Cold Weather Birds Follow the Food

Bohemian Waxwing on Huckleberries
Glenn Dreger
Bohemian Waxwing

This winter, all along the Mississippi Flyway and beyond birds are "irrupting". Red-breasted Nuthatches and other species are moving south across the Great Lakes to Minnesota and in some cases, all the way to the Gulf Coast in search of scare food.

How far south will they go during this year's Christmas Bird Count, when tens of thousands of volunteers set out to tally birds from the Arctic to the Andes?  Audubon experts are already seeing species well outside their normal range and in unusual numbers. "Birds are among the most adaptable species on earth, simply because they can fly, and these irruptions are a fascinating part of the larger migration story," said Dr. Gary Langham, Audubon Chief Scientist. "These periodic invasions from our feathered friends set off our imaginations--linking our backyards to the vast northern forests--reminding us of the struggle to find food in winter."

Here's a peek at what you might see this month in the Mississippi Flyway:

-       Red-breasted Nuthatches have been reported across the entire flyway from Minnesota to Mississippi

-       You may spot Evening Grosbeaks in Indiana and Ohio   

-       Keep your binoculars focused for Pine Siskins across the entire Mississippi Flyway

-       Red Crossbills have been reported as far south as Arkansas, Tennessee and Alabama

-       White-winged Crossbills have made it down to Kentucky and Missouri

-       Look out for Bohemian Waxwings in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, and in the Chicago area.

-       Common Redpolls have made a big showing around the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi Flyway and have been seen less frequently in Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, Indiana, and Ohio

-       Keep an eye out for other "winter finches" as well.

Explore results for irruptive species, including the above, and submit your own sightings on eBird the online bird record system run by Audubon and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.