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Pro Birding Tips



Winter Migration

Winter birding is easier now that most of the leaves are down, and now more than eve is a great time to feed them.  The more variety of seed you use the better chance you’ll get more birds. This time of year, a lot of the birds look similar so have a sharp eye when bird watching.  Small variations can make the biggest difference.  Two birds may look almost identical, but one has a small amount of yellow on it, see that difference. Other differences to look for are on the bird’s head.  Stripes, eye marks, or slight color variations will help in your correctly identifying them.  Don’t forget about size, beak, and behavior.  Was the bird on the ground, flying or climbing a tree?  The more you notice about the bird the better your chances of correctly identifying it.

Happy Birding!!



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Get a bird feeder, go where the birds are.


When bird watching there are some things that will help you in identifying what you just saw.


First what size was it?  Sparrow, Robin, Crow, Mallard, or Heron?


What color was it?  Black and white, brown with stripes on its head, yellow with gray on its wings, or blue and black? 


What was it doing?  Was it on the ground, in a tree, at your feeder, flying, or swimming?


These couple of things will help you narrow down what you saw.  Size, color, and activity are crucial in determining what the bird is.  Some birds don’t like to be down low; others do.  Some birds eat bugs, others eat seeds.  The more you pay attention to all the details of what you saw, will help you identify your newfound bird.


As you look and see more things you will find that you will understand more things and in turn you will see more things.  You will learn new behaviors of different types of birds.  And then you’ll be hooked!  Happy Watching!


Bird Sightings

Northern Wisconsin Species...

Courtesy of


Purple Finch

(Haemorhous purpureus)



The Purple Finch is the bird that Roger Tory Peterson famously described as a “sparrow dipped in raspberry juice.” For many of us, they’re irregular winter visitors to our feeders, although these chunky, big-beaked finches do breed in northern North America and the West Coast. Separating them from House Finches requires a careful look, but the reward is a delicately colored, cleaner version of that red finch. Look for them in forests, too, where you’re likely to hear their warbling song from the highest parts of the trees.


  • The Purple Finch uses its big beak and tongue to crush seeds and extract the nut. They do a similar trick to get at nectar without eating an entire flower, and also to get to a seed buried inside a fleshy fruit.

  • Into their rich warbling songs, Purple Finches sometimes add in the sounds of other species, including Barn Swallows, American Goldfinches, Eastern Towhees, and Brown-headed Cowbirds. 

Info courtesy of

The Cornell Lab


Snow Bunting

(Plectrophenax nivalis)



Cold and dark winter days come alive with the flurry of black-and-white Snow Buntings tumbling in flight across barren fields and lakeshores. These restless birds flock up by the hundreds in winter, scattering across Canada and the United States. Snow Buntings breed in the high Arctic among rocky crevices where their crisp white plumage blends in with the snowy landscape. In the winter they acquire rusty tones that help them blend in with their winter homes of bare ground and crop stubble.


  • Male Snow Buntings head to their high arctic breeding grounds when the ground is still covered in snow and temperatures can dip to -22° F. Males need to arrive early to make sure they get one of the limited nesting spots in a rock crevice. Females join them 3 to 4 weeks later when things start to warm up.

  • The Snow Bunting places its nest deep in cracks or other cavities in rocks. Although such nest sites are relatively secure from predators, rocks are cold.

Info courtesy of

The Cornell Lab


Common Redpoll

(Acanthis flammea)



As energetic as their electric zapping call notes would suggest, Common Redpolls are active foragers that travel in busy flocks. Look for them feeding on catkins in birch trees or visiting feeders in winter. These small finches of the arctic tundra and boreal forest migrate erratically, and they occasionally show up in large numbers as far south as the central U.S. During such irruption years, redpolls often congregate at bird feeders (particularly thistle or nyjer seed), allowing delightfully close looks.


  • During winter, some Common Redpolls tunnel into the snow to stay warm during the night. Tunnels may be more than a foot long and 4 inches under the insulating snow.

  • Redpolls have throat pouches for temporarily storing seeds. They may fill their pouches with seeds quickly then fly away to swallow the seeds in a more protected, warmer spot.

Info courtesy of

The Cornell Lab
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