WILD GEORGIA: Many birds move to state for winter

The cedar waxwing, common statewide in Georgia during winter, is called North America's "most elegant bird" because of its striking brown and yellow plumage and bright red wing tips. (Courtesy of Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons)

Credit: Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons

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The cedar waxwing, common statewide in Georgia during winter, is called North America's "most elegant bird" because of its striking brown and yellow plumage and bright red wing tips. (Courtesy of Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons)

Credit: Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons

Credit: Judy Gallagher/Creative Commons

Georgia’s Neotropical songbirds — tanagers, thrushes, buntings, swallows, vireos and most warbler species — that nested here in spring and summer have by now migrated to their winter homes in Central and South America.

Another group of migratory birds, however, is coming in to replace them — the so-called “winter birds” that breed mostly up north. In the fall, they migrate only as far south as Georgia and some other Southern states to spend the winter.

Here are some of Georgia’s winter species:

• Cedar waxwing. Rare nester in Georgia’s mountains, but becomes common statewide in winter. Known as North America’s “most elegant bird.”

• Golden-crowned kinglet. Becomes Georgia’s tiniest bird in winter when ruby-throated hummingbirds are gone.

• Ruby-crowned kinglet. Slightly larger than its cousin. May visit suet feeders.

• Yellow-rumped warbler. Abundant winter resident. Sometimes known as “butter-butt”; may visit suet feeders.

• Yellow-bellied sapsucker. Migratory woodpecker that drills “sap wells” in tree trunks in winter. Other birds also may feed at wells.

• Orange-crowned warbler. Commonly feeds at sapsucker wells.

• Hermit thrush. Only thrush species staying in North America during winter.

• White-throated sparrow. Abundant in winter. May come to bird feeders. May sing its “Old Peabody, Peabody, Peabody” song.

• White-crowned sparrow. Less abundant; larger and stands more erect than white-throat.

• Swamp sparrow. Common winter resident; prefers wetland habitats.

• Savannah sparrow. Also common across Georgia in winter.

• Dark-eyed junco. Often called “snow bird.”

• American pipit. May go unnoticed because dull, brown-and-bluff plumage blends into landscape.

• Brown creeper. Creeps up trees in search of insects.

• Northern harrier. Common raptor in most of the state during winter.

• Pine siskin, purple finch, red-breasted nuthatch: “irruptive species” that may — or may not — show up in winter.

In addition, more than 15 duck species may overwinter in Georgia, as well as the common loon.

IN THE SKY: From David Dundee, Tellus Science Museum astronomer: The moon will be last quarter next weekend. Venus is high in the west at dusk. Jupiter and Saturn are in the west at dark.

Charles Seabrook can be reached at charles.seabrook@yahoo.com.