116th Christmas Bird Count Canada Summary

Christmas Bird Count reports were submitted for 459 Canadian counts this past season – one shy of the record total set the previous year. There were 14 new counts: Gregoire Lake, Pigeon Lake-Battle Lake, and Stoney Plain, AB; Inglis, MB; Salisbury, NB; Igloolik, NU; Frontenac, Matachewan, Pike Bay, Peach Tree, Rainy River, and Sandbanks, ON ; Boileau, QC; and, Ponteix, SK. Several regular counts did not run this year, at least in some cases because of the way the dates fell which resulted in only a single weekend in count period before Christmas.

The weather leading up to and during the count period always plays a big role in the results and this year was no exception. The big El Niño effect was in full force, manifesting in well above-normal temperatures for most of the country. The mild winter weather continued throughout the count period for most areas, resulting in numerous records of lingering migrants. In the east, however, one of the biggest factors was a winter storm that hit on the first weekend of the count period. This resulted in many of those counts doing more poorly than one would have expected given the number of lingering birds known to be around before and after counts.

British Columbia coastal counts topped the species richness list as usual. Victoria (141 species) took its turn on top. As usual, Halifax-Dartmouth (105 species) had the highest species count on the Atlantic coast. Oliver-Osoyoos, BC (110 species) kept up its reputation as the most diverse inland count, though this was a squeaker with Blenheim, ON (109 species). Other provincial high counts are listed in Table 1. At the other end of the diversity spectrum and at the dark, northern edge of the country, Arctic Bay and Igloolik, NU both reported only a single species: Common Raven. Common Raven retained its spot as the most widespread species on Canadian counts, reported in 418 of 459 count areas. This was followed closely by Black-capped Chickadee (402), Downy Woodpecker (393), Hairy Woodpecker (380), and Red-breasted Nuthatch (362).

The totals for the 15 most abundant species on Canadian counts are presented in Table 2. Many species mirrored counts from the 2012-13 year which was similarly mild – and in sharp contrast to the early cold of the previous two years. Canada Goose, Ring-billed Gull, and Snow Goose, in particular, saw very sharp increases over their most recent counts.

Amazingly, we saw another impressive southward flight of Snowy Owls into southern Canada, which caused considerable excitement. While the numbers weren’t quite as high as the prior year (573 birds on 129 counts) or the year before (527 individuals on 113 counts), the 324 Snowies on 97 counts was still an excellent result. One of these years very soon we are going to be disappointed when they stay north!

 

Table 1. 116th Christmas Bird Count Summary / Tableau 1. Résumé du 116e Recensement des oiseaux de Noël

 

 

Counts

Species

Individuals

Field Observers

Feeder-watchers

Highest Species Total

AB

55

120

283,029

1220

895

Calgary, 74

BC

98

218

917,320

2820

629

Victoria, 141

MB

21

85

65,371

358

192

Cypress River-Spruce Woods and Winnipeg, 44

NB

24

126

76,961

395

185

Cape Tormentine, 72

NL

8

89

37,591

116

29

St. John’s, 71

NS

35

161

225,693

679

462

Halifax-Dartmouth, 105

NT

6

22

4846

63

14

Hay River, 17

NU

4

5

712

12

3

Arviat, 5

ON

129

185

1,526,475

3472

986

Blenheim, 109

PE

3

77

25,991

50

12

East Point, 57

QC

39

134

399,681

913

153

Quebec, 71

SK

32

97

84,723

292

121

Saskatoon and Regina, 45

YT

13

40

6337

132

63

Whitehorse, 24

SPM

1

43

4920

9

0

Ile-St-Pierre, 43

Total

459

294

3,609,763

10,531

3744

 

 

Tableau 2. Espèces les plus abondantes lors des trios plus récents Recensements des oiseaux de Noël. Table 2. The most abundant birds on the 2015-16 Christmas Bird Count in Canada, with totals from the three previous counts for comparison.

 

 

2015-16

2014-15

2013-14

2012-13

Canada Goose

479,133

351,400

263,415

373,210

American Crow

400,721

367,126

308,033

420,235

European Starling

306,221

338,827

286,323

315,814

Mallard

194,880

212,272

200,047

196,708

Black-capped Chickadee

130,754

146,062

119,216

135,074

Rock Pigeon

107,984

119,918

98,090

114,557

Ring-billed Gull

107,164

21,035

25,913

81,888

House Sparrow

106,506

108,062

97,585

113,918

Herring Gull

92,593

74,509

46,267

66,090

Bohemian Waxwing

80,956

80,454

76,614

85,856

Snow Goose

76,453

7,543

12,295

32,177

Common Redpoll

75,452

38,284

82,316

34,383

Dark-eyed Junco

71,911

83,368

93,342

88,378

Snow Bunting

63,434

51,485

101,541

66,853

American Goldfinch

59,043

58,961

37,583

57,760

 

The mild winter certainly resulted in some amazing lingering species right across the country. Perhaps the most notable birds were found on the west coast: a first Canadian CBC record came in the form of a Siberian Accentor on the White Rock count; and, a Redwing on the Victoria count was another amazing find in British Columbia. But, the east coast also had some goodies up its sleeve, including, most amazingly, a “Western” Flycatcher (Pacific Slope/Cordilleran) at Grand Manan, NB, marking the first Canadian CBC record regardless of which species it was. Rare flycatchers were seemingly in abundance this year with a Vermilion Flycatcher at Wallaceburg, ON and a Yellow-bellied Flycatcher was at Cedar Creek, ON (both representing first Canadian CBC records). Rare warblers were also in the cards with a Black-throated Gray Warbler on the Quebec side of the Pembroke, ON count, a Hooded Warbler at Longueuil, QC, Northern Parula at Quebec, QC, and a Prairie Warbler at Bedford-Sackville, NS.

The mild conditions may have been a blessing, but also a curse depending on the location of any count in particular. Many counts that normally have no open water (and therefore no water-dependent birds like ducks and herons) were wide open and had good counts, while counts farther south were stuck waiting for “their” birds to arrive from farther north. Similarly, the lack of cold, snowy weather meant that birds were very spread out on the landscape, and not concentrated where counters are used to looking for them. Several compilers suggested a good snow storm before the count would have been just what they needed to boost numbers.

Winter finches once again had a decent showing, especially compared to two winters ago. An impressive 75,452 Common Redpolls represented the second highest count in the past six years. What may be the last CBC season with Hoary Redpoll as a “good” species saw them come in at just above average with 647 counted. Pine Siskins were similar to the prior year and right near their average with 33,340 counted. Both crossbills had good years in the west, with a slightly above average 16,410 for White-winged Crossbill and a very good count of 5121 Red Crossbills, mostly in Alberta and BC; smaller numbers spilled east across the country. Evening Grosbeaks were below average at 6598 while Pine Grosbeak was near average at 18,433.

Finally, as reported last year, House Sparrow numbers remain healthy but many counters are reporting declines in this species. However, the total count for the country was up slightly by about 6000 individuals.

(Adapted from BirdWatch Canada)

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