Florida? The Carolinas? Mexico? At this time of year, many of our migratory species are already winging their way to warmer climates, and many of our customers are probably having similar thoughts. But, did you ever think about making the trek south to spend the winter in balmy Northeastern Ohio? That’s exactly what many of the birds that you will be seeing at your feeders this winter have done. After spending the spring and summer on nesting territories that extend from southern Ontario, up to Hudson Bay, or even all the way north of the Arctic Circle, “snow birds”, such as Dark-eyed Juncos, American Tree Sparrows, White Throated Sparrows, Brown Creepers, Pine Siskins, and maybe, Redpolls or even Evening Grosbeaks may find their way to backyard feeders in our area during the coming season.
Juncos are probably the most reliable of these winter visitors. With a slate gray head, chest and back and a white tummy, the male Junco is easily spotted scratching for food on the ground under feeders beginning the first of October or even a little earlier. The same size and shape as the males, females appear more brown and tan, reflecting their lineage as a large member of the sparrow family.
Joining their junco cousins under a feeder, you may find a true sparrow with a rusty crown and a tan breast
–the American Tree Sparrow. Interestingly, this bird arrives just about the same time that another rusty crowned sparrow, the Chipping Sparrow, that spends it’s summers in Ohio, heads south for the winter. During the short time when they may overlap, the Chipping Sparrow can be distinguished by its slightly smaller size, and its gray breast. Both male and female White Throated Sparrows come in two distinct color patterns or “morphs”–a white morph with a white head stripe and a tan morph with a tan head stripe. As the name suggests, both morphs can be distinguished by the white patch on the throat.
Although unrelated, the Brown Creeper shares preferences for food and habitat with the woodpecker family and can often be found hunting for insects on tree trunks along the edge of a woods. They can also be enticed to eat at your winter suet feeders, and may even sample sunflowers or seed bits from your seed feeders.
If you observe the large triangular shaped beaks of Pine Siskins, Redpolls, and Evening Grosbeaks, you will see the similarity of these species to other members of the extended finch family to which they belong. As such, they will readily visit your sunflower feeders in the winter time and may also enjoy your finch feeder offerings.
Want to learn more about attracting bird species that consider Ohio as their winter refuge? Ask us the next time you visit the Wildlife Garden.