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Finch Family Visitors

Members of the Finch family (Fringillidae) from farther north have begun showing up at feeders and fruit trees, as was predicted.   Pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, pine grosbeaks, common redpolls and even a few red crossbills have ventured down into southern New England in search of food.  The latest arrivals in the Upper Valley (VT/NH) were pine grosbeaks (male pictured).  The mountain-ash berry crop is spotty further north, so pine grosbeaks have come south in search of  European mountain-ash trees as well as ornamental crabapples. Invasive buckthorn redeems itself somewhat by producing berries that pine grosbeaks also find appealing.

7 responses

  1. Kathy Schillemat

    Unfortunately, eating the buckthorn berries helps to spread this terribly prolific invasive. It a two edged sword.

    November 13, 2012 at 2:58 pm

  2. grace St. Laurent

    Hi Mary…I do hope they find there way to central Maine area, it has been years since I have seen the Evening Grosbeak , I do occasionally see the Pine thought!!
    The berries and fruits seem to be low here after last year bumper crop…seems to be very heavy year for pine cones and acorns though!!
    I did get a flock invasion of Pine Siskins, but they didn’t stay long!!
    Have a good day !

    November 13, 2012 at 3:17 pm

  3. Pat Shields

    I have always thought that, although birds liked them, buckthorn berries were not nutritious and even a diarrheic. Is this not true?

    November 13, 2012 at 3:27 pm

    • Hi Pat,
      There is precious little information available on the nutritional value of European buckthorn fruit, and I honestly don’t know how much it contributes to a bird’s well-being. It definitely does have a laxative effect, and certainly birds are one of the main dispersal agents of this plant.

      November 13, 2012 at 4:04 pm

  4. Grady

    In Washington, DC, we have a Hawthorne tree, now in full fruit with pale orange berries. I’ve never seen birds eat the berries, though they gorge on the nearby Holly tree berries. I’d be grateful for any explanation you may have for why Hawthorne berries are not eaten.

    November 13, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    • Hi Grady,
      I can’t really answer your question, other than to say that hawthorn fruits aren’t eaten by wildlife as much as you would think. Fox sparrows and cedar waxwings are the principal songbird eaters of hawthorn fruit. Pine grosbeaks, robins, turkeys, pheasant and grouse do eat them, but to a much lesser extent. On the other hand, holly is high on the list of bluebirds, catbirds, mockingbirds, robins, yellow-bellied sapsuckers, hermit thrushes and brown thrashers. I don’t know the reason for this preference, I’m afraid.

      November 13, 2012 at 5:42 pm

      • Grady

        Since my note I did see a Mockingbird in the Hawthorne, but can’t confirm it was eating berries. Thanks for the impressive detail. I’m sure you saw the NYT piece today about the impact of Sandy on migratory patterns. Fascinating! G

        November 13, 2012 at 6:44 pm

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