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By Yvonne Kunz | 

Cardinal and White Throated Sparrow. Photo by Yvonne Kunz.

It’s early morning and I’m hanging up the bird feeders for the day. I hear my favorite winter bird singing in the trees. It’s a White Throated Sparrow singing his familiar “Oh, Sweet Canada” song. This is his idea of flying south for the winter. His crowd breeds up north into Canada (hmm, coincidence?). I fell in love with these chunky little sparrows years ago when I noticed one outside my bathroom window all fluffed up to keep warm. Their bold face pattern, which includes bright yellow spots between their eyes, makes them easy to pick out from other sparrows. 

 White Throated Sparrow. Photo by Yvonne Kunz. 

Not all birds seen in winter migrate here. Many of them live in the area year-round, however winter does bring on some subtle changes for the locals. Here are some examples.

Have you ever noticed that the male Northern Cardinal seems to become more vibrant as the days become longer? No, you’re not imagining it. When he gets his new red feathers in the fall, they end with gray tips. As the season wears on, the tips wear away, and the characteristic deep red emerges just in time for mating season.

Cardinal. Photos by Yvonne Kunz.

American Robins look the same in winter however their behavior changes. They look for food more in the trees than on the ground, making it seem like they have gone away for the winter. It turns out that they are opportunistic migrators and will stick around all year if they find what they need. Fortunately, there are a lot of resources in the area to keep them happy. And if you listen, especially around juniper trees, you can hear them chatting to each other. Sometimes in great numbers. 

The list of winter birds goes on and on. I’m sure you can name a few more. No matter the season, there’s always something beautiful to see and appreciate here in the Sourlands. Enjoy!

American Robin. Photo by Yvonne Kunz.