Of the many feathered friends in Idaho, songbirds hold a particular interest to birdwatchers, and watching them doesnt end during winter.
Native species such as American robin, pine siskin, dark-eyed junco, house finches, and cedar waxwing congregate at backyard bird feeders, or in their natural habitat, and wait out winter.
Food and security are the biggest factors that determine if birds stay in Idaho for the winter or go south.
Many bird species we see throughout the spring, summer and fall are considered neotropical migrants.
They live in North America and fly as far as South America for winter. On the other end of the spectrum are the short-distance or elevational migrants.
This bunch will relocate short distances due to local weather conditions, such as extreme cold or deep snow.
An example would be the birds you see around your feeders or other areas where birds congregate.
Birds that rely on insects and fruits, such as warblers, tanagers, buntings and thrushes, are among those that fly south because they have to find warmer temperatures that produce their food.
Raptors, such as hawks, falcons and eagles, also winter in local areas where they can hunt for prey or scavenge.
But other birds of prey, such as ospreys, have a harder time finding food so they migrate south.
Closer to home, bird feeders provide year-round sources of food for some birds, though it may not be enough to ensure you hear sweet music throughout the winter.
Different feed attracts different types of birds, so if you mix your feeders, you will attract a larger variety of birds, but you wont see all of them. What you see will change with the seasons.
Keep your feeders clean and well maintained so they are sanitary. Its possible to harm birds if your feed gets moldy or otherwise contaminated.
If bird watching is a favorite pastime of yours, there are a lot of opportunities during the winter.
The Boise River and the Greenbelt host many winter residents.
During spring and summer most species arriving from the south are generally the fruit-and-insect eaters previously mentioned.
These little fellows dont use feeders as their main source of food, but place an orange slice on a feeder and you may be surprised what shows up. Even orioles have been known to make appearances.
If you want to learn more about resident and migratory birds in the area, visit the Idaho Bird Observatory during late summer and fall.
The observatory is high in the Boise Foothills where the timber gives way to the Snake River Plain. The geography and habitat of the site are unique, and it concentrates birds as they move southward through the state.
Its a place where birds pause to fuel up, and you can learn which ones move from the mountains to the valleys, or from North America to Mexico, Central or South America.
The Idaho Bird Observatory has been researching the migration of birds for nearly 20 years, and you can learn more about it at idahobirdobservatory.org.
Mark Krepps is a freelance writer, author and blogger. He has lived in Idaho for 16 years.
Many species spend the cold-weather months right here in Idaho.