Where to Find Crossbills and Siskins This Winter

White-winged crossbill, 2012 (photo by Shawn Collins)
White-winged crossbill, 2012 (photo by Shawn Collins)

Will we see northern finches in the eastern United States this winter?  It depends on where you are.

Last month Ron Pittaway published his Winter Finch Forecast for 2017.  The good news is that northern finches are on the move.  The bad news for Pittsburgh birders is that they won’t come this far south.

Northern finches such as evening grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls and purple finches don’t care about cold weather but they do care about food and that means seed cones on spruce, fir, pine and birch trees.

Pittaway says that seed crops in northeastern North America are excellent this year — the best they’ve been in ten+ years — so finches have already moved to those areas in good numbers.  In fact the seed crop is so good up north that purple finches and evening grosbeaks probably won’t leave home this winter.

The Winter Finch Forecast predicts that if you’re in central or northeastern Ontario, Quebec, Canada’s Atlantic provinces, northern New York state, or northern New England, you’ll see red crossbills (Loxia curvirostra), white-winged crossbills (Loxia leucoptera) and pine siskins (Spinus pinus) this winter.

But not here.  As he says, “This is not an irruption year south of traditional wintering areas in the Northeast.”

Read the entire forecast here including predictions for three indicator species: blue jays, red-breasted nuthatches, and Bohemian waxwings.

The blue jay prediction surprised me.  We have a big influx of blue jays in Schenley Park right now. I wonder where they came from.


p.s. I saw red-breasted nuthatches at Cape Cod last week.

(photo of a white-winged crossbill by Shawn Collins, 2012)

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