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Bird invasion headed to Northeast Ohio

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Posted at 6:09 PM, Nov 17, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-17 18:09:21-05

CONNEAUT, Ohio — Backyard birdwatchers better keep an eye on their bird feeders this month.

Something unusual is happening with our feathered friends from the north.

An unusual mass bird migration is occurring all across northern Ohio and surrounding states right now.

Birds that spend most of their time in Canada have been forced to migrate farther south and farther outside of their range due to a shortage of food across parts of Canada.

This sudden, unexpected increase in bird migration numbers is known as an "irruption."

By the end of October, huge flocks of grosbeak finches, numbering in the hundreds were observed all across greater Toronto and southern Ontario.

Now, in November, large groups of these birds are visiting backyard feeders in Michigan, New York State, and Northern Ohio.

According to the Tadoussac Bird Observatory in Quebec, this is the largest number of observed early fall-migrating grosbeaks in the last 20 to 25 years.

These aren't the only northern birds on the move. Larger-than-normal flocks of Pine Siskins have arrived early in huge numbers all around the lower Great Lakes. Purple finches, red-breasted nuthatches, and even tundra-loving redpolls are being spotted in larger numbers this fall.

What's forced these birds to move? These and many other northern bird species feed on seeds from northern evergreen trees. But this year, a spruce budworm outbreak in eastern Quebec has cut down evergreen seed production severely, which means the birds must fly farther and in larger numbers to search for food. Some grosbeaks have been seen as far south as Florida.

Evening grosbeaks are large yellow, white and black finches with large ivory beaks. The males are much brighter than females. They visit backyard feeders during the winter months to feast on sunflower seeds. During the summer, they breed in Canada and feed on insects.