For the Birds: An interesting time at the feeders

Photo by Chris Bosak – American goldfinch in late fall/winter plumage.

November is an interesting time to watch the feeders. The regular birds are still around, although some of them look a little different than they did in the summer.

A few new birds are also likely to show up. The trick is spotting them and seeing which ones actually do make an appearance. November is also a time when the weather can be unpredictable, and ahead of a good storm is always a terrific time to see the birds as they prepare for a rough day or days ahead.

My regular birds these days are chickadees, titmice, white-breasted nuthatches, blue jays and cardinals. Over the years, for whatever reason, I’ve never had great luck attracting cardinals. But this fall is different with daily visits from several males and females. I also get house finches, house sparrows and starlings. 

One day last week, a flock of 50 to 60 grackles showed up in the evening, which was interesting to see. Carolina wrens show up on occasion as do mourning doves. 

As I mentioned in a previous column, I have also seen a few red-breasted nuthatches. I am looking forward to seeing what else shows up this fall and winter. 

I would love to see some evening grosbeaks. That would be a first at the feeder for me. I have received a few reports of people seeing evening grosbeaks over the last few weeks. Hopefully, the birds will head my way.

I also get the occasional visit from a few American goldfinches. They are interesting to see in November as the males show very little of the famous bright yellow plumage that they show in the spring and summer. They are slowly molting into their winter plumage and will look similar to females before long.

There is an interesting article with illustrations that may be found on the Audubon Society’s website. It describes and includes illustrations, of the goldfinches’ plumage month by month. Interestingly, the goldfinch does not look the same from any one month to the next. It is a constantly changing cyclical plumage. Unfortunately, it will be many months until we see the bright yellow feathers of the goldfinch again.

A bird that may show up at birdfeeders this winter is the pine siskin. Siskins are often confused with goldfinches because of their similarities in plumage coloration. I have a video on YouTube that describes the differences and shows the birds side-by-side to eliminate the confusion. If you go to YouTube and put “bosak goldfinch siskin” in the search bar, you will likely find the video, if you are interested.

Perhaps the worst thing about watching the feeders in November is that it gets dark so early now that the time has changed. Many people leave for work in the dark and come home in the dark. Thankfully, I recently started a remote position so I get to watch the feeders throughout the day as I work. Lucky. 

Based on emails from several readers, the bird action is picking up throughout New England. I love to hear what others are seeing. Drop me a line and let me know what is in your yard.

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