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 live in Southeastern Massachusetts. Four "orphaned" very young poults (males) showed up in my yard about a year ago. They have been around all year. I do feed them cracked corn, and they come when I call for them. I don't want to over- domesticate them, but they do recognize me as the lady that brings food. They roost in the big oak trees at night. I have a 1 acre lot, with many acres of protected forest out back and a pond on the property.Lately, during mating season, I have had hens in the yard too. We've counted as many as 7 Toms and hens, but today, had just the one stalwart (a very robust Tom) that comes everyday. One of the Toms that has recently made an appearance is wounded, limping with an obvious predator wound. The local wildlife experts say he should make a full recovery, and that he's best left to recover with his flock.I find them to be interesting and beautiful birds.
    by Heather Cole, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • You have to put food in it.
    by Truckee Man, Mon, 06 Apr 2020
  • Love listeningto both songs and calls from birds in our woody neighborhood. The two types of birds I immediately recognize are the cardinals and the chickadees. Yesterday afternoon too, I heard a woodpecker. Then it’s time to check the birdfeeders and the birdbath. Then In no time at all the cardinals and chickadees arrive, as if they had been watching me. As it gets busier around the feeders, I also hear thé screeching of the blue jays. I even saw a couple of robins checking out our lawn....spring has arrived as the last pat gesofisticeerde snow and ice melt away.
    by louisabt, Sun, 08 Mar 2020
  • I am wondering about existing nests for Phoebes. I have two outdoor aisle entries to my barn and there are old Phoebe nests up. They ignore them each year and build new nests adjacent to the old, but space is running out. Should I knock down the old nests so they can rebuild?
    by [email protected], Sun, 02 Feb 2020
  • Just wondering, should we put anything in the bottom of the box...twigs, clippings, leaves....anything at all?
    by Hebb, Tue, 28 Jan 2020