The white-throated sparrow is one of many Kentucky birds you'll find in winter. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Kentucky Birding by Season: Winter

Winter birds of Kentucky (December, January, February)

By early December, most of our winter songbirds have arrived, but waterbirds continue to pass through, especially if the weather has been mild.  Several species of northern forest birds are cyclical in their appearance in Kentucky during winter, including red-breasted nuthatches and finches like purple finches, pine siskins, evening grosbeaks, and crossbills.  For more than a decade most of these species have not occurred in any great numbers, but any year of low seed production up north could spell a banner year for “northern finches” in the Bluegrass State.

January and early February typically offer the coldest weather of Kentucky’s winter and spells of harsh temperatures and snowfall often result in temporary southward flights of “midwinter” species like common merganser, several different northern gulls, American tree sparrows, and snow buntings.  These are times when feeder watching can prove most enjoyable.  As winter wanes, food sources begin to “dry up” and birds begin searching harder and harder for food. Late January and February snows typically bring in the greatest numbers and diversity of birdlife to area feedering stations. White-throated and song sparrows, dark-eyed juncos, red-bellied and downy woodpeckers, white-breasted nuthatches, and American goldfinches are just a few of the species that are regularly attracted to feeding stations.

As winter weather begins to break, the cycle begins again, and Kentucky bird watcher’s thoughts turn to warm spring days and songs of migrants arriving from the tropics!

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