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Question of the Week

Q. What are “winter finches”?

A. “Winter finches” is the collective name for a group of finches that includes Pine Siskins, Pine and Evening Grosbeaks, Redpolls, Crossbills, and Purple Finches. These birds spend most of their time in the boreal forests of Canada and in a few high-altitude, northern areas of the United States. Many of these species specialize in certain seed crops such as spruce, birch, and mountain-ash. In winters when their preferred seed crops are in abundance, the birds may stay up north. In lean winters when these crops are thin, large number of birds are forced to move south in order to find enough to eat.

These large southward migrations are known as “irruptions," and can cause excitement among bird lovers in the U.S. who get a chance to enjoy these intermittent avian visitors. It is also fun to think that these birds, visiting wintry spots like Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis or Seattle, have actually travelled south to get there. Boston probably feels downright tropical in February compared to northern Ontario.

Are winter finches headed your way this year? Find out by taking a look at eBird's Winter Finch Forecast 2014-2015.

While you're at it, take a peek to see if any winter finches are visiting our live FeederWatch Cam in Ontario right now!

Past Questions of the Week

Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?

Q. How do birds prepare for long migrations?

Q. Should I stop feeding birds in fall so they can start their migration?

Q. What is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act?

Q. After birds leave a nest, can I clean out the nest for future use?

Q. How can I keep birds from hitting my windows?

Q. Why do woodpeckers like to hammer on houses?

Q. I’m seeing fewer birds in my yard. Is something affecting their populations?

Q. I found a baby bird. What should I do?

Q. I found a nest near my house and want to observe it but I am worried about disturbing it. Can you give me any advice?

Q. Sometimes I see little birds going after a big bird. Why do they do this?

Q. My feeders are being overrun with pigeons and blackbirds who eat all the food and keep the smaller birds away. What can I do?

Q. How can I share my bird photos with the Lab?

Q. How do I keep the squirrels in my yard away from my feeders and bird seed?

Q. Where can I go to watch hawk migration?

Q. Should I stop feeding hummingbirds in the fall so that they will migrate?

Q. After birds leave a nest, can I clean out the nest for future use?

Q. I live in a high-rise apartment with a tiny balcony. Is there any way I can attract birds all the way up on the 17th floor?

Be a Better Birder Tutorial 4
Yard Map Birds Eye View