The 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Quebec

The 123rd Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was interesting in Quebec again this year, although there were seven species less than the average of the last five counts. A total of 129 species, plus two species of domestic origin (Mallard of domestic origin, Ring-necked Pheasant) and an American Black Duck x Mallard hybrid were observed on count day. This total is divided into 48 aquatic species (37% of all species), 17 raptors (diurnal and nocturnal; 13%), and 64 terrestrial birds (grouse, woodpeckers, passerines; 50%).


Although the temperatures of November (52nd hottest November in 103 years of observations in Quebec) and December (3rd hottest December) were above the monthly average, several bodies of water were covered in ice on census days. During the second half of December, some weather events may have influenced the success of the counts: heavy snow on December 17th reducing visibility, snowstorm or rain depending on the region with winds on the 23rd, and mild temperatures in early January.


Thirty-eight counts took place in Quebec, which is slightly below the average (40) of recent years. The counts were held from December 14th to January 4th. The most popular day was December 17th with 11 counts, followed by December 18th with nine. A total of 1131 people took part in the counts, which is stable since the start of the COVID pandemic. The Quebec CBC had the most observers (152), followed by Lennoxville (92), Montreal (68), and Hudson (65).


Bird species observed in Quebec counts totaled 278,317 individuals (67,000 less than last year). Granby ranked first with 33,781 birds, mainly due to the presence of the American Crow (27,990), followed by St-Timothee (30,218) with 19,521 Snow Geese, Otterburn Park with 26,240 birds (including 20,481 Canada Geese), and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu with 19,470 birds (including 7130 Canada Geese and 6566 American Crows). Quebec (19,013), Lennoxville (18,664), Longueuil (15,451), Montreal (14,112) and Mirabel (12,890) are the other CBC to exceed the 10,000 birds mark. Quebec [city] had the highest number of species (77), followed by Longueuil (71), Hudson (63), Montreal (59), and Lennoxville (58).


Four species have been reported in all circles: Hairy Woodpecker, Common Raven, Blue Jay and Black-capped Chickadee. Rock [Feral] Pigeon, Downy Woodpecker and American Crow were recorded on 37 counts, while Mourning Dove and European Starling were recorded on 36 counts. The total number of individuals per species in the 38 circles, which exceeds 10,000, are: American Crow with 55,148, Canada Goose (48,361), European Starling (22,871), Snow Goose (21,852), Rock [Feral] Pigeon (15,423), Black-capped Chickadee (13,991) and Snow Bunting (11,414). It is interesting to mention that for northern passerines, the numbers are high for recent years: Bohemian Waxwing (5209), Pine Grosbeak (1544), Evening Grosbeak (3631), and Snow Bunting (4873 last year by comparison). On the other hand, the Common Redpoll (1122) is at a low number, while the Northern Shrike (40) and the Dark-eyed Junco (3026) were average for the last years.


Among species threatened or vulnerable or likely to be designated as such, we note 35 Harlequin Ducks (Forillon, Percé, Quebec) and 1285 Barrow's Goldeneyes (distributed in 9 CBCs). The Bald Eagle totaled 132 individuals in 28 CBC, while the Peregrine Falcon (10 individuals) was reported in six counts. Finally, Rusty Blackbird was seen on four circles for a total of five individuals.


In terms of rare species (in general, or for the season), note the following species observed on Count Day: Greater White-fronted Goose (Otterburn Park and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Ross's Goose (Otterburn Park and St-Jean-sur-Richelieu), Canvasback (Longueuil), Northern Fulmar (Otterburn Park and Chicoutimi-Jonquière), Common Murre (Forillon and Percé), Lesser Black-backed Gull (Quebec), Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (Forillon), Winter Wren (Longueuil) , Townsend's Solitaire (Longueuil), Gray Catbird (Chicoutimi-Jonquière), Yellow-rumped Warbler (Neuville-Tilly), and Eastern Towhee (Cowansville, Neuville-Tilly, Percé).


Finally, worth mentioning are species not often reported during Count Day: American Wigeon (Montreal), King Eider (Quebec), Spruce Grouse (Parc Aiguebelle), Thick-billed Murre (Percé), Red-shouldered Hawk (Ahuntsic-Laval and Longueuil), Long-eared Owl (Longueuil), American Three-toed Woodpecker (Chicoutimi-Jonquière), Black-backed Woodpecker (Chicoutimi-Jonquière and Tadoussac), Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Neuville-Tilly), and Red Crossbill (Hudson).