The 123rd Christmas Bird Count in Saskatchewan

A total of 39 circles in Saskatchewan reported, a slight increase of two areas compared with 2021-22.

Weather conditions on this year’s Christmas bird count averaged warmer, with less wind compared to the 122nd. However, there generally were above-average snow depths to deal with, not to mention several counts with fog. Average minimum and maximum temperatures for the count period (with 2021-22 records in brackets) were -17 to -13 C (-22 to -17 C), wind speeds 8 to 17 km/h (11 to 22 km/h), and snow depths 18 to 39 cm (15 to 29 cm).


Gardiner Dam and Saskatoon tied for the provincial crown bragging rights, each finding 38 species. Saskatoon also added a Bald Eagle during count period. Regina 33 (plus 5 cw), Fort Qu’Appelle 29 (plus 5 cw), Pike Lake 29 (plus 1 cw) were only other counts breaking the magic 30 species mark. As a result, the average result decreased slightly to 21.8 species per count, compared to 23.4 last year.

Having said all that, this was still a fairly decent CBC year in Saskatchewan with 85 species reported: 83 on count day, with two during count week only – California Gull and White-crowned Sparrow. The California Gull was a new CBC species for the province.

As was an amazing Ivory Gull, which showed up amongst people ice-fishing at Turtle Lake in mid-December!!! Unfortunately, while it was recorded on that CBC shortly thereafter, it was not on an “official” count!

Waterfowl were generally found in lower-than-average numbers and variety in their few overwintering locations. In contrast was a significant increase in the number of upland game birds, with Gray Partridge and Sharp-tailed Grouse doubling their numbers. The 824 Gray Partridge at Morse established a new CBC record count! Ring-necked Pheasant also did very well, including an impressive 312 at Estevan!!!

 Diurnal raptors (hawks and falcons) were generally found at or near normal numbers.


Trends for owls were, however, a different story. Boreal Forest owls were almost absent from the forest fringe with only two Northern Hawk Owls on two counts and just one Great Gray. Farther south only two Short-eared Owls were found at two locations, compared to 21 at seven last year. While Snowy Owl numbers were about average, Great Horneds dropped by 50 per cent.


Results for finches were mixed. After a major invasion last year, Common Redpoll numbers imploded, while no Hoary Redpolls were reported at all!!! Reports of Pine Grosbeak also declined drastically, while Evenings remained stable across the southern Boreal Forest. White-winged Crossbills increased significantly, while their Red cousins only turned up in four circles. Pine Siskin and American Goldfinch numbers were solid. The latter now regularly overwinter in Saskatchewan, with an impressive 45 reported quite far north at Prince Albert.