Some birds cancel their trips south

A mild winter has provided local bird enthusiasts with opportunities to see certain species of birds that can be rare this time of year.

Andy Thompson, co-publisher and director of sales at Bird Watchers Digest in Marietta said he has noticed the weather has had an affect on the local bird population.

“It was about 55 degrees the other day and I pointed out to my son that there were more robins out than usual,” said Thompson, who is also a state representative. “This time of year robins are generally back deeper in the woods seeking the shelter from the cold weather.”

The migration patterns of most species weren’t affected by the mild winter but a recent cold snap is affecting the local bird population.

“Due to the sudden cold weather I’ve seen a lot of activity with local birds frantically looking for high energy foods in order to survive,” Thompson said. “They burn so much energy just trying to stay warm, which is why they aren’t as active during the winter.”

It’s not just the smaller birds being affected, according to Kyle Carlsen, the owner of Backroad Birding Tours, a company that works to promote bird watching and provide tools to bird enthusiasts in the area.

Recently Carlsen has noticed a drop in the number of bald eagles in the area.

“This may or may be because the lakes aren’t freezing over due to the mild winter,” Carlsen said. “When the lakes freeze over the eagles generally congregate to the local rivers.”

Carlsen also mentioned that this is the eruptive year of the northern finch from Canada.

“Every five years or so the seed crop fails and the entire northern finch population is forced to travel south in search of food,” he said. “This year has provided people with a very rare opportunity to see a species that is uncommon to this area.”

Some of the local birds that don’t typically migrate from the area include cardinals, chickadees, woodpeckers, song sparrows, house sparrows, robins, starlings and red-tailed hawks.

While it isn’t necessary for the survival of local birds Thompson said putting out bird food does help.

“Finding food and water during these months of the year can be very difficult for local birds,” Thompson said. “If you do want to help them try to provide them with high energy foods such as suet (beef fat) or seeds or even just provide a box for them to roost in.”

Some of the migratory birds generally seen during the warmer months have been out of the area since as early as August.

That includes grackles, red-winged blackbirds, orioles, purple martins and hummingbirds.

“It really varies when each species will return to this area,” Thompson said. “We should start to see grackles and orioles in late February or early March but you shouldn’t see hummingbirds back until early to mid-April.”