29 • 10 • 2013

Passing birds visit Latvia’s forests and meadows

Autumn is the time when passing birds, for example – several species of ducks, visit Latvia accidently or on purpose on their way from colder northern lands much more often than during other seasons. Snow buntings, pine grosbeaks, two-barred crossbills, great grey owls, northern hawk-owls and Siberian jays also stop by once in a while.

Passing birds can be recognized due to their behaviour. Most of them are less afraid of humans than local birds. Try to spot them! The migration period will continue until the end of November or even December. During this period, many birds can be seen in uncharacteristic places, including cities. Waxwings are a typical example, as they can be frequently spotted near populated areas during migration. The first waxwings arrive in September or October, the rest – in November. They stay in Latvia until they run out of food. At that point, they continue their journey to warmer lands. The same goes for redpolls.

If winter is mild, a small but noticeable part of passing birds stay in Latvia – short-eared owls, long-eared owls, common buzzards, rooks, robins, linnets, wrens, chaffinches, hawfinches, Eurasian penduline tits, bearded reedlings, common starlings, fieldfares, blackbirds, white wagtails. Some water birds settle down near frost-free water bodies – common coots and moorhens, several species of ducks and gulls, a couple of species of grebes and swans, grey herons, great bitterns, water rails and common kingfishers. Weather conditions affect not only their decision to stay or migrate, but also the course of migration. It takes less effort to fly with a tailwind. Storms, heavy rains and blizzards force birds to suspend their flights. Indian summer is also the reason why many passing birds choose to stay in Latvia – favourable weather conditions are definitely worth regaining strength.


Some birds stay in Latvia year-round. They can be spotted not only in autumn, but also in other seasons. These include – Galliformes (except quails), Piciformes (except wrynecks), ravens, magpies, jays, tawny owls, rock doves, house sparrows, European crested tits, marsh tits, crested larks and yellowhammers. There are not that many species staying in Latvia year-round on a regular basis. However, there are quite many species which stay in Latvia during the cold period and travel or wander around during the remaining time. A considerable number of birds seen in Latvia during the cold period, representing those nesting and wintering in the country, are not local birds, they are guests from Russia, Finland and Estonia. Therefore a part of birds staying in Latvia and passing birds can be called seasonal wanderers – they do not leave their nesting areas, but travel specific routes and distances in autumn and winter. The harsher the weather, the more they wander. The list of wanderers includes bullfinches, great tits, coal tits, willow tits, blue tits, nuthatches, common treecreepers, Eurasian tree sparrows, European goldfinches, European greenfinches, goldcrests, long-tailed tits, Eurasian siskins, great grey shrikes, hooded crows, Eurasian jackdaws, ravens, several species of Strigiformes, white-tailed eagles, northern goshawks and Eurasian sparrowhawks. There are also occasional invasions by red crossbills, parrot crossbills, Eurasian jays and spotted nutcrackers.

The conclusion - there is a variety of birds in Latvia during the migration period. Migratory birds waiting to leave the country, migratory birds spending winter in Latvia, passing birds, birds staying in Latvia year-long, birds from colder regions wintering in Latvia and wanderers - all can be spotted during this period.