December 1, 2023

10 Winter Birds to Spot During the Christmas Bird Count

More from Justine.

Latest Science

December 12, 2021

Purple Finch.

Justine E. Hausheer is an acclaimed science author for The Nature Conservancy, covering the ingenious research study performed by the Conservancys researchers in the Asia Pacific area. She has a degree from Princeton University and a masters in Science, Health, and Environmental Reporting from New York University. Justines preferred stories take her into beautiful forests, desolate deserts, or remote islands to report on field research as its happening. When not writing, you can discover her traipsing after birds, trying to fish, and exploring the wild locations around her house in Brisbane, Australia.

Streaky and little, pine siskins might easily be mistaken for another sparrow. However these acrobatic birds are in fact a type of finch. Found year-round in part of the mountainous west, they irrupt in flocks across the rest of the nation in winter season, following seed crops..
Try to find flocks of sparrow-sized birds with a diagnostic yellow tint to their main plumes (the long feather on their wings) and tail. True to their name, they are typically discovered near conifers, dangling from branch ends to feed upon pine cone seeds. They will also feed at yard feeders.
Pine siskins are irruptive, so seeing them one winter does not ensure theyll be back the next. Theyre likewise considered a typical bird species in steep decline by The Partners In Flight, which approximates that pine siskin populations have decreased by 80% because 1970.

Tags: Birds, Outdoor Rec, Traveling Naturalist.

A golden-crowned kinglet emerges from branches of a flowering Cornellian cherry. ©.
Loren Merrill/ TNC Photo Contest 2019.

If youve never seen a kinglet, consider a warbler but with an included surprise. Each species is named for the color of its feathered crest, either a golden yellow or intense red..
The golden-crowned kinglet is generally discovered high in the canopy, where theyre extremely tough to see. They have a noticeable steak of golden-orange feathers on the top of their heads, described on either side by a black band. They frequently forage with other types– including creepers, chickadees, and warblers– and will react to pishing noises..
The great news is that ruby-crowned kinglets usually forage in the understory, on low tree branches or surrounding shrubs, making them easier to see. Another good ID tip: ruby-crowned kinglets tend to snap their wings as they forage.

The long-eared owl looks remarkably like a great horned owl, with a few essential differences. The long-eared owl has a more slim, lengthened body shape, while the terrific horned owl is bigger and more chunky.
Long-eared owls are infamously tricky to find, as their mottled plumage offers excellent camouflage and they like to roost close to the trunk, where their shape is less most likely to stand out. Dont forget to at the forest floor for pellets, which can also be an idea that an owl frequently roosts nearby.

Winter season birding often has a bad track record. Birds can be hard to discover.
I like winter birding. Leafless branches make birds easier to identify.
Winter season also brings with it Audubons annual Christmas Bird Count, which ranges from December 14 to January 5 each year. For the uninitiated, the Christmas Bird Count (or CBC for brief) started in 1900, when American conservationists motivated individuals to count birds, instead of shooting them. More than 120 years later on, the CBC is still going strong in more than 20 countries..
Here we share 10 North American birds whose range modifications dramatically in winter season, making them the ideal types to search for during this years CBC. If you require a break from holiday parties or quarreling family members, or want to spend time in nature to relieve frayed nerves, get out and bird..

A pine siskin. © Richard Griffin/ Flickr.

A short-eared owl at sunrise, Bombay Hook National Wildlife Refuge, Smyrna, Delaware, United States. © Jerry am Ende/TNC Photo Contest 2018.

A flying ferruginous hawk. © Wendy Miller/ Flickr.

Winter season likewise brings with it Audubons yearly Christmas Bird Count, which runs from December 14 to January 5 each year. For the inexperienced, the Christmas Bird Count (or CBC for brief) started in 1900, when American conservationists motivated individuals to count birds, instead of shooting them. And if these 10 types arent enough, check out our other list of 10 great snow birds to spot in winter season.
Their winter season variety partly overlaps with the comparable loggerhead shrike, so its a good idea to study your field guide before searching for this bird. If a winter season wren is singing, youll frequently hear the bird prior to you see it.

Winter Season Range: New England, North-central, and Northwest down to Colorado.

Related Articles.

This page will inform you whatever you need to know about joining a CBC count near you. (The data gathered on the CBC is used to assist keep an eye on bird populations, so there are some rules to ensure a constant approach throughout years.) And if these 10 types arent enough, inspect out our other list of 10 fantastic snow birds to identify in winter season.
A note on location: Next to each types name, were supplying a rough geographic guide on where to find each bird. For more detailed range maps, click each birds name to see their profile on the Cornell Lab of Ornithologys All About Birds resource.

Winter Range: Central, Northeast & & Southeast, and coastal West.

Follow Justine

By Justine E. Hausheer

The rough-legged hawk is one cool buteo. I have fond memories of shivering with cold as I looked for this unusual types on the back roads near the Denver airport..
Rough-legged hawks spend their summers devouring lemmings on the Arctic tundra, and after that move south to spend the winter in the continental United States. Browse for them in open locations– meadows, fields, and farming areas– where they will often perch on telephone poles to look for victim..
They resemble red-tailed hawks in size and shape, with broad, fingered wings and a medium-length, wedge tail. I d advise checking out the Cornell Labs similar species page for more ID ideas, and sitting down for a severe study session prior to birding.
Here are some quick pointers: Red-tailed hawks typically have dark leading edges to their wings (believe shoulders) while rough-legged hawks often have dark patches before their wingtips (think wrists). All adult color morphs of the rough-legged hawk have dark wing tips (think fingers), a dark trailing edge (back of the wing), and a dark band throughout the pointer of a white tail. Some birds have dark, brown-black plumage along their bodies, while others have streaky plumage with simply a dark stubborn belly spot.

A northern shrike. © Mick Thompson/ Flickr.

Northern Saw -Whet Owl in Montpelier, Vermont. © James D. Thompson/ TNC.

A juvenile rough-legged Hawk. © Ken Salzman/ TNC.

A winter wren. © Fyn Kynd/ Flickr.

The winter season wren (Troglodytes hiemalis) is the tiniest and darkest-colored wren in its variety. It likewise has a very, brief tail, even for a wren, which it holds directly and upright. Winter season wrens invest summers in New England and Canada, and then move to the south-eastern US in winter. (Theyre also discovered year-round in a narrow band throughout Appalachia.).
Try to find them foraging near the ground in wet, dubious locations, like pine forests and along streams. They often bounce through the undergrowth, hopping and scuttling as they forage for insects..
If a winter wren is singing, youll often hear the bird prior to you see it. Thats a lot of tune for a bird that only weighs between.3 and.4 ounces.

Famous bird illustrator Roger Tory Peterson explained the purple finch as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” And he wasnt wrong. Male purple finches have a deep reddish-purple shade across their head, breast, and back..
When birding, remember that male home finches are really similar. Try to find the purple-tinged feathers on a purple finchs back, together with more color on the birds head. Cassins finches are also similar, although their ranges only overlap in the Pacific states..
Purple finches are found year-round in New England and along the Pacific coast, however throughout winter they move to the eastern and central US states (other than peninsular Florida). Theyre often identified at backyard feeders, where they choose sunflower seeds. Like the pine siskin theyre erratic, indicating they follow food resources and do not reliably turn up in the same areas each year..

Follow Justine.

Buteo recognition can frequently be a headache, but the ferruginous hawk has distinctive white and russet plumage. Seen from below, their plumage is a velvety white, with rust-colored (or ferruginous!) feathers along their shoulders. They also have white tails and darkish suggestions to their primary plumes (believe fingers). When perched, search for slate-gray and rufous feathers on the tops of their wings..
Dark-morph ferruginous hawks still have white flight and tail feathers, combined with chocolate brown bodies and heads. Compared to other buteos, like the red-tailed hawk, ferruginous hawks have more narrow and pointed wings and tend to fly with a dihedral V-shape.
Look for ferruginous hawks in open locations, like plains, deserts, and meadows. They will perch on utility pole and stand on the ground to hunt. Another hint: stake out prairie canine towns, where groups of as much as 10 hawks will gather to stake out the burrows, and squabble over prey.

Northern Shrike.

The northern shrike is a tiny however fearsome killer. This types, and the comparable loggerhead shrike, frequently impales victim– frequently still alive– on spikes, thorns, or barbed wire, and leaves them there for days or weeks. (Read this story to read more about the interesting story behind shrikes and their grisly table good manners.).
Northern shrikes breed in the high arctic and after that move to the northern US for the cold weather. Their winter variety partially overlaps with the comparable loggerhead shrike, so its a great idea to study your field guide prior to browsing for this bird. The very best way to tell them apart is the thickness of their black mask: loggerheads have a thicker line that covers on top of their eye and across the top of their expense, while northern shrikes have a thinner black line that cut through their eye and deteriorates in between the eye and expense. Northern shrikes also have narrow, white markings around their eye.

A long-eared owl. © Tony Varela Photography/ Flickr.

A purple finch. © Alan Schmierer/ Flickr.

And now for the short-eared owl, whose ear tufts are so short that theyre typically not visible. According to the Cornell Lab, this types is among the worlds most commonly distributed owls, and one of the most commonly seen during the day. Search for distinct, black-rimmed yellow eyes which contrast versus the birds white facial disk..
To discover this types, search open country– fields, airports, farms, or marshes– near dawn or dusk. They tend to perch on the ground or fly extremely low as they hunt, like a harrier..
2 fun realities about short-eared owls: If theyre disturbed on the nest, female short-eared owls will often defecate on their eggs prior to they flush. (Pun intended.) This behavior might dissuade any potential predators from eating the eggs..
This types is likewise renowned for having the ability to fly for long ranges, consisting of over water. Numerous sources keep in mind reports of short-eared owls landing on boats far out to sea, including this story of a bird colliding with a boat off the coast of England.

Owling for any types is hard. And northern saw-whet owls are a difficult types to discover.
Birders typically find them by seeing other songbirds, who will bug sleeping owls. (Ive also found this a helpful technique to locate snakes.

A short-eared owl. © Mick Thompson/ Flickr