Imagine a scene straight out of a wildlife documentary, or an AI-rendered, unreal-looking image: flocks of birds, normally seen only in remote northern forests, suddenly descend upon your backyard, filling the air with their calls and vibrant plumage. 

A dramatic, seasonal shift in bird populations is known as an irruption. Let's explore the meaning of this interesting bird term!

What causes irruption?

Bird irruptions are often triggered by fluctuations in food availability. When their usual food sources, like berries, insects, or lemmings, become scarce in their northern habitats, the birds embark on mass southward migrations in search of sustenance. This can happen due to factors like:

Mast years: When certain tree species produce a large, synchronized crop of seeds, it attracts irruptive species like crossbills and grosbeaks.

Insect outbreaks: A boom in insect populations in the north can lead to a subsequent decline as predators flourish, forcing birds to move south for alternative food sources.
Harsh winters: When winter weather arrives early, birds may be forced south to escape the harsh conditions and find food.

What species are affected?

While irruptions can occur with many different bird species, some are more prone to this behavior. Common irruptive birds include:

Finches: Common Redpolls, Pine Siskins, and Evening Grosbeaks are just a few of the species known for their dramatic southward surges in search of seeds and berries. Each year the Finch Research Network reveals a "Winter Finch Forecast" to discuss possible irruptive behavior of native finches and other species.

Owls: Snowy Owls, Northern Hawk Owls, and Great Gray Owls may irrupt southward when their prey populations decline in the north.

Nuthatches: Red-breasted Nuthatches are known for their irruptive movements, often exploring new territories in search of food.

The ecological impact

Bird irruptions can have significant ecological consequences. The influx of birds can disrupt local food webs, benefiting some species and putting pressure on others. Additionally, the introduction of new diseases or parasites from the irrupting birds can pose challenges for resident bird populations.

Flock of Pine Siskins feeding on seed [photo copyright "fishhawk" CC BY 2.0 Deed]

Despite the potential ecological impacts, bird irruptions offer a unique opportunity to observe birds outside their usual ranges. Many birdwatchers are delighted when seldom-seen species can be spotted regularly during the season.

Birdorable Gifts Featuring Irruptive Birds

2023 Bonanza Bird #10

The Crested Pigeon: A Shimmering and Whistling Wonder from Down Under

Today we're wrapping up our 2023 Birdorable Bonanza with a highfalutin cutie -- the Crested Pigeon!

The Crested Pigeon, native to Australia, is a striking bird with a notable, namesake crest on its head. Besides the crest, the pretty pidge can be recognized by shimmering spots on its wings that shine green and purple in sunlight

Crested Pigeons are also noted for a sound they make: when they take flight their wings make a whistling sound. This sound serves as more than just a flight signal; it plays a crucial role in their communication, especially as a warning call. The intensity of this whistle varies with the speed of their wing beats - the faster they flap, the more urgent the warning. Check out this video explaining how it works:

Found in lightly wooded and grassy areas across most of mainland Australia, the Crested Pigeon feeds on the ground, primarily consuming seeds and grains. This diet makes it an important player in seed dispersal, aiding in the health of its habitat's vegetation.

And ... that's a wrap!

Thanks for following along on our latest installment of the Birdorable Bonanza! In the last 10 days we added 10 new bird species to Birdorable. We now have 785 species in our flock. 🎉 Wow, that's a lot! You can browse all our 785 cute Birdorable birds on our Meet the Birds page and learn about each one.

Crested Pigeon (Flickr, CC BY 2.0 Deed, copyright © patrickkavanagh)

Cute Crested Pigeon gifts

2023 Bonanza Bird #9

Meet the Goliath Heron: The World's Largest Heron Species

Today we're adding a big bird to Birdorable. This bird is so big, it has a big word that means big in its name: it's the Goliath Heron! This massive wader is the world's largest species of heron!

The Goliath Heron is a massive bird, standing up to 5 feet tall with a wingspan that can exceed 7 feet in length! Besides its massive size, this bird has a striking, beautiful plumage.  The body has slate-gray feathers; the chest and belly are chestnut-colored, and streaky black stripes along the long neck are distinctive.

Most Goliath Herons are found in wetland habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, though its range extends to parts of Southwest and South Asia. The Goliath Heron is an expert fisher, and indeed its diet mainly consists of fish, but it also consumes amphibians, small mammals, and other small animals.

Goliath Heron (Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 Deed, copyright © Bernard DUPONT)

Cute Goliath Heron gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Get ready for a delightful new addition to our Birdorable family, known for its distinctive and stylish 'hairdo'! Native to Australia, this charming bird is as fashionable as it is fascinating, sporting a unique crest that's always on-trend. Not only is its appearance chic, but its wings make a distinctive whistling sound when it takes to the skies. Can you guess which avian trendsetter is joining our flock? Keep an eye out for tomorrow's reveal of this crested beauty! 

2023 Bonanza Bird #8

Discover the Black-throated Magpie-Jay: Mexico's Long-Tailed Wonder

Meet the latest addition to Birdorable: the Black-throated Magpie-Jay joins our cute cartoon corvid family today as our 2023 Bonanza rolls on!

Native to the northwestern regions of Mexico, particularly the states of Sinaloa and Nayarit, this striking bird is a visual treat with its vivid blue and white plumage and extraordinarily long tail – one of the longest of any type of corvid. Though they have a relatively small native range, the population is strong and the species is not considered to be threatened. Forest fragmentation may prove to be a problem for the species as human development expands.

The Black-throated Magpie-Jay is an omnivore; it enjoys a mix of insects, seeds, and fruits.

Black-throated Magpie-Jays are known for their vocal stylings. They can be loud and raucous when gathering in groups; sometimes their calls sound like parrots!

Cute Black-throated Magpie-Jay gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Tomorrow, we're unveiling a brand-new addition to the Birdorable family, and it's a real giant in the avian world! This majestic bird, known for its impressive size and striking appearance, is often crowned as the largest heron on the planet. With long legs, a powerful beak, and a statuesque presence, it's a sight to behold in its natural habitat. Can you guess which bird we're talking about? Stay tuned and visit our blog tomorrow for the big reveal of this Goliath addition!

2023 Bonanza Bird #7

The Red-Bellied Macaw: A Glimpse into the Colorful World of a Tropical Parrot

Today a species of Macaw joins Birdorable. The Red-bellied Macaw is our 15th species of Macaw.

The Red-bellied Macaw is a vibrant bird native to South America's tropical rainforests. Known for its bright green plumage, distinctive namesake red belly, and mustard-yellow bare face, this medium-sized parrot blends beautifully into the forest canopy.

This macaw primarily inhabits areas rich in palm trees, as its diet largely consists of the fruits and seeds of two different palm species (the moriche palm and the Caribbean royal palm). The bird's strong beak is especially adapted for cracking the hard, oily nuts of these plants, making it a specialized feeder within its ecosystem. Red-bellied Macaws also rely on palms for nesting -- they nest inside cavities of dead moriche palm trees.

Cute Red-bellied Macaw gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

This charismatic bird calls the woodlands and scrublands of Mexico and Central America home. It has an extraordinarily long tail, which is nearly the length of its body, making it one of the longest tailed birds in the world. Tomorrow, we'll reveal the identity of this beautiful jay. Can you guess which bird species we're featuring tomorrow?

2023 Bonanza Bird #6

Meet the White-Fronted Chat: A Cutie with a Striking Look from Down Under

Today a cutie with a striking look joins Birdorable: it's the White-fronted Chat!

The white-Fronted Chat is a small, eye-catching bird native to southern parts of Australia, notable for its distinctive appearance. The males are easily recognized by their white faces, bordered by a black border at the back of the neck, around the head, and across the bib.The black and white of the head contrasts nicely with their grey and white bodies. Females, though less vivid, share the characteristic white front which gives the species its name.

These birds inhabit open spaces like saltmarshes and coastal dunes across southern Australia, preferring open grasslands near water. They avoid dense forests, favoring areas where they can easily forage for their primary diet of insects and arthropods. This diet positions them as important players in controlling insect populations in their habitats.

White-fronted Chat by birdsaspoetry (CC BY 2.0)

Cute White-fronted Chat gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

This vibrant avian wonder hails from the lush rainforests of South America. It's known for its striking appearance, featuring a captivating mix of colors, including shades of red and green. Tomorrow, we'll reveal the identity of this tropical gem and share more about its habitat and habits. Can you guess which marvelous macaw we're featuring?

2023 Bonanza Bird #5

The Marvelous Spatuletail: A Tiny Bird with an Impressive Display

Our 2023 Birdorable Bonanza continues today with a tiny bird that makes a big impression with its impressive tail. It's the Marvelous Spatuletail!

Our newest addition to the Birdorable hummingbird family, this rare, endangered species is native to a small area in northern Peru, where it thrives in the humid montane forest habitat.

The most striking feature of the Marvelous Spatuletail is, naturally, its incredible tail. The males boast a spectacular tail with four elongated feathers, two of which end in spatula-like discs that they display in an intricate courtship dance. This dazzling feature sets them apart from any other bird species in the world.

Like most other species of hummingbird, the Marvelous Spatuletail primarily feed on nectar, fluttering from flower to flower with their long, slender beaks, and playing a crucial role in the pollination of these habitats.

The Marvelous Spatuletail is considered to be endangered, primarily due to habitat loss.

With the addition of this bird to our little flock, we now have 10 hummingbird species represented on Birdorable!

Cute Marvelous Spatuletail gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Are you ready to guess tomorrow's new Birdorable? This charming avian resident of southern Australia has a striking white face. It's often found in specific habitats, including open woodlands and grassy areas. Can you guess what bird it might be?

2023 Bonanza Bird #4

Discovering the African Openbill: A Stork's Unique Approach to Feeding

Today we continue our 2023 Birdorable Bonanza with the introduction of a unique species of stork found in parts of Africa. It's the African Openbill!

The African Openbill is certainly most notable for its namesake bill, which features a gap -- even when closed! This specialized beak is not merely a curious physical trait but a critical adaptation for its feeding habits. The African Openbill primarily feeds on aquatic snails and mollusks, skillfully using its gap-toothed bill to extract these creatures from their hard shells.

The African Openbill is one of about 20 (depending on the recognized taxonomy authority) species of stork in the world, and one of only two types with an open bill; the Asian Openbill is its closest relative.

African Openbill at Kruger National Park in South Africa

Cute African Openbill gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Get ready to meet our mystery bird for tomorrow! This tiny wonder is famous for its striking appearance, boasting an incredibly long and ornate tail that's truly marvelous.  Tomorrow, we'll unveil this avian gem and its mesmerizing features. Can you guess what bird it might be?

2023 Bonanza Bird #3

Introducing the Egyptian Goose: A Striking Waterfowl of Africa and Beyond

Today our Birdorable Bonanza continues with the addition of a striking species of waterfowl. We proudly welcome the Egyptian Goose to our cute bird family!

This is an intriguing and elegant bird that gracefully swims in the waterways of Africa and elsewhere. Originating from the Nile Valley, the species has extended its range to parts of Europe and other spots around the world.

This striking species, with its distinctive eye patches and chestnut-colored markings, is a great bird to find against the backdrop of rivers, lakes, and wetlands -- the freshwater habitats it prefers.

Despite its name, the Egyptian Goose is not a true goose but rather a member of the shelduck family. This adaptable bird, now found as far afield as parts of Europe, is known not only for its beauty but also for its assertive demeanor, especially when it comes to protecting its territory.

Cute Egyptian Goose gifts

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Tomorrow's new Birdorable bird is an African resident known for its distinctive bill, specially adapted for a unique diet. It prefers wetlands, swamps, and shallow waters, where it can be spotted. Despite its monochromatic plumage, there's a certain elegance to its appearance. Tomorrow, we'll unveil this remarkable bird and its specialized bill. Can you guess what bird it might be?

2023 Bonanza Bird #2

Exploring the Charms of the Bokmakierie: Southern Africa's Singing Bush-Shrike

Today a striking bird from southern Africa joins Birdorable. It's the Bokmakierie!

The Bokmakierie is a vibrant and charismatic bird that's as interesting as it is melodious.

Native to Southern Africa, the Bokmakierie is a bush-shrike, known for its striking yellow and green plumage and a loud, melodious call. The name 'Bokmakierie' actually mimics the sound of its song, which is a unique way nature names itself! This bird is not only a visual treat with its bright colors but also an auditory delight. Its duets, often performed in pairs with a far-carrying voice and liquid-like song in a back-and-forth pattern, are a common and cheerful presence in scrublands and open grasslands of South Africa.

Once a pair of Bokmakierie get together, both the male and female are involved in building their nest, which is a neat cup shape hidden in dense bushes. They work together from incubation to raising their young, which is a beautiful example of teamwork in the wild.

In a world that's increasingly urban, the Bokmakierie reminds us of the diverse and vibrant life that thrives in the wilderness. If you ever find yourself in the South African bushveld, listen out for the distinctive call of the Bokmakierie. It's not just a call; it's a song that narrates the story of the untamed African landscapes.

Cute Bokmakierie gifts

Bokmakierie at Aghulas National Park in South Africa

Guess tomorrow's bird ...

Get ready to meet our mystery bird for tomorrow! This bird is named after a country. Originally hailing from the wetlands and savannas of Africa, it's made a remarkable journey and can now be found in various parts of the world. Can you guess what bird it might be?