Each September, the Finch Research Network predicts which birds in the boreal forests may irrupt and make their way south for the winter. Irruptions refer to the movement of northern-wintering species to the south in years of low food availability. The winter finch forecast is based on the food supply.  You can listen to an interview with the forecasters on You Tube . What follows is an excerpt of this year’s prediction.

The boreal forest has generally a poor to below average cone crop this year that is bookended with bumper cone crops in Alaska and Newfoundland. Coastal areas to the south on the Atlantic and Pacific coasts have above-average cone crops, which seem to quickly drop in quality as one progresses inland. Large areas of the boreal forest across interior Canada have a very poor to poor cone crop. Only the Alder crop appears to be above average across the boreal forest.

The southern edge of the eastern boreal forest from Lake Superior eastward to the Atlantic coast and southward to the northeastern states has extensive areas of bumper Eastern White Pine crop. This area also contains an above-average deciduous tree seed crop and excellent fruiting crop.

    • Pine Siskins are the bird you are most likely to see this winter. With the poor White Spruce crop in much of the boreal forest, there should be a moderate to possibly strong flight of Pine Siskins southward this fall.
    • In the east, many Purple Finches are expected to overwinter in southern Canada and the northeastern United States.
    • Eastward from Lake Superior is a bumper crop of fruit on Chokecherry, and above-average berry and deciduous seed crops. With a diverse and widespread food source available in the east, expect most Evening Grosbeaks to remain in the boreal forest and adjacent areas of Central Ontario, southern Quebec, the Maritime provinces, New England states, and New York this winter.
    • Most Pine Grosbeaks should remain in the eastern boreal forest with some flight into their traditional wintering areas in southeastern Canada and northern New England states.
    • Overall, Red and White-winged Crossbills may turn up in widespread areas in the east as winter progresses and boreal food is exhausted.
    • Above average alder crops and poor black and white spruce and white birch crops, indicate a moderate flight of Common and Hoary Redpolls is expected
    • In eastern North America, the deciduous tree crop appears above average, so expect a small to moderate flight of Blue Jays this fall.
    • Populations of Red-breasted Nuthatches in the boreal forest should have small flights this year. Balsam Fir in the boreal forest, which is not infested with Spruce Budworms, has a good cone crop. This crop should hold many nuthatches closer to home this winter.