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  • Merri-Lee M.

Winter Birds

I’m as ready for Spring as the next person. These days of cabin fever and bone-chilling temperatures are hard to take. But every now and then a Winter storm brings in a surprise or two...

The Common Redpoll shows up sporadically at our feeders. I haven’t seen one here in several years, but about a week ago, a little Female (or was it a young Male??) Redpoll appeared with the Goldfinches.

These birds love the Curly Willow tree that grows near the back door, and frequently land there before dropping to the deck to feed.

A few days ago, there were 3 Female or young Male Redpolls, and yesterday morning 12 Redpolls (3 adult Males) were touring with about 40 Goldfinches. Today there are at least 15 Common Redpolls at the feeders and in the trees.

The Females and young Males (hatched last year) have a red cap and a touch of rose on their cheeks. Their bills are surrounded by a black patch that extends up to their eyes. There is the tiniest hint of gold wash along the front and sides of the neck.

The rosy breast of an adult Male Redpoll stands out, even in a snowstorm!

There are 3 Tamarack trees in the yard, in which the Redpolls take shelter and find food.

These branches are a little slippery on a Winter day...

Seeds inside the tiny Tamarack cones are eagerly consumed.

Chipped Sunflower seeds are also enjoyed by Redpolls and Goldfinches alike.

Yippee! She put out some fresh Sunflower seeds!

Unlike the visiting Redpolls, American Goldfinches are in the area year round.

The males are just starting to show some "Spring yellow" on their heads and backs. The females look much the same in all seasons.

About half a dozen Blue Jays usually show up a few times a day to see if there are any peanuts on the feeders. They really are quite spectacular with their distinctive “blueness” and bold patterning.

We have noticed a drop in the numbers of other Winter birds

this year. There have been a few days when Snow Buntings arrived in large flocks (of around 200), but usually there are only about 30-40 here at any given time. There is really nothing that can compare with the spectacle of Snow Buntings against a Winter Blue sky.

My friend Connie sent me her thoughts on Snow Buntings. She was driving a back road on a Friday after work, with her mind busy and full, when she came upon a flock of these lovely birds:


my thoughts are running swift,

but now -

in unison they shift,

they bob and weave and lift,

like falling snow they sift,

as snow buntings drift.

-Connie Lepp

They are indeed an inspiration as they soar and land together in perfect synchronization. Landing on the wires, they swoop “en masse” down to the cracked corn, whispering among themselves.

Sometimes a Lapland Longspur or two will arrive later in the day with a flock of Snow Buntings,

and the Horned Larks join the party from the fields. Horned Larks never sit on the wires like the other 2 species; they land out at a distance, and walk in to the corn.

For some reason, the Horned Larks were not happy to have the company of Longspurs, and tried to bully them away from the food! Those “horns” look pretty scary, but the Lapland Longspurs were not intimidated at all.


Soon it will be time for many of these visitors to head out on their long journeys to nesting grounds, but for now, they do brighten the frigid Winter days.


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