We all know that birds can migrate great distances each year from their breeding territory to wintering grounds. Usually, we think of them going to nice warm places to spend the winter. But for some birds, Kentucky is far enough to fly to find food for the winter. If you look around, you may find some of our winter visitors. For example, the Reformatory Lake, seen from Wendell Moore Park in LaGrange, sometimes hosts small Cackling Geese among the hundreds of larger Canada Geese, looking for open water on the lake. Compare the size of the bills. The Cackling Geese are shorter and have much smaller bills.
Juncos in your backyard are a sure indicator that winter has arrived. These birds are ground feeders, hopping around at the base of your backyard feeders.
The White-crowned Sparrow and White-throated Sparrow can be a bit confusing sometimes, since both have dark stripes on their heads. However, the White-throated has, of course, a conspicuous white throat and yellow spot by the eyes. The male sings “Oh Sam Peabody” or as some people interpret it, “Oh Sweet Canada, Canada, Canada.”
My favorite visiting sparrow is the red Fox Sparrow. It is larger than most sparrows and hops on the ground, scratching for seeds.
Watch for the Horned Lark in open fields. You can barely hear the soft ti-ti of their call, but the black check and ear marks are distinctive. Look closely for their tiny little horns.
The Ohio River is attractive to many different kinds of water fowl since it doesn’t freeze in the winter. The White-winged Scoter has a really unusually shaped bill. You don’t have to give up birding just because it’s winter. Be sure to dress warmly, and you will find lots of unusual birds!