Useful information about the amazing variety of birds that can be seen in the park, how to find them, helpful identification tips, and more.
BIRDS TO LOOK FOR IN NOVEMBER
As fall bird migration winds down and the warblers have all flown south, there are still some great birds to see in the park this season. The birds featured here all breed in our boreal forests and even on the arctic tundra, but they pass through Col. Sam Smith Park as they migrate into the central-southern U.S. for the winter.
Unless you’re planning a trip to the high arctic in summer, winter is the time to go looking for Snow Buntings. Look for these striking birds along the lakeshore, on the rocky piers and at the water's edge. When they forage they tend to crouch down and blend in extremely well with the ground; even if you don't think you see anything, give the ground a scan and look for movement. Snow Buntings are also restless during the winter and fly up every 10 minutes or so. Look for a flurry of black-and-white as they dash off to a new foraging spot. Inland, they can be found in large flocks in fallow grain fields and along roadsides.
Look for these birds, named for their long rear toenail, around Whimbrel Point and along the headlands. Often seen with Snow Buntings on inland fields but never in the same numbers, they forage for seeds directly on the ground.
Named for the “Pi-Pit!” call often given in flight, this sparrow-like bird can be seen gleaning insects off the rocks along the beach and the rocky piers along the shore. They can also be found in farm fields inland and catching invertebrates along sandy-edged streams and mudflats.
You can find Dark-eyed Juncos by walking around open, partially wooded areas with understory for cover. Check for them on the ground and listen for their twittering call or their trilling song. If they are flushed from the ground, look for an overall gray or dark brown bird with obvious, white outer tail feathers. The male looks like he’s ready for a black-tie dinner; the female is a softer grey.
American Tree Sparrow
Winter is the time to go looking for American Tree Sparrows—we just saw our first of the winter on November 7. Small flocks converge in the snow-swept fields and bird feeders, where they feast on seeds on the ground and in the old goldenrod. Their bicolored bill and central breast spot help them stand out from other sparrows. Despite their name, you'll probably find them foraging on the ground rather than feeding in trees.