The Birch Birds Came Back

by Carl Strang


Two days ago I described how the Mayslake paper birch had opened its cones and dropped some seeds. Yesterday morning that tree was the focus of attention for around 30 goldfinches and 30 pine siskins, all busily digging into the opening cones for dinner.




Goldfinches and siskins are close relatives, with goldfinches abundant DuPage County residents, and siskins mainly winter visitors from the North, though the odd pair has been known to nest locally. At this time of year, goldfinches are pale greenish yellow and white with darker wings, the males having molted out of their bright yellow summer plumage.




Pine siskins have bits of yellow here and there, but are distinctive with their dark stripes. The voices of these two finch species are different from one another as well, but I don’t believe I can describe the difference adequately in words. Seek out reference CD’s or a website with recordings of their calls, if you are interested.




The sudden appearance of so many of these birds brings out an observation I have made about Mayslake. The birds I encounter there have been highly variable from day to day. Yesterday I also saw the first American tree sparrows I have observed at that preserve. In both of my two previous office locations, Willowbrook and Fullersburg Woods Forest Preserves, tree sparrows have come and gone at widely spaced intervals through the winters. Tree sparrows do not make use of bird feeders as consistently as many other species. I am beginning to wonder if the variability of small winter birds at Mayslake is connected to the lack of bird feeders there. Willowbrook and Fullersburg both have feeders, and both have a more consistent presence of birds through the winter than I have observed at Mayslake so far. I resist drawing conclusions so soon, but I find myself asking whether birds undisturbed by human influences are inclined to wander over wider areas, so they appear in a given location less frequently.


There is more to report from yesterday at Mayslake. I’ll share the rest tomorrow.

%d bloggers like this: