Winter Birds

by SH

Every year we eagerly wait the return of the birds that spend the winter with us.  It isn’t that we get tired of the birds that stay here year round but we like some new (yet somewhat familiar) faces.  In Arkansas a large portion of the winter birds are Sparrows and Waterfowl.  However, there are several outside of these families that stay the winter.  Here is an overview of some of the winter birds we have sorted quasi-taxonomically:

  • Ducks/Geese:  Many Ducks or Geese that can be seen in North America can be seen in Arkansas during the winter.  We have seen none this season, not counting the year-round Canada Goose.
  • Coots/Grebes/Loons:  Even though the American Coot and the Pied-billed Grebe are here year round they are a lot more common in the winter.  We also get Eared Grebe, Horned Grebe, and Common Loon, none of which have been seen yet.
  • Hawks/Eagles:  There are three that fit this category: Sharp-shinned Hawk, Northern Harrier, and Bald Eagle, all of which have been seen this season.
  • Shorebirds/Gulls:  There are many migrant shorebirds that sometimes seem content to stay the winter in Arkansas (like the Greater Yellowlegs of 2010 on Lake Saracen) but the main wintering shorebird is the Wilson’s Snipe accompanied by the gulls:  Ring-billed, Bonaparte’s and Herring.  The Herring Gull and the Snipe have not been seen yet.
  • Owls:  The Short-eared and Long-eared come hear for the winter but both are somewhat uncommon and the Long-eared would be a lifer.
  • Woodpeckers:  The only wintering woodpecker is the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker and it has not been seen yet.
  • Creepers,Nuthatches, Wrens, Kinglets, and Thrushes: These birds spruce up the wooded areas in the winter.  We get Brown Creepers, Red-breasted Nuthatches, Winter Wren, Ruby-crowned, Golden-crowned Kinglet, and Hermit Thrush.  All of these have been seen.
  • Waxwings and Warblers:  These two aren’t very closely related but we’ll group them together for now.  These are berry eating fiends in the winter and include:  Cedar Waxwing (got), Yellow-rumped Warbler (got), and Orange-crowned Warbler (not).  We get a lot of Pine Warblers from the north but keep a couple year round.
  • Sparrows:  A very large group.  The ones we don’t have include:  Savannah, Vesper, LeConte’s, Lincoln’s, and Lapland Longspur (not technically a sparrow anymore).
  • Blackbirds:  The Rusty and Brewer’s can be seen in large flocks (sometimes mixed with other blackbirds).  Neither have been seen yet.
  • Finches:  The birds are unpredictable and don’t always migrate to the same place from year to year.  The two seen consistently are Purple Finch and Pine Siskin but neither have been seen.



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