118th Christmas Bird Count: Canada Summary

In Canada, 463 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circles submitted their results from the 118th season, including five new counts: Powder King (BC); Moose Jaw, Qu’Appelle, and Shell Lake (SK); and Minto/Chipman (NB). A few CBCs also returned after years of dormancy. All in all, 10,560 field observers and 3704 feeder counters dedicated their time and bird counting skills and tallied 2.8 million birds of 287 speciesnine more species than last year. 

As usual, the weather preceding and during the count period keeps things interesting from year to year. This year’s count saw variable weather patterns across the country, including strong southerly winds in the Atlantic, which brought in unprecedented numbers of Summer and Scarlet tanagers, Indigo Buntings, Yellow-throated Warblers, Rose-breasted Grosbeaks, and Gray Catbirds. Québec and Ontario counts had relatively cold weather, resulting in fairly extensive snow and ice cover and affecting species countsThe Prairie Provinces had relatively cooperative weather during the first part of the count period, with colder temperatures moving in towards the second half of the periodBritish Columbia had warm weather during most of the count period thanks to the jet stream running along the Rockies. This resulted in extensive open water and many lingering migrants, as well as higher than usual numbers of more northerly species, like Pine Grosbeak and Hoary Redpoll. CBC participants never fail to demonstrate that they are the hardiest of birders, especially those in Northern Canada – Mayo in Yukon Territory had a low of -42 degrees Celsius during their count! 

The top 15 most abundant species reported on Canadian counts during the 2017-18 CBC season, listed from most to least abundant, were: American Crow, Canada Goose, European Starling, Mallard, Black-capped Chickadee, Rock Pigeon, House Sparrow, Snow Bunting, American Goldfinch, Mourning Dove, Herring Gull, Glaucous-winged Gull, Blue Jay, Common Raven, and Common Redpoll. Though American Crow was the most abundant species, its close relative, the Common Raven, was the most widespread species, showing up in 434 circles. The next most widespread species included Black-capped Chickadee, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-breasted Nuthatch, Rock Pigeon, European Starling, Bald Eagle, Blue Jay, and House Sparrow to round out the top 10. 

 

Results By Region

Once again, British Columbia topped the species richness chart in Canada, breaking past the 250 species mark. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Nunavut scored four species (Common Raven, Rock Ptarmigan, Willow Ptarmigan, and Common Eider). Though down from last year, four species is an impressive total for Nunavut given the limited amount of daylight available during these northerly counts. In fact, the most northerly circle, Arctic Bay, NU, only gets twilight hours to work with during the count period! All provincial and territorial counts are summarized in Table 1. 

As always, exciting rarities either for the region or time of year are documented during each CBC seasonPerhaps the most notable find of the 118th CBC in Canada was a Mistle Thrush in New Brunswick (Miramichi), which is the first record for this species in North America and attracted flocks of birders from Canada and the U.S. Québec scored several interesting finds, including Black-headed Gull (Îles-de-la-Madeleine)Clay-coloured Sparrow (Percé), Eurasian Collared-Dove (ContreCœur)Lark Sparrow (Québec), and Mountain Bluebird (Cap-Saint-Ignace). Ontario had an “Audubon’s” Yellow-rumped Warbler and a Tufted Duck (Peel-Halton) as well as a Black Vulture (Niagara Falls), which has become more regular in recent yearsManitoban counters got a Varied Thrush (Cypress River) and a Townsend’s Solitaire and two House Sparrow x Eurasian Tree Sparrow hybrids (Winnipeg). Interesting finds in Saskatchewan included a Gyrfalcon (Clark’s Crossing) and a resilient Hermit Thrush that spent the entire winter in Swift’s Current. Some of Alberta’s rarities include a Red-bellied Woodpecker (Strathcona) and Greater Yellowlegs (Brule). British Columbia was lucky to get many uncommon birds due to the mild weather, including Brambling (Greater Masset)Bullock’s Oriole (Sooke), Mountain Bluebird (Victoria), Say’s Phoebe (Kelowna), and Costa’s Hummingbird (Powell River).  

Detailed regional summaries for the 118th CBC will be available on the Audubon websiteHistorical or current year results by count or species can be found on the Audubon website now. CBC data have been used widely by researchers and wildlife biologists to develop hundreds of conservation planning documents and peer-reviewed scientific publications. Check out the CBC bibliography on the Audubon website 

The CBC in Canada would not be possible without the tireless efforts of the participants, compilers, and regional editors. Special thanks are owed to the hundreds of compilers who spend hours recruiting and organizing participants on the ground and rounding up and entering data. Another huge thank you goes to the regional editors who carefully ensure all CBC data are reviewed and vetted each year. Bird Studies Canada and the National Audubon Society coordinate and provide support to the CBC in Canada 

 

Table 1118th Christmas Bird Count Summary / Tableau 1. Résumé du 118e Recensement des oiseaux de Noël. 

 

Counts 

Species 

Individuals  

Field Observers 

Feederwatchers 

Highest Species Total 

AB 

54 

131 

185,751 

1218 

729 

Calgary (64) 

BC 

95 

266 

769,378 

2921 

633 

Victoria (144) 

MB 

20 

83 

50,750 

354 

174 

Winnipeg (49) 

NB 

24 

150 

88,508 

364 

191 

Grand Manan Island (68) 

NL 

7 

90 

23,797 

95 

35 

St. Johns (60) 

NS 

34 

185 

204,838 

671 

374 

Halifax-Dartmouth (124) 

NT 

4 

26 

3520 

27 

13 

Hay River (18) 

NU 

2 

4 

499 

2 

0 

Rankin Inlet (3) 

ON 

125 

205 

1,102,965 

3394 

1082 

Long Point (105) 

PE 

3 

76 

19,293 

42 

7 

East Point (52) 

QC 

42 

157 

203,310 

980 

220 

Québec (71) 

SK 

41 

96 

98,774 

379 

156 

Gardiner Dam (43) 

YT 

12 

39 

8571 

113 

90 

Whitehorse (24) 

Total 

463 

287 

2,759,954 

10,560 

3704 

 

 

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