The 121st CBC in Canada

A total of 450 Christmas Bird Count (CBC) circles in Canada submitted results for the 121st, 19 fewer than last year. One circle on Saint Pierre and Miquelon was also welcomed back after a two-year hiatus. Many counts did not go ahead due to restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic, although most counts were able to proceed with additional safety measures in place. Fourteen new circles were registered in 2020-21: Lacombe (AB), Ladysmith (BC), Hartland, Mount Carleton, New Jersey-Neguac, Nictau-Riley Brook, Perth-Andover, Plaster Rock, Red Bank-Sunny Corner, Southeast Upsalquitch, Springfield, Sussex (NB), and Val Marie (SK). The New Brunswick circles represent established counts that had not yet officially registered. Two additional previously registered circles were revived: St. Andrews (NB) and Torch Valley (SK).

A total of 10,741 field counters and 4586 feeder counters reported just shy of three and a half million individual birds of 284 species (Table 1). Edmonton, AB, had the highest number of total participants on count day (473), followed by Victoria, BC (319), and Calgary, AB (287). The top five counts reporting highest species diversity were Victoria, BC (143), Ladner, BC (128), Halifax-Dartmouth, NS (127), Parksville-Qualicum Beach, BC (123), and White Rock-Surrey-Langley, BC (123).

The Atlantic region, comprised of New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and Saint Pierre and Miquelon enjoyed a relatively mild fall, followed by a perfect storm of cold and snow that concentrated lingering birds. Québec’s winters are known to be cold, but this year, the first half of December was one of the mildest in memory Even the Prairie provinces reported mild temperatures and pleasant counting conditions for at least the earlier part of the season. The coldest CBC for the 121st comes not surprisingly from the most northerly count, Arctic Bay, NU, where it was -37 degrees Celsius for the duration of the count.

Species Highlights by Region

All provincial and territorial counts are summarized in Table 1.

The top 10 most abundant species in terms of individuals reported on Canadian counts during the 121st CBC season, listed from highest to lowest, were: Canada Goose, American Crow, European Starling, Mallard, Black-capped Chickadee, House Sparrow, Snow Goose, Pine Siskin, Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon), and Common Redpoll. Common Raven was the most widespread species, detected on more counts than any other species.

One new species, a female Common Pochard during count week, was added to the all-time Canadian list during the 121st CBC, which stands at 439 species. For the fourth year in a row, a Pink-footed Goose at St. Johns, NL, made a showing on count day. The steady increase in Broad-winged Hawks reported in the region is notable, as was a yellow-bellied (Tropical/Western/Couch’s) kingbird species at Lunenberg, NS, and a Rock Wren at Halifax-Dartmouth, NS. The finch irruption that took place throughout the continent was felt in the Atlantic region with increased numbers of Common Redpolls, and Pine and Evening grosbeaks. Québec and Ontario also experienced a finch invasion, including increased reports of other northern irrupting species like Bohemian Waxwing and Northern Shrike. Otterburn Park QC reported two noteworthy rarities, Pink-footed Goose and Bullock’s Oriole. A male Scott’s Oriole at Hanover-Walkerton was a colorful addition to the list of noteworthy birds in Ontario. One feeder at Pinawa, MB held a Brown Thrasher, and one of three Varied Thrushes in the province. Gulls are historically rare or absent on the prairies during CBCs, so the 32 Herring Gulls at Gardiner Dam were at testament to the milder temperature leading up to the season. Similar to eastern Canada, finch invasion numbers in the middle of the country were up to three times as high as the previous year. In Alberta, a Swainson’s Thrush at Calgary was noteworthy and a first for the provincial winter list. The diversity of finches that irrupted in 2020/21 west of the continental divide was not as dramatic as further east, although Pine Siskins were the second most abundant bird in British Columbia. Among the many rarities there, the count week Common Pochard at Parksville-Qualicum Beach and a Black Phoebe at Victoria were most notable.

Species diversity during the 121st increased for all counts compared to last year, except for Newfoundland and Yukon Territory, where there was a decrease, and Northwest Territories, where diversity remained the same. British Columbia had the highest diversity, reporting 224 species, followed by Ontario (177), Nova Scotia (175), Québec (146), and New Brunswick (142). Detailed regional summaries for the 121st 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

Click here to view the 121st Christmas Bird Count: Canada High Counts article.

A special thanks goes out to compilers, who spend hours recruiting and organizing participants on the ground and rounding up and entering data. Thank you also to the regional editors who carefully ensure all CBC data are reviewed every year.

Table 1. 121st Christmas Bird Count Summary

 

Counts

Species1

Individuals

Field Counters

Feeder Counters

Highest Species Total 121st

Highest Species Total 120th

AB

55

126

229,679

1329

884

Calgary (69)

Calgary (64)

BC

86

224

1,024,145

2828

719

Victoria (143)

Victoria (135)

MB

18

82

54,527

317

294

Winnipeg (49)

Brandon (43)

NB

43

142

144,409

567

357

Cape Tormentine (74)

Grand Manan Island (63)

NL

10

108

40,532

159

51

St. Johns (72)

St. Johns (67)

NS

32

175

251,138

710

316

Halifax-Dartmouth (127)

Halifax-Dartmouth (105)

NT

3

25

5488

45

14

Fort Smith (17)

Fort Smith (16)

NU

2

5

628

3

0

Arctic Bay (4)

Rankin Inlet (2)

ON

112

177

1,182,346

3233

1434

Long Point (115)

Blenheim (104)

PE

3

86

32,922

50

20

Prince Edward Island N.P. (64)

Hillsborough (47)

QC

37

146

380,687

924

238

Quebec (84)

Montreal (74)

SK

40

91

141,375

439

184

Saskatoon (44)

Gardiner Dam (45)

YT

9

38

7161

131

75

Whitehorse (28)

Whitehorse (27)

PM

1

51

6721

6

0

Ile St.-Pierre (51)

-

Total

451

284

3,501,758

10,741

4586

 

 

  1. Includes species detected during Count Week

 

Yousif Attia is the Christmas Bird Count coordinator for Birds Canada.

Birds Canada coordinates the Christmas Bird Count in Canada in partnership with National Audubon Society.

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