By Randy Korotev
Missouri observers recorded 27 Christmas Bird Counts this past season. New this year was a count in Kirksville, filling a gap in the northeast part of the state.
The weather was mild during the count season with little snow. The only weather issues were high winds on some counts. Beginning- and end-of-day temperatures averaged 31 °F (9–51 °F) and 46 °F (24–64 °F). Several compilers remarked that the drought had led to low water levels, less grassy cover, and low seed production.
A Yellow-throated Warbler at Mingo N.W.R. represents a first Missouri CBC sighting of this species. Also unusual were 13 Greater Yellowlegs at Horton-Four Rivers, a count-week Brown Pelican at Jefferson City, a House Wren at Big Oak Tree, a Gray Catbird at Columbia, a Mountain Bluebird at Grand River, a Dickcissel at Cole Camp Prairies, and 35 Smith’s Longspur at Montrose Lake, the first sighting of the species in 28 years on a Missouri CBC.
Species reported in substantially lower-than-usual numbers include some that are expected from recent trends: American Black Duck, Ring-necked Pheasant, Northern Bobwhite, Loggerhead Shrike, and Rusty Blackbird. Also included among the lows were some species that are not expected: both Ruby-crowned and Golden kinglets, Field Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Great-tailed Grackle, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow. (The latter may be related to having discontinued the Orchard Farm count in favor of the Confluence count.)
A remarkable 53 species were observed in significantly greater-than-usual numbers. These included many species of waterfowl, American White Pelican, both vultures, Red-shouldered Hawk, Killdeer, Least Sandpiper, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Eastern Screech-Owl, Barred Owl, Belted Kingfisher, several woodpeckers, Eastern Phoebe, Eastern Bluebird, American Robin, Cedar Waxwing, American Tree Sparrow, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, Harris’s Sparrow, Western Meadowlark, House Finch, Pine Siskin, and American Goldfinch. In some cases the high numbers may have been due to the mild winter, but for others they reflect (1) unusually high numbers on only one or two counts, (2) a trend of increase over the past 10–20 years (American White Pelican, vultures, Eastern Bluebird), or (3) perhaps greater observer awareness or effort (Eastern Screech-Owl, Le Conte’s Sparrow, Western Meadowlark). For the siskins, it was clearly an irruptive season. Snow Buntings and Common Redpolls were observed on two counts, Red Crossbills on three, and Lapland Longspurs on 13.
High numbers for individual counts include 603,100 Snow Geese at Squaw Creek, 2726 Cackling Geese at Maryville, 5460 Gadwall at Mingo, 381,128 Mallards at Horton-Four Rivers, 268 Wild Turkeys at Cole Camp Prairies, 318 Horned Grebes at Taney County, 275 American White Pelicans at Montrose Lake, 628 Black Vultures at Taney County, 146 Bald Eagles at Squaw Creek, 30 Red-shouldered Hawks at Mingo, 23 Sandhill Cranes at Squaw Creek, 23 Barred Owls at Knob Noster, 437 Red-headed Woodpeckers at Horton-Four Rivers, 48 Pileated Woodpeckers at Taney County, 17 Red-breasted Nuthatches at St. Joseph, 439 Eastern Bluebirds at Columbia, over 1.8 million American Robins at St. Joseph, 2136 American Tree Sparrows at Swan Lake, and 209 Pine Siskins at Columbia. Trumpeter Swans were recorded on eight counts. Species not observed this year include Osprey, Northern Goshawk, Sora, Greater Roadrunner, and Sedge Wren. It was not a good winter for gulls, with only Ring-billed, Herring, and Bonaparte’s (4 counts) observed.
The following species were reported without documentation submitted to the Missouri Birds Records Committee, so I have deleted the reports from the record: one Blue-winged Teal on a count in the north, one Greater Scaup on one count and six on another (documentation is required for this species on every count for which it is not a annual winter visitor), one Horned Grebe on a count in the north, two Northern Shrikes on a count in the south, and one Selasphorus hummingbird.
Seven counts recorded 90 or more species, with a high of 106 at Horton-Four Rivers. There were 574 observers in the field and 42 watching feeders.
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