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Are you seeing fewer birds this winter?

'Birds will go where there is food and this winter there were few cones and beechnuts here'

People who keep watch say there are fewer birds wintering in the North Bay area this year.

Results of the North Bay Christmas Bird Count, conducted by the Nipissing Naturalists Club's Bird Wing, show Blue Jay numbers down for example. Only 53 were found in this count, compared with 195 in 2021. However, there have been other low counts.  In 2016, only 39 were seen, but as many as 665 have been seen in other years.

No owls, Canada Jays, Golden-crowned Kinglets, Purple Finch, Red Crossbills, White-winged Crossbills and, surprisingly, no Snow Buntings were seen in the count taken in December.

It is a count that has taken place in North Bay for the last 44 years. You can check out the Christmas Bird Count on Nipissing Naturalists Club’s website.

See: Local bird count spots 37 bird species and 3449 individual birds

"It is not a great winter for birds," says Renee Levesque, Bird Wing Scribe and Coordinator. "Birds will go where there is food and this winter there were few cones and beechnuts here. If you take a drive or a walk through a conifer area, you probably won't notice many cones, if any.  It is why this winter we aren't seeing many Blue Jays, for example, a bird we see a lot more frequently in other winters."

Levesque tells BayToday that bird feeders are really important when the forest doesn't have much food. It's just not the winter for many birds here. 

"In my yard, I am getting 4 to 5 Blue Jays a day, whereas in the past up to 10 or more a day."

Levesque's suggestion of putting out a feeder is a good one.

The Finch Research Network gives these tips.

  • Regularly clean feeders. The most effective way to clean bird feeders is a combination of washing them with dish soap and then soaking them in a 9:1 bleach solution (i.e., 9 qt water to 1 qt bleach) for fifteen minutes. This should be done at least monthly.

  • If you have extra feeders, rotate them out with dry food as you clean the other feeders. Or put up fewer feeders—only the amount you can regularly maintain—and spread them out to reduce the concentration of birds. Be sure to let the feeders dry out before restocking, and always remember to wash your hands as well.

  • Clean areas under feeders frequently. Keep the feeding area clean by regularly raking up shells and droppings from under feeders.

Looking to attract Blue Jays to your feeder?
Here are some favourite foods:
  • Peanuts Mealworms, fresh or dried
  • Suet cakes, shreds, nuggets, or suet butter
  • Sunflower seeds of any type
  • Cracked corn or whole corn kernels
Remember, Blue Jays are big birds so find a feeder that fits.

Jeff Turl

About the Author: Jeff Turl

Jeff is a veteran of the news biz. He's spent a lengthy career in TV, radio, print and online, covering both news and sports. He enjoys free time riding motorcycles and spoiling grandchildren.
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