While we anxiously await the official arrival of spring, birds have already set the ball in motion. Bird song is noticeable, with Cardinals, chickadees and nuthatches actively calling. Downy Woodpeckers are drumming away to proclaim territory and a variety of resident species are pairing up for the season ahead.
There are other signs too. Some birds that have wintered down south are already on the move. In the past two weeks you may have noticed the appearance of Purple Finches at your feeders. Some thought these birds were late winter arrivals from the north but they are actually early return visitors from the south. Most Purple Finches left the country in early fall so their appearance means that we are on the road to spring. Male Purple Finches are similar to our resident male House Finches but on close examination the colour is purplish-red and is more extensive. The sparrow-like females are similar to female House Finches but have a broad whitish stripe above the eye, heavier breast markings and a slightly peaked rather than rounded head. Peaked feathers on the male can be exaggerated during courtship.
By Brian Morin
Publisher of Ontario Birding News