Song Birds - Sounds Wild
Winter Songbirds 2


Winter songbirds

Shortly after Christmas, a dozen robins descended on a snow covered graveyard in Juneau and began picking through the leaf litter beneath the bushes. During the cold, dark weeks that followed, the robins remained. Further north, in Fairbanks, people saw robins and a sharp-shinned hawk long after their brethren had migrated south for the winter.

Some birds, like most waterfowl, have a strong instinctive drive to migrate. Other birds, like herons, snowy owls and redpolls leave the North Country in winter only because food is scarce. They fly only as far as they need to - to find food and more favorable conditions, and return to their normal breeding areas as soon as they can.

A bird might stay in the north because it's injured in the fall and misses the window of opportunity to leave. A bird that hasn't stored up the necessary energy to migrate might stay because it lacks the reserves to make the trip.

Cold weather is not a problem for birds if they've got enough to eat. If a bird is in a place where the environment continues to meet its nutritional demands and other needs, there may be little incentive to leave. In Fairbanks in recent years a power plant on the Chena River has created a stretch of reliable open water that attracts a variety of ducks and other birds during the winter months.

A community like Fairbanks is an island of bird feeders in otherwise hungry country and can support an unusually high density of birds in winter. Robins, nuthatches and creepers were not even seen in the annual Christmas bird counts until the early 1980s, but they've been seen pretty consistently in recent decades.