It’s a lovely time of year.  In addition to the wonderful white landscape and all the outdoor activities that come with it, it’s also about the time that our winter birds head to our region for a brief period of time. While Ron Pittaway is predicting a lower than usual number of finches in our area due to a bumper cone crop across northern Canada and Alaska, but we still should expect a few species to visit our feeders before the spring comes.

According to this year’s forecast we should be treated to a healthy dose of purple finches and evening grosbeaks with sprinklings of the three species of redpolls we are usually treated to.

For most of us, spotting these winter birds can be a treat and one that we welcome each and every year to our feeders.  The difficult part of it lies in knowing exactly what species of finch we might be looking at.  With that in mind, we always prefer talking a more holistic approach to bird identification, rather than strictly technical.


Most of us will immediately rush to our phones or field guides, which are great points of reference, and often find that we returned to our guides before we really took a true inventory of identifying factors.  Rather than spotting a bird and immediately turning to a reference guide, take the time to really identify key markings, which can be particularly helpful when it comes to finch species, as many of them can appear painfully similar.

What To Consider

Stop and take some time to really evaluate the…

  • Wingbars
  • Beak size and shape
  • Breast colouring
  • Tail shape and colour(s)
  • Eye markings such as bars, rings etc.

You will also want to familiarize yourself with common species and their key identification markings, giving you and edge in the field.  Once you have compiled these observations in your mind, now is the time to get cozy with your field guide.  Bob will mark up complete publications using post-it notes in an attempt to help him remember key markings and the species they likely belong to.

Field guides will also often have handy checklists and cheat sheets that also allow you to compile notes from the field.

Everything the same, there is no right or wrong way to identify birds in the field, but for those of us that are looking for a more in-depth connection with our birds, feel free to take your time and really take in all of the beauty these feathered treasures have to offer us.


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