Date: 11/21/20 5:11 pm
From: Nick Bonomo via CTBirds <ctbirds...>
Subject: [CT Birds] The State of the Finch in CT
Hi all,

I hope everyone is enjoying the best finch flight we have seen since
2012-13. It has been fun to watch this progress since the irruptives began
with Red-breasted Nuthatches in the late summer.

I've been getting some questions about finches recently, so figured I
should post something to the group. Here's a brief summary and possibly
what to expect going forward, based on flight years of the recent past.

It is obvious that many species, such as Purple Finch and Pine Siskin, have
been moving through in large numbers. How many birds remain for the winter
entirely depends on food availability here in CT. In the past, we have seen
some massive movements of these species in autumn only to see them scarce
and local during the winter itself. It is possible that may happen again
this winter. Time will tell.

Red-breasted Nuthatch - Their southward movement should be mostly complete,
and birds have settled into places with food where they are likely to
remain for the winter as long as food supplies last.

Purple Finch - Second in chronological order, PUFIs are past their peak
migration but continue to trickle through in small numbers. It seems that
most have blown through CT on their way to points further south.

Pine Siskin - Much like Purple Finches, Siskins have passed their peak push
through CT. If little natural food is available, expect few to stay the
winter, in which case they would be most likely found at feeding stations.

House Finch - These have been moving steadily through the autumn and
continue to do so.

American Goldfinch - They really seem to have increased in migration
intensity over the past couple weeks, and are currently by far the most
numerous finch being tallied at coastal watch sites.

Evening Grosbeak - Eastern populations of this charismatic finch are likely
on the rise thanks to a spruce budworm outbreak in the boreal forest. This
is indeed a flight year for this species, and they have been moving through
CT for a few weeks now. This movement is likely to tail off soon, meaning
fewer coastal flybys. Hopefully there is enough natural food to keep a few
flocks through the winter, likely at inland locations.

Red Crossbill - RECRs are everywhere right now, both inland and coastal, in
small to moderate numbers. We are likely somewhere near the peak of their
push. Not many seem to be stopping. They are often heard and seen while
actively migrating (learning the flight call is nearly essential to
detecting them right now). Coastal towns probably have the highest volume
moving through right now because of the coast's ability to concentrate
migrants that prefer not to cross large bodies of water (the same reason
why the coast concentrates landbird migrants in general).

To find them "on the deck," check any conifers that currently have cones.
For large finches, they can be quite good at rather silently feeding, but
are very vocal when they take flight. I tend to find them most often in
Japanese black pines or pitch pines, but they can hit any conifer with
food. We usually have some overwintering crossbills during flight years;
again, they will focus on the food. So keep an eye on those cones. When
they winter here, it can be in any part of the state, inland or coastal.

If anyone gets recordings of Red Crossbills in CT and wants them assigned
to "call type," feel free to email me clips and I will do my best to help
with the analysis.

White-winged Crossbill - Unlike in autumn 2012, WWCR has not yet been a
major component of the flight as of mid-November, though they have been
scattered in small numbers in northern Massachusetts. We have had a handful
reported. Time will tell if they increase as the season progresses.

Common Redpoll - Redpolls are making a strong early push into CT. They are
scattered in small numbers. Their numbers should increase through the
winter, when they move from natural food sources to backyard feeders as
well (from which they have been essentially absent so far). In past
invasions, their numbers have peaked in mid-late winter, and in the
northern part of the state. The best is likely yet to come.

Hoary Redpoll - None reported in the area yet, but they are likely coming.
They have been seen well to our north and west near the Canadian border.
When this rare species occurs in Connecticut, it is usually a true winter
bird, almost always seen in flocks of Common Redpolls, and usually in the

Pine Grosbeak - The fact that a few have already appeared bodes well for a
good showing through the winter. The last time they appeared in CT as early
as mid-Nov was 2007, when they eventually settled at ornamental crab apples
in a few locations for several weeks. Their numbers should only increase
over the next several weeks/months. Invasions of this species seem to be
getting less and less frequent at our latitude, so enjoy them this winter!
They usually stick to northern CT, though past invasions (think 1970s)
brought them to the coast.

Bohemian Waxwing - None yet. Like Pine Grosbeaks and many of the true
northern finches listed above, this species is making a strong early push
into their usual wintering range, which could be promising for an
appearance in CT at some point. BOWAs routinely reach northern
Massachusetts during flight years, but only rarely do they cross the border
into CT. While we could see one at any time, late winter (Feb-Mar) tends to
be when they max out their southern movement. They simply eat their way
south through the winter, devouring fruit such as ornamental crab apples as
they creep their way southward town-by-town. Let's hope some bust through
the imaginary MA/CT barrier and hang out in CT for a while. Another
northern species that is most likely to appear in northern CT.

Black-capped Chickadee - A note about chickadees, which tend to be missed
when they are migrating due to their general commonness. This autumn saw a
strong push of obviously migrating flocks of BCCH. I have personally noted
what appears to be a decrease in the active chickadee migration, at least
coastally, over the last couple weeks. I just haven't seen the flocks
moving that I was seeing in October. Maybe this is reflective of what is
actually happening, maybe it is not.

Boreal Chickadee - A mega rare bird in CT (no records so far this century),
it is worth addressing because we are due for one and because they have
been moving south of their range this month, including two reports from
northern Massachusetts. While there isn't much of a pattern to modern
regional records, they are probably most likely to be seen with migrant
Black-capped flocks at this time of year in any habitat, but presumably
would stick to conifers when not actively migrating. One might be more
prone to patronizing a bird feeder as the winter progresses.

Nick Bonomo
Wallingford, CT
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