PINE GROSBEAK ( map ): A good flight is expected into southern Ontario because the mountain‐ash berry crop is variable in the boreal forest. Many berries are hard with low moisture content because of the drought. The European mountain-ash and ornamental crabapple crops are poor to fair in southern Ontario so these crops won’t last long. Grosbeaks will be attracted to the usually abundant buckthorn berries and to bird feeders offering black oil sunflower seeds. The Ontario breeding population of this grosbeak is stable.
PURPLE FINCH ( map ): Most Purple Finches will migrate south of Ontario this fall because both coniferous and deciduous hardwood seed crops are very low this year in the Northeast. Purple Finch numbers dropped significantly in recent decades as spruce budworm outbreaks subsided and currently a moderate population decline continues in the province.
RED CROSSBILL ( map ): Red Crossbills comprise at least 10 “types” in North America. Each type probably represents a separate or newly evolving species. Most types are normally impossible to identify in the field without recordings of their flight calls. Matt Young of The Cornell Lab of Ornithology reports that there is currently a large early irruption of Type 3 Red Crossbills (smallest billed type) from the west into eastern North America. Recordings can be made with a cell phone and sent to Matt to be identified (may6 AT cornell.edu). Every recording adds an important piece to the puzzle, especially when accompanied by notes on behaviour and ecology, including tree species used for foraging and nesting. Matt emphasizes that the conservation of call types depends on understanding their complex distributions and ecological requirements.
WHITE-WINGED CROSSBILL ( map ): With very poor spruce cone crops in the Northeast, most White-winged Crossbills will likely stay this winter in the Hudson Bay Lowlands, northwestern Ontario and western Canada where spruce cone crops are generally very good. They will be virtually absent from traditional hotspots such as Algonquin Park where spruce crops are very low. Wandering birds may show up throughout the Northeast.
COMMON REDPOLL ( map ): There should be a good southward flight because the white birch seed crop is poor to fair across the north. Watch for redpolls on birches and in weedy fields and at bird feeders offering nyger (preferred) and black oil sunflower seeds. Check flocks for the rare “Greater” Common Redpoll (subspecies rostrata) from the High Arctic. It is reliably identified by its larger size, darker and browner colour, longer/thicker bill and longer tail in direct comparison to “Southern” Common Redpolls (nominate flammea subspecies). Note: The notion of a “biennial periodicity” that redpolls irrupt south every second winter is not supported by records in Atlantic Canada (Erskine and McManus 2003). The authors concluded that “irregular abundance but near-annual occurrence” of redpolls in the Atlantic Provinces is a better explanation than a two year cycle. Similarly redpolls were recorded on 32 of 38 Christmas Bird Counts in Algonquin Park (Lat. 45.5 N), Ontario.
HOARY REDPOLL ( map ): Check redpoll flocks for Hoary Redpolls. There are two subspecies. Most Hoaries seen in southern Canada and northern United States are “Southern” Hoary Redpolls (subspecies exilipes). “Hornemann’s” Hoary Redpoll (nominate subspecies hornemanni) from the High Arctic was previously regarded as a great rarity in southern Canada and the northern United States. In recent decades a number have been confirmed by photographs. Hornemann’s is most reliably identified by its larger size in direct comparison to flammea Common Redpoll or exilipes Hoary Redpoll. Caution: White birds loom larger than life among darker birds and size illusions are frequent.
PINE SISKIN ( map ): Some siskins currently in the Northeast should move south this fall and winter because cone crops are poor. However, siskins are an opportunistic nomad wandering east and west continent-wide in search of cone crops. Most siskins will probably winter in northwestern Ontario and western Canada where cone crops are generally very good. Major southward irruptions occur when cone crops fail across most of North America.