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Posted 2/22/23

Winter is a good time to go birding, even if you would think it’s not.

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Web-footed friends


Winter is a good time to go birding, even if you would think it’s not. 

It’s true that on average, there is less food available, due to the cold weather; many species migrate south to warmer climes. Yet there are some individuals of a given species that head south, while other individuals of the same species stay put and winter in the region. The Canada goose is a good example; we see huge flocks fly over during the fall, yet there are many to be seen locally over the course of the winter.

To find birds during winter, find their food source. For waterfowl, that means a waterway that is not frozen. During most winters, that usually means the Delaware or Mongaup rivers in places where water flow is sufficient to inhibit ice formation (these areas are usually good spots to find wintering eagles as well). 

Waterfowl such as common mergansers are piscivores, or fish eaters; they are diving ducks and are good underwater swimmers. Many species of waterfowl are dabbling ducks; they feed on the surface, or reach down by tipping their body to grab food off the shallow bottom. Dabbling ducks forage mainly on plants, insects or other invertebrates.

During the winter, dabbling ducks may be found close to shore, where it is shallow enough for them to reach the bottom and forage. Diving ducks could be anywhere on the open water of the river; they are usually found in deeper sections where there may be more fish. 

It’s fun to watch for eagles and be able to see varied species of waterfowl as well. Occasionally, an eagle might try to grab a duck, but usually the eagle will be an inexperienced one- or two-year-old immature eagle. 

Waterfowl are difficult for eagles to catch, and adults usually do not spend the time and energy required. It’s easier for an eagle to catch fish, but if you do see an eagle vs. duck encounter, it is entertaining to watch.

winter, birding, waterfowl


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