In the News

Grab your fleece and head into the parks for birding!

January 30, 2019

As our weather gets colder, resist the urge to stay indoors! Grab your fleece and your binoculars because winter months offer a rich opportunity to head into the parks and look for birds.

Chris Kubiak, director of education at Audubon Society of Western PA has been a birder for 25 years and he leads weekly bird-sighting walks.

So what birds does he spy? “The vast majority will be resident species, birds that are here year-round: Chickadees, Titmice, Red-bellied and Downy Woodpeckers, Lincoln’s and Song Sparrows. If you are hiking near water, you’ll see water fowl such as Great Blue Herons and Kingfishers,” he said.

The Dark-eyed Junco is an example of a bird that overwinters in our region, meaning they migrate here to avoid the colder climate of Canada. “They move through here in early fall and winter. They are very distinct and are one of the most common,” Kubiak said.

 He urges birders to look for White-throated Sparrows, which have a distinct whistle. “They sound like they are singing ‘OLD SAM PEABODY, PEABODY, PEABODY.’ They are relatively easy to find, especially near feeders,” he said.  

Two less common birds to look for are the Golden-crowned Kinglets and Brown Creepers. The Kinglets will have a bright gold crown and orange mid-section and weighs as little as two dimes put together.  
The Brown Creeper is rarer and can be found on tree trunks. They spiral up trees looking for insects. Insects lay eggs under the bark and both bird species will be seen dining on them all winter long.

Can an amateur birder have any luck finding birds on a casual weekend walk in the woods? “You certainly can! Birds are pretty ubiquitous. Urban settings won’t have as much diversity but if you pick habitats such as Beechwood Farms where we have a meadow, you’ll find more species, such as Bluebirds, which have certain habitats that require meadows,” he said.

Kubiak has a particular fondness for North Park because he grew up closest to that county park. But he has traveled in many of Allegheny County’s nine parks and said they attract a wide range of winter birds. He’s had lots of experience particularly in Deer Lakes and Harrison Hills parks, both very popular with bird aficionados.

Kubiak recommends two resources for anyone interested in taking a closer look at local birding. Author David Allen Sibley’s The Sibley Field Guide to Birds of Eastern North America: Second Edition will have photos and descriptions of every bird you’ll find in the Allegheny County Parks. He also suggests checking out Cornell University’s website, The Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It is rich in detail and offers recordings of bird songs, which can be helpful before heading into the woods. 

ASWP partnered with the Allegheny County Parks Foundation on the installation of 100 Chimney Swift Habitat Towers in our parks and they offer a great resource for regional information about birds. If you'd like to join our citizen monitoring program, read  all about it here! Click here to see ASWP's website and to find their walk schedule. The county Parks Department also offers lots of opportunities for learning more about birds, including Ranger hikes, Nature Center programming and how to make bird feeders. Check out the Fall/Winter Program Guide here!  

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