Seven Reasons the Winter of 2020-2021 is Predicted to Be Good for Bird Feeding

Every winter, as darkness and cold surround the northern latitudes, many birds that nest in the great boreal forest—including hawks, owls, and songbirds—head south to find more abundant food sources. And each fall, a team of ornithologists combines reports of northern tree production (such as pinecones and bugs) and rodent populations, and combines this information with bird watchers’ recent observations to forecast irruptions and other bird movements in the months to come. This winter looks promising for those who feed birds.

Here’s why:

  • The summer pinecone crops in the northeastern forests are deemed to be average to poor, indicating a likelihood of winter finches to head south.
  • Red-breasted nuthatches started pushing south in large numbers in August, an early indicator that other species may follow, especially given the dearth of cones in the northeast.
  • Purple finches have already been reported in healthy numbers south of their breeding range, especially in the East. Spruce budworms provided lots of food for this species over the summer, so their population is doing well.
  • Reports from Tadoussac Bird Observatory in Quebec show higher numbers of evening grosbeaks than in the past 25 years! That species’ breeding population has been on the increase in Eastern Canada, so those farther south might get to enjoy the winter overflow.
  • Crossbills are likely to be more common than usual in the western Great Lakes states and New England. Watch for red crossbills in white pines, and white-winged crossbills in cone-laden spruce trees.
  • Large numbers of pine siskins are being reported in the western boreal forest, where the spruce crop there was good. It might not be a great winter for siskins in the western US, but in the East, an influx of siskins is expected.
  • White and yellow birch trees had a poor crop throughout most of the boreal and southern Canadian forests, so redpolls are dining on swamp birch seeds as autumn begins. When that runs out in a few months, watch for common redpolls and hoary redpolls on birches in the northern US, as well as in weedy fields and at bird feeders serving Nyjer and black-oil sunflower seeds.


Fall Feeding Resources

Looking for resources to help with fall and winter feeding? Check out these helpful articles and links: