted nuthatches.

This could be a winter of amazing action at the feeders, if the forecast proves prescient. And that means it's a good idea to review your feeders to see if any need to be repaired or replaced. Certainly it's a good idea to give them a thorough cleaning. And it's time to stock up on the kinds of food these winter finches relish: thistle/Nyjer, black-oil sunflower seed, sunflower hearts, and peanut bits. Not all forecasts are accurate, however, so don't spend the kids' college money on a thousand new thistle feeders.

If you're looking for solid feeding advice, visit watchingbackyardbirds.com and do a search for "bird feeding." You'll find lots of helpful information to get the most out of your feeding station this winter.

Happy backyard bird watching and feeding!



About Bill Thompson, III

Bill Thompson, III, was the team captain for Watching Backyard Birds from its inception 23 years ago through his death on March 25, 2019. So much of what he wrote is timeless and remains informative, helpful, and inspiring.

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  • I’ve been enjoying goldfinches eating coneflower/ echinacea seeds in my new pollinator garden! I will leave the plants out all winter for them if the seeds keep that long? Or should I deadhead and put them in a dry area? Im in CT and thought they migrated, but didn’t know they put in winter coats! What do they eat in winter without bird feeders?
    by Anne Sheffield, Sat, 04 Sep 2021
  • Hi Gary, I will pass your question along to Birdsquatch next time I see him. He knows infinitely more about nocturnal wildlife than I do. Where do you live? That's pretty important in figuring out the answer. But the thief could be raccoons, deer, or flying squirrels. Do you live in the woods? Are there trees near your feeder, or must the culprit climb a shepherd's hook or pole? Dawn Hewitt, Watching Backyard Birds
    by Dawn Hewitt, Mon, 30 Aug 2021
  • This breaks my heart. God strengthen your spirit and comfort your heart.I am fortunate to be taking a vacation next month, hopefully before sky high inflation hits and I can no longer afford it.
    by Ironweeds, Fri, 27 Aug 2021
  • What is emptying my jelly feeder overnight.
    by Gary Vandervest, Wed, 25 Aug 2021
  • Thank you, Dawn. I'm close enough to Ohio (Ann Arbor, Michigan) that I went ahead and took my tubes down and scoured clean all my bird baths. I won't put up my tubes this winter, just my trays and safflower only just to keep the bullies away for a while.
    by Pat Moore, Mon, 09 Aug 2021