119th Christmas Bird Count: Canada Summary

In Canada, 461 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circles submitted their results from the 119th season, including ten new counts: Blindline, Castle Provincial Park, Chestermere, Priddis, and Ribstone (AB); Hampstead and Jacquet River (NB); Chezzetcook (NS); Smooth Rock Falls (ON); and Bury (QC). The revival of a few CBCs after years of dormancy was also welcome. A total of 11,209 field counters and 3745 feeder counters dedicated their time and bird detection skills and tallied just shy of 3 million birds of 285 species—more individuals but fewer species by two compared to last year. 

As is often the case during early winter across Canada, weather preceding and during the count period varies from year to year.  The Atlantic region reported abnormally frigid temperatures and high winds prior to the count period, which resulted in high numbers of displaced songbirds from further south and west. Warmer conditions during count period however, allowed many birds to disperse away from feeders, likely reducing detection of many. Québec reported lower than typical temperatures and high amounts of snowfall leading up to count period, which froze over many waterbodies. Ontario also experienced a few blasts of winter prior to the count period, but then enjoyed unseasonably warm conditions throughout the count period. Warmer weather can make for comfortable days in the field but fails to concentrate birds the way deep snow and limited open water does.  Winter came early to the Prairie Provinces, although seasonal to warmer than average temperatures were reported from many CBCs during the count period. British Columbia reported cooler weather and more precipitation than usual during most of the count period. Generally, temperatures during the count period were warmer than average across the country, and the coldest count reported was a mere -30 degrees Celsius at Hudson, QC. By comparison, the coldest count last season was -42 degrees Celsius at Mayo, YT.

The top 15 most abundant species reported on Canadian counts during the 2018-19 CBC season, listed from most to least abundant, were: American Crow, Mallard, Canada Goose, European Starling, Bohemian Waxwing, Northwestern Crow, Greater Scaup, Rock Pigeon, Tundra Swan, American Wigeon, Glaucous-winged Gull, American Black Duck, Canvasback, Herring Gull, and Ring-billed Gull. Common Raven was the most widespread species, detected on more counts than any other species.

Results by Region
All provincial and territorial counts are summarized in Table 1.  Rare birds for the region or time of year are often found during each CBC season. One of the more notable discoveries of the 119th CBC in Canada was a Fieldfare discovered in British Columbia (Salmon Arm), which lingered for several days after the CBC and observed by many. A Fish Crow in Ontario (Hamilton), though not entirely surprising due to the species’ increased occurrence in the province, was the first record for a Canadian CBC. Highlights in the Atlantic Provinces included, a Pink-footed Goose (Yarmouth, NS), the North American high count (39) of Tufted Ducks (St. Johns, NL), a Harris’s Sparrow (Halifax-Dartmouth, NS), six species of wood-warbler, and seven Yellow-breasted Chats over five circles. Some interesting finds in Québec included, Black-headed Gull (Îles-de-la-Madeleine), King Eider (Percé), Orange-crowned Warbler (Otterburn Park), and Townsend’s Solitaire (Québec). Leading the way in notable birds in Ontario were an unidentified hummingbird (Minden), Western Kingbird (Long Point), Bobolink (St. Thomas), and Northern Rough-winged Swallow (Wallaceburg).  Manitoba’s long staying Eurasian Tree Sparrow (Winnipeg) was undetected, although two legacy House Sparrow x Eurasian Tree Sparrow hybrids were counted for the second year in a row. The most interesting record in Alberta was a count week Brambling (Medicine Hat), first detected on a remote camera and then briefly observed by the owner of the property. Noteworthy records from British Columbia included Say’s Phoebe (Vernon), California Scrub-Jay (Pitt Meadows and Vancouver), Violet-green Swallow (Parksville-Qualicum Beach), Barn Swallow (Vancouver), LeConte’s Sparrow (Greater Masset), Lark Sparrow (Port Alberni), and Lesser Goldfinch (Oliver-Osoyoos).  Two additional records of note from British Columbia, Jack Snipe and Little Stint (both Greater Masset), are pending review by Bird Records Committee.

British Columbia topped the species richness chart in Canada, breaking past the 200 species mark. Detailed regional summaries for the 119th CBC will be available on the Audubon website. Historical 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. Birds Canada and the National Audubon Society coordinate and provide support to the CBC in Canada.  

 Table 1. 119th Christmas Bird Count Summary

 

Counts

Species

Individuals

Field Counters

Feeder Counters

Highest Species Total

AB

59

119

238,615

1298

754

Calgary (73)

BC

90

224

805,458

2901

639

Victoria (144)

MB

22

80

56,368

360

239

Winnipeg (52)

NB

28

127

94,240

446

191

Grand Manan Island (69)

NL

7

94

32,118

109

43

St. Johns (75)

NS

33

162

239,445

669

398

Halifax-Dartmouth (122)

NT

4

26

4366

39

11

Fort Smith (14)

NU

1

2

203

1

1

Rankin Inlet (2)

ON

122

175

1,194,007

3707

1054

Long Point (117)

PE

3

79

20,208

54

8

Prince Edward Island N.P. (54)

QC

43

127

196,922

1074

213

Montreal (69)

SK

39

81

87,633

432

129

Regina (41)

YT

10

44

8090

119

65

Whitehorse (24)

Total

461

1340

2,977,673

11,209

3,745

 

 

 

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