Irruptive Migration of Bird Species

March 17, 2015 by  
Filed under Features

The main reason birds migrate is to ensure they have access to food all year round. For some bird species this may mean flying half way around the world, and their migration patterns are so predictable that birders arrange special events to welcome the weary travelers to their wintering ground, as well as to see them off when they depart. For centuries, farmers have looked to the departure and arrival of local birds as an indication of what the seasons hold, while mariners judged ocean currents and the nearness of land by the birds they encountered. Some migrating bird species are somewhat less predictable and these are referred to as irruptive migrants, with their migration habits being referred to as irruptive migration.

Some species may have a cycle of irruptive migration where they visit an area every two or four years and are therefore still predictable, while others are completely random. Reasons for irruptive migration are varied, but the most common cause is a lack of food in their normal wintering grounds. Birds that depend on birch, pine, spruce and maple seeds and catkins are known to irrupt when these trees produce poor crops. As their name suggests, crossbills have unique crossed bill-tips designed to pry conifer cones open and extract the seeds. They do not have the luxury of choosing an alternative food source and are obliged to find food they can access. As these seeds are also rodent food, if they fail to appear or produce an insufficient crop for demand, raptors may also leave the area in search of a more readily available food source.

Irrespective of what the motivating factors are for irrupting, it is virtually impossible to predict which species will irrupt in any given year and where they will migrate to, however the following species have been noted for regularly irrupting: pine siskins, bohemian waxwings, boreal chickadees, evening grosbeaks, purple finches, pine grosbeaks, common redpolls, red crossbills, white-winged crossbills, northern shrikes, hoary redpolls, red-breasted nuthatches, snowy owls, great grey owls and rough-legged hawks.

While birders generally welcome seeing unfamiliar birds at their backyard feeders, they should be aware that sometimes the unexpected visitors, particularly if they arrive in great numbers, can intimidate the locals in their quest for food. This can be overcome by setting out extra feeders and spacing them as far apart as possible. Also ensure that plenty of water is provided and water sources are cleaned regularly. Then sit back, relax, and enjoy the sight of feathered friends from far away.

Britain Votes for National Bird

September 9, 2014 by  
Filed under Features

While the subspecies of the European robin (Erithacus rubecula melophilus), more commonly known as the ‘robin redbreast’, is widely considered to be Britain’s national bird, the fact is that that there is at present no official bird for the United Kingdom, and with a vote currently underway, the robin redbreast may very well find itself dethroned in favor of one of the other fifty-nine bird species voters can choose from. Voting for the top six contenders closes at midnight on the 31st of October, and re-opens in January 2015, when the field of six will be narrowed down to one which will receive the title of Britain’s National Bird on the day of the general election in May 2015.

The European robin was first described by renowned Swedish botanist, zoologist and physician Carl Linnaeus in his 18th century journal Systema Naturae where he built upon the formal system of naming species devised by 16th century Swiss botanists Gaspard and Johann Bauhin to make a detailed record of the Animal Kingdom, Plant Kingdom and Mineral Kingdoms.

Measuring between 12.5 and 14 cm in length, male and female robins are similar in features, with orange-red breast and face, bluish-grey on the sides of the neck and chest, grey-brown upperparts and a whitish belly. A familiar sight around Britain, robins are insectivorous and are welcomed by gardeners as they feed on garden pests, although beneficial insects, of course, are also on the menu. They are quite unafraid of being around people and will also eat seed mixtures in backyard feeders. During breeding season, male robins become very territorial and may viciously attack intruding birds. They are known to nest in some unusual places, including disused barbecues, machinery, watering cans, flower pots and other items. They use moss, leaves, grass and other items to make the nest, and line it with hair, feathers, finer grass and anything else that is soft. The female lays between two or three clutches of eggs in the breeding season, each of which may consist of five or six eggs. Mortality rate in the first year of life is high, but robins have been known to live as long as 12 years if they make it past the first vulnerable 12 months.

Among the contenders for the title of Britain’s National Bird are the mute swan, mallard, tufted duck, eider, red grouse, pheasant, great crested grebe, gannet, cormorant, grey heron, golden eagle, osprey, red kits, hen harrier, buzzard, kestrel , peregrine, avocet, oystercatcher, lapwing, curlew, snipe, herring gull, puffin, feral pigeon, wood pigeon, turtle dove, ring-necked parakeet, cuckoo, tawny owl, barn owl, swift, kingfisher, great spotted woodpecker, skylark, swallow, pied wagtail, waxwing, wren, robin, nightingale, black redstart, song thrush, blackbird, blackcap, chiffchaff, blue tit, long-tailed tit, magpie, jay, jackdaw, carrion crow, starling, house sparrow, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, bullfinch and yellowhammer.

Big Bird Mart 2012

November 19, 2012 by  
Filed under Events

The Cajun Canary and Finch Club, Inc. is sponsoring a BIG BIRD MART on Saturday December 8, 2012, at the Jefferson Lions Club, 2920 Arlington Street, Jefferson, Louisiana. All proceeds from this family-fun event are being donated to bird research. Visitors can expected to see exotic birds, and buy cages, toys, feed, stands and more. $3.00 admission with children under 6 free. For more information email

Date: December 8, 2012
Venue: Jefferson Lions Club
City: Jefferson
State: Louisiana

Attracting Birds: Seed Preferences

July 6, 2010 by  
Filed under Birding Tips

There is no better way to decorate your garden than with a collection of wild birds that bring color and song to the trees and landscaped areas. Luring a variety of birds to a garden is not always as easy as it may sound. Most birds know exactly what they like and will travel to an area where they know they can eat their preferred seed or form of food. Fortunately, if you know what birds you want to attract, you can purchase the seeds and items that draw these species into your garden.

It is important to fill a variety of bird feeders and place them in different locations throughout the garden. This way birds will not be fighting to get to the food and a greater number of birds will frequent the feeders. Putting out their favorite foods is the best way to ensure that they will continue to return, and in winter bird feeders assist a great number of birds to survive the cold weather. Wild birds will not usually eat artificial pellets or processed seeds as they are not accustomed to them, so natural seeds are the key.

Sunflower seeds are generally a safe bet, as a wide variety of birds will eat them, such as chickadees, nuthatches, finches, cardinals, grosbeaks, sparrows, blackbirds, jays, woodpeckers and titmice. All these birds, with the exception of the sparrows, blackbirds, jays and woodpeckers, will also eat Safflower seeds. When trying to lure ducks, geese, mourning doves and quails, cracked corn will do the trick; and woodpeckers, titmice and chickadees are also known to eat unsalted peanuts. Nyjer (or Thistle) will attract redpolls, doves and pine siskins; while orioles, thrushes and hummingbirds prefer nectar. Fruit is another option to use in combination with seeds as mockingbirds, bluebirds, thrushes, cedar waxwings and orioles will enjoy the treat. The preferred food for juncos and towhees is millet. Setting out a mixture of seeds, fruits and nectar will have any garden filled with birds in no time, allowing home owners to enjoy the beauty of these winged creatures and relax to the melodies of their cheerful songs.

Feed the Birds Day 2009

August 14, 2009 by  
Filed under Events

On the 24th and 25th of October 2009, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds will be trying to offer more than a hundred locations for bird enthusiasts to get together to take part in the Feed the Birds Day 2009 project. Visitors to the event will learn how to take care of the wild birds in their gardens, being educated on food, nests and a variety of other ways the public can assist in the conservation and protection of wild birds, from the comfort of their own back yard.

For more information on your nearest venue location and the Feed the Birds Day 2009 initiative, kindly visit the Royal Society of the Protections of Birds website at or contact them on 01767 680 551 (office hours).

Date: 24 – 25 October 2009
Venue: Various
City: Various
Country: United Kingdom

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