Have you noticed fewer finches at your feeders this winter? We asked Director Emeritus of the Fairbanks Museum, Charlie Browne, who is a longtime Northeast Kingdom Audubon Officer about this observation. He says, “There seem to be no Pine Siskins, Purple Finches, or Redpolls to be found in our area this winter. However, there have been a few flocks of Goldfinches around, and both Evening Grosbeaks and Pine Grosbeaks are relatively abundant in northern New England this winter.”
The birds we commonly see are Boreal winter finches, which can be characterized by erratic and nomadic movements. They are observed in abundance one winter and scarce the next. The reasons for their movements, often beyond what had been observed as “normal” range, are connected with tree crops, their main source of food. These crops can be cyclical and will draw birds from one destination to another.
“Here is a terrific website that explains it all. The information on this website is focused on Ontario and Quebec, but the Adirondacks and northern New England tend to follow the same patterns. Siskins and Purple Finches were noted here in the fall, but they were passing through to other wintering locations with better tree seed crops.
“The most important takeaway from this season’s lack of finches is the acknowledgement that it is their wild foods, not our feeders, that determine their winter wanderings. We look forward to seeing them in future winters.”