Birds of a feather don’t always flock together – especially during winter. As the cooler months approach, North American birds either strip down in the south or bundle up in the north. Believe it or not, some birds actually migrate north for the winter. After reading a great article by Earth Rangers on winter birds, we decided to provide a bit more info and list our top thirteen fearless feathered friends that stick around for the frozen months.
1. Snowy Owl
These birds don’t have ‘snow’ in their name for nothing. Snowy owls nest in the arctic and fly south in winter to destinations throughout Canada. They use their large talons to sweep down and ambush small rodents. Owls swallow their pray whole. These majestic birds can be found in the Credit Valley watershed. Last year, several were spotted near CVC’s head office and around Mississauga. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Username: Malena Fryer]
2. Northern Shrike
Behind the tiny northern shrike’s cute black mask lies mind of a fearless hunter. They ambush insects, small rodents like mice, rats and squirrels, and even small songbirds. They use freezing temperatures to their advantage by hunting in the morning when insects can be immobilized by low temperatures. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Username: Nick]
3. Dark-eyed Junco
Dark-eyed juncos hop on the ground around tree trunks and shrubs in search of fallen seeds. Even though they’re ground feeders, they’re known for poking around backyards looking for platform feeders. Be careful where you step! These tiny birds nest on the ground, beneath small shrubs and vegetation. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Janine Russell]
4. Snow Bunting
Nicknamed ‘snowflakes’, snow buntings travel in large packs. When traveling, their white bellies resemble flurries in the sky. During the warmer months, they live at very high altitudes in the Arctic. They migrate south to Canada and the northern U.S. for winter. Snow buntings enjoy socializing with other species, like horned larks or lapland longspurs. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Roy Churchill]
5. Black-capped Chickadee
These cute fluffy birds are quite adventurous. They are less afraid of humans than other birds. If you hold still enough, they will happily eat from your hand. Riverwood Conservancy is a great place to experience this in the winter. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Eric Begin]
6. Downy Woodpecker
Downy woodpeckers are foragers, which is why you will see them pecking away looking for some grub. Their flight paths are unique because they rise and fall, working their way up and down trees. With their red caps, they’re one of the easier birds to identify. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Don Delaney]
7. Northern Cardinal
Male and female cardinals look very different. Males are bright red and females only have red on their crown, beak, wings and tail. Cardinals are big fans of fruit. They search for berries like serviceberry, dogwood and viburnum. These birds contrast beautifully against the white snow. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Alain Daigle]
8. Blue Jay
Did you know that the ‘blue’ in blue jays isn’t pigment? Their blue colouring actually comes from the structure of their feathers that gives the illusion of blue colouring. Just like the baseball players, these birds love working as a team. Blue jays flock in packs looking for food as a group. They’re also related to crows and ravens placing them among the smartest birds.
9. American Goldfinch
Goldfinch’s are darker in the summer and become pale in the winter. They fly in irregular flight patterns and make loud calls when flying. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Aurora Santiago]
10. Cedar Waxwing
Like the northern shrike, cedar waxwings have beautiful regal masks. As mysterious as they look, waxwings are very social and prefer to flock in large groups. Their diet is diverse. They can be seen enjoying berries and swooping down over water searching for insects. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Carlos Escamilla]
11. White and Red breasted nuthatches
Nuthatches like to see the world from a different angle. They will often approach feeders or trees facing down, which is why some people call them the ‘bum-up’ bird. Red-breasted nuthatches prefer coniferous habitat, whereas the white-breasted nuthatches prefer deciduous habitat. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – SteveWinter2009]
12. Brown Creeper
Brown creepers are stealth birds. They ‘creep’ up tree trunks looking for food, using their long pointy beak to peel back bark and expose insects. They camouflage really well, but their loud piercing call can help you locate them. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Prayitno Goenarto]
13. Common Redpoll
Redpolls have a hard time staying still. These tiny birds of the Arctic tundra and boreal forest migrate erratically, occasionally showing up in large groups as far south as the central U.S. In the winter, they enjoy flocking from backyard to backyard, feasting on whatever they find inside bird feeders. [Photo credit: Flickr Creative Commons – Stuart Oikawa]
Attracting birds to your yard is easy. We encourage you to be a little ‘messy’. Leaving a few fallen leaves, unpruned flowers and sticks around your yard provides habitat for insects, which birds feed on. Bird feeders are a great option. Make sure to place them at least five metres from windows and also keep them clean in order to reduce disease spreading between birds.
Once you entice birds to your yard, it’s important to keep them safe. Birds flying into windows is one of the top causes of death. Things like Feather Friendly window treatments or decals are an easy way to protect birds.