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Winter Bird Scavenger Hunt

Wacky Fun With Winter Birds


Winter is a fabulous time for birding, and even experienced birders can be surprised at how many different birds and bird behaviors they are able to see on cold, dreary days. Getting outside to watch birds in the winter is a great way to involve kids in nature and get exercise to work off holiday meals or combat seasonal depression, and this winter bird scavenger hunt can help you have even more fun with winter’s birds. How many of these winter birds and bird-related behaviors and items can you find?

1. Bird in Its Winter Range

Sandhill Crane Flock
D. Sikes

The best way to learn that winter has arrived is to find a bird that isn’t normally in the area except when the weather turns cold. Many migratory bird species head south for the winter, and once those migrants arrive, winter is well on its way.

Learn More: All About Bird Ranges

2. Bird in Winter Plumage

Winter American Goldfinch

Another great type of bird to find in winter is one you might not immediately recognize because it is not sporting its beautiful summer colors. Birds with the brightest plumage, such as American goldfinches, use those bold colors and markings to attract mates, but they often molt into more camouflaged coats in winter.

Learn More: Bird Plumages

3. Irrupting Bird Species

Common Redpoll Thumbnail

Bird irruptions are unpredictable but can be amazing for birders to witness. These irregular, dramatic migrations may be triggered by overpopulation, depleted food supplies or other natural causes, but they can bring northern species such as bohemian waxwings, common redpolls or snowy owls easily into the range of birders who might not otherwise see these fantastic birds.

Learn More: What Are Bird Irruptions?

4. Bald Eagle

Bald Eagle
Liam Quinn

The bald eagle – the national bird of the United States – is an instantly recognizable icon and one of the most widespread winter raptors. The bird’s plain white head and tail contrast sharply with its dark brown body and make it easy to identify, and seeing these outstanding birds in their huge winter flocks wherever fish is plentiful can be the highlight of a birding trip.

Learn More: Types of Raptors

5. Birds Eating Suet

Chickadee on Suet
Robert Taylor

Suet is a high fat food for birds and the perfect winter treat to give them plenty of energy to withstand cold temperatures and icy storms. There are many ways to offer suet to birds in your backyard, whether you choose plugs, balls, cakes or crumbles, and with the right suet you’ll soon see chickadees, nuthatches, woodpeckers and more enjoying the meal.

Learn More: Types of Suet

6. Birds Eating Nyjer

Pine Siskins at Sock Feeders
Will Sweet

Tiny black Nyjer seeds are another favorite of winter birds because of their high oil content, and finches especially adore this seed. Fill a mesh sock with Nyjer and you’ll soon have siskins, redpolls and goldfinches and other small birds flocking to the feast.

Learn More: How to Offer Nyjer to Backyard Birds

7. A Bird Eating Snow

Frozen Bird Bath

Birds will melt snow or ice particles in their bills to serve as drinking water in the winter, but doing so takes up a lot of energy. Providing a heated bath or other liquid source of water will help the birds have the fluid they need without expending energy they need to maintain their body temperature, forage for food or escape hungry winter predators.

Learn More: Heated Bird Bath Tips

8. A Bird Keeping Warm

Winter Cardinal
Chris Williamson

Birders need to be sure they have the proper winter birding gear before venturing out in the coldest months, but birds don’t put on extra attire for this icy season. Instead, watch for birds taking extra steps to keep warm by sunning, fluffing up or roosting together to conserve body heat, or give them a helping hand by providing winter bird shelters in your backyard.

Learn More: How Wild Birds Keep Warm in Winter

9. Huge Bird Flock

European Starling Flock
Les Chatfield

Many birds that prefer to be on their own or just in pairs during the breeding season will gather in tremendous flocks of hundreds or thousands of birds during the winter. Mixed flocks are also common, when birds of different species stick together and forage in the same areas.

Learn More: Why Birds Flock

10. Birds in Coniferous Trees

Winter Quail
john norton

Coniferous trees are popular holiday decorations, but birds decorate these trees naturally all winter long. From feasting on pine nuts and seeds to roosting in the sheltered branches of an evergreen tree, there are many birds that will take advantage of pine trees, whether in a boreal forest or your own backyard.

Learn More: Trees for Birds

11. Edible Seed Feeders

Birdseed Ornament
Melissa Mayntz

Edible bird seed feeders are popular holiday gifts and are perfect for decorating a Christmas tree for the birds. Available in a wide range of shapes such as seed wreaths, bells, penguins, balls, stockings and more, these are a festive seasonal accent to your bird feeding station, and one your birds will love.

Learn More: Make Homemade Birdseed Ornaments

12. Christmas Bird Count Event

Robin Holly

From mid-December to early January, the Christmas Bird Count is an organized census of winter bird populations and a fun seasonal tradition for many birders. A full day of winter birding awaits participants, and each group is led by experienced birders. Join in, and learn more about winter birding!

Learn More: How to Count Birds

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