Department of Natural Resources
Just because the leaves have fallen from the trees and there is a chill in the air is no reason to put away your binoculars. Winter offers unique viewing opportunities. Many of our summer resident birds migrate to warmer summer climates. Still, there are several species of birds that migrate from Canada and find Michigan the perfect winter temperature. Winter is the only time several of these species can be found in Michigan.
Two of the largest migrants are the snowy owl and the great gray owl. Snowy owls can be found moving into Michigan during winter when the food supply on the arctic tundra is in short supply. Snowy owls have been recorded as far south as Lansing, Michigan. Because they rarely see humans on their northern homes, they are not timid and can be easily viewed for long periods of time. The great gray owl, while not as much a traveler, is more consistent in its visits to the eastern Upper Peninsula. They can be found in the northern woodlands hunting small rodents.
Some additional winter visitors to Michigan include the northern shrike, a relative to the loggerhead shrike, which is an endangered species in Michigan, pine grosbeak, and common redpoll.
Other species like the gray jay, red-breasted nuthatch, and pine siskin can be found during the summer in the Upper Peninsula, but extend their range southward in Michigan, making it easier for southern residents to find them.
Of course winter viewing requires some additional preparation, including clothing and knowing the best places to find our winter residents. Local birding groups are an excellent source of finding out where the most unusual visitors may be seen. One tip for using binoculars in the winter is to keep them warm. A cold pair of binoculars will quickly fog up when the eye pieces are placed against your warm face.