February 25, 2014

Visiting Some Winter Visitors

While many familiar birds leave Ohio in the fall and head south, for other birds this IS the south! For example, many of our winter robins breed north of here, and most local backyard feeders host white-throated sparrows and northern juncos from the north during the winter. Other winter visitors rarely appear at suburban feeders, but instead stay out in the open fields that closely resemble their summer homes in the tundra. A farm north of Delaware, Ohio has fed and hosted such field birds for the last 20 winters, and this year the flocks are truly remarkable. Recently we checked it out with a group of friends.

This is the sight that greeted us when we arrived:

Looks a lot like the tundra! The birds that you see in the picture are a very small fraction of the thousands of birds that were taking advantage of the 50 pounds of cracked corn that the property owner distributes every day. Most of them were snow buntings, with substantial numbers of lapland longspurs and horned larks mixed in:

On the left on this picture is a snow bunting, and on the right is a lapland longspur:

Below is a horned lark, staring at the camera. There isn't much doubt as to how it got its name! Horned larks comb Ohio fields for seeds and other food all year, but snow buntings and longspurs breed far to the north.

Here is a sight that not many folks have seen--snow buntings high in a tree! These field birds simply don't often leave the ground to look for food, but these snow buntings appeared to be eating silver maple flower buds:

Here are a few more pictures from this icy morning:

For excellent pictures and more information about this remarkable flock, head on over to Ohio Birds and Biodiversity.


  1. That's so neat about the farmers feeding the birds. I saw my first robin last Friday! We've been talking about the need to feed the birds more right now; everything is still covered with about a foot of hard packed snow. Any suggestions? I don't want to spread corn because that will just draw all the neighborhood squirrels!