The 121st Christmas Bird Count in Michigan

By all measures of accountability, the 121st Christmas Bird Count was an incredible blockbuster of an event in Michigan. The all-time record high 158 species was especially impressive considering that the previous high was 152 and the median of the previous 10 years was 149. For the third consecutive year, participants gathered data from 72 circles, with 13 submissions from the Upper Peninsula, 24 from the Northern Lower Peninsula, and 35 from the Southern Lower Peninsula. Highlights include four species new to the Michigan CBC database, 11 rare species (reported in fewer than 5 of the previous 10 years), seven borderline species (reported in 5 or 6 of the previous 10 years), and 33 geographically limited species (reported at 10 or fewer circles). The success of the 121st CBC can largely be attributed to mild temperatures and a general paucity of snow, especially in the Lower Peninsula, during the first half of the count period. Read on to learn about the details of these and other results from the 121st CBC in Michigan.

 

Cumulative Species on Michigan CBCs (minimum of 150; the 50-year median is 142):

  • 158 – 121st (2020-21)
  • 152 – 113th (2012-13)
  • 151 – 111th (2010-11)
  • 150 – 120th (2019-20)
  • 150 – 116th (2015-16)
  • 150 – 102nd (2001-02)
  • 150 – 100th (1999-00)
  • 150 –   98th (1997-98)

Four New Species (reported on a Michigan CBC for the first time): 

  • Black Vulture – one photographed at Ann Arbor on the 19th remained through the end of the month and into early January.
  • Nashville Warbler – one was photographed along the St. Joseph River at Berrien Springs on the 20th.   
  • Yellow-throated Warbler – one was photographed on the 18th at Beulah, where it visited feeders daily from the 10th to the 20th.
  • Wilson’s Warbler – one was photographed on the 19th at Tawas, where present since the 2nd.

Eleven Rare Species (reported on Michigan CBCs in fewer than 5 of the previous 10 years):

  • Blue-winged Teal – 1 at Kalamazoo – yearly reports in the previous 10, 25, and 50 years: 3, 11, 27
  • King Eider – 1 at Huron County – 1, 3, 9
  • Spruce Grouse – 1 at Whitefish Point – 2, 4, 4
  • Eurasian Collared-Dove – 2 at New Buffalo – 2, 5, 5
  • Common Gallinule – 1 at Anchor Bay – 2, 2, 4
  • Purple Sandpiper – 4 at Holland – 3, 12, 19
  • Black-legged Kittiwake – 1 at Anchor Bay (also, cw at Berrien Springs) – 2, 5, 10
  • American Pipit – 1 at Rockwood – 4, 9, 17
  • Hoary Redpoll – 5 at four circles (Detroit 1, Beulah 1, Neebish Island-Dunbar 1, Rudyard 1) – 4, 12, 19
  • Orange-crowned Warbler – 1 at Marquette – 4, 5, 5
  • Summer Tanager – 1 at Marquette – 1, 3, 3

Seven Borderline Species (reported on Michigan CBCs in 5 or 6 of the previous 10 years):

  • Greater White-fronted Goose – 11 at three circles (Clinton 7, Niles 3, Kalamazoo 1)
  • Harlequin Duck – 2 at two circles (Huron County 1, Marquette 1)
  • Barrow’s Goldeneye – 1 at Battle Creek (also, cw at Higgins Lake-Houghton Lake)
  • Eastern Phoebe – 1 at Detroit River
  • Marsh Wren – 6 at three circles (Anchor Bay 4, Monroe 1, Port Huron 1)
  • Townsend’s Solitaire – 2 at two circles (Marquette 1, Western Macomb County 1)
  • Eastern Meadowlark – 1 at Port Huron

Thirty-three Geographically Limited Species (reported at 10 or fewer circles):

  • Snow Goose – 49 at eight circles (Grand Rapids 25, Detroit 14, Clinton 4, Midland 2, Albion 1, Ann Arbor 1, Kalamazoo 1, Rockwood 1; also, cw at Manistee)
  • Northern Shoveler – 1715 at five circles (Muskegon Wastewater 1700, Holland 5, Western Macomb County 5, Monroe 4, Traverse City 1; also, cw at Anchor Bay & Rockwood)
  • American Wigeon – 10 at seven circles (Traverse City 3, Kalamazoo 2, Anchor Bay 1, Grayling 1, Manistee 1, Marquette 1, Western Macomb County 1; also, cw at Lake Leelanau & Rockwood)
  • Green-winged Teal – 17 at five circles (Detroit 8, Coloma 3, Monroe 3, Traverse City 2, Anchor Bay 1; also, cw at Ann Arbor & Rockwood)
  • Canvasback – 12,155 at seven circles (Anchor Bay 8200, Rockwood 3211, Detroit River 738, Grand Rapids 2, Holland 2, Gobles 1, Oscoda 1; also, cw at Berrien Springs)
  • Surf Scoter – 5 at four circles (New Buffalo 2, Ann Arbor 1, Battle Creek 1, Port Huron 1; also, cw at Holland)
  • Black Scoter – 42 at six circles (Holland 23, Manistee 8, New Buffalo 6, Alpena 3, Battle Creek 1, Eagle Harbor 1; also, cw at Ludington & Port Huron)
  • Sharp-tailed Grouse – 58 at two circles (Rudyard 39, Les Cheneaux 19)
  • Pied-billed Grebe – 30 at seven circles (Anchor Bay 19, Dowagiac 3, Monroe 3, Ann Arbor 2, Coloma 1, East Lansing 1, Kalamazoo 1)
  • Red-necked Grebe – 39 at five circles (Lake Leelanau 23, Beulah 12, Mackinac Straits 2, Higgins Lake-Houghton Lake 1, Petoskey 1)
  • Virginia Rail – 3 at three circles (Allegan State Game Area 1, Battle Creek 1, Waterloo State Recreation Area 1)
  • Killdeer – 2 at two circles (Monroe 1, Rockwood 1)
  • Wilson’s Snipe – 1 at Coloma
  • Iceland Gull – 11 at seven circles (Marquette 3, Sanilac 3, Little Bay de Noc 2, East Lansing 1, Pontiac 1, Port Huron 1, Rudyard 1; also, cw at Detroit River & Western Macomb County)
  • Red-throated Loon – 4 at Berrien Springs
  • Great Egret – 4 at Monroe
  • Black-crowned Night-Heron – 34 at two circles (Detroit River 18, Monroe 16)
  • Turkey Vulture – 46 at six circles (Clinton 31, Battle Creek 8, Pontiac 3, Ann Arbor 2, Sanilac 1, Waterloo State Recreation Area 1)
  • Golden Eagle – 3 at three circles (Clinton 1, Lapeer County 1, Waterloo State Recreation Area 1; also, cw at Ann Arbor)
  • Northern Goshawk – 2 at two circles (Au Train 1, Lake Leelanau 1; also, cw at Grayling)
  • Long-eared Owl – 9 at five circles (Port Huron 3, Allegan State Game Area 2, Western Macomb County 2, Detroit River 1, Port Huron 3, Rockwood 1)
  • Short-eared Owl – 12 at seven circles (Sanilac 5, Allegan State Game Area 2, Huron County 1, Muskegon Wastewater 1, Rockwood 1, Waterloo State Recreation Area 1, Western Macomb County 1)
  • Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 8 at seven circles (Berrien Springs 2, Anchor Bay 1, Ann Arbor 1, Battle Creek 1, Huron County 1, Waterloo State Recreation Area 1, Western Macomb County 1; also, cw at Oceana)
  • Gray Catbird – 6 at four circles (Kalamazoo 3, Anchor Bay 1, Rockwood 1, Western Macomb County 1; also, cw at Detroit River, Port Huron, & Sturgeon Point)
  • Brown Thrasher – 3 at three circles (Anchor Bay 1, Grayling 1, Little Bay de Noc 1)
  • Northern Mockingbird – 5 at three circles (Clinton 3, Holland 1, Traverse City 1; also, cw at Ann Arbor & Waterloo State Recreation Area)
  • Red Crossbill – 124 at seven circles (Marquette 40, Whitefish Point 35, Western Macomb County 22, Hartland 14, Grayling 11, Kalamazoo 8, Allegan State Game Area 1, Carney 1, Huron County 1)
  • White-winged Crossbill – 37 at seven circles (Alpena 16, Eagle Harbor 5, Oceana 4, Ludington 2, Oscoda 2; also, cw at Hartland)
  • Lapland Longspur – 11 at four circles (Clinton 4, Sanilac 4, Hayward Lakes 2, Huron County 1)
  • Chipping Sparrow – 2 at Monroe (also, cw at Hartland)
  • Field Sparrow – 13 at six circles (Western Macomb County 5, Clinton 3, Rockwood 2, Holland 1, Kalamazoo 1, Lapeer County 1)
  • Eastern Towhee – 1 at Manistee
  • Rusty Blackbird – 19 at five circles (Muskegon Wastewater 8, Monroe 7, Rockwood 2, Little Bay de Noc 1, Neebish Island-Dunbar 1; also, cw at Marquette)

Record High Species Counts (and comparison to previous high):

  • Cackling Goose – 54 (51 on 107th CBC)
  • Canada Goose – 101,568 (83,918 on 100th)
  • Trumpeter Swan – 516 (478 on 119th)
  • Sandhill Crane – 8729 (5982 on 116th)
  • Red-shouldered Hawk – 86 (76 on 118th)
  • Belted Kingfisher – 167 (165 on 119th)
  • Merlin – 45 (31 on 120th)
  • Tufted Titmouse – 4668 (4264 on 110th)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – 4767 (4472 on 119th)
  • Carolina Wren – 471 (295 on 120th)
  • Common Yellowthroat – 6 (tied with 6 on 76th & 79th)

Fifteen Most Abundant Species (minimum of 10,000 individuals; to put this into context, the median was 124):

  • Canada Goose – 101,568 at 60 circles (maximum: 9737 at Midland)
  • European Starling – 75,047 at 69 circles (maximum: 11,238 at Ann Arbor)
  • Mallard – 39,824 at 64 circles (maximum: 4643 at Tuscola U.F.A.)
  • American Crow – 31,732 at 72 circles (maximum: 10,500 at Ann Arbor)
  • Mourning Dove – 19,063 at 71 circles (maximum: 1088 at Clinton)
  • Black-capped Chickadee – 19,322 at 72 circles (maximum: 1010 at Ann Arbor)
  • House Sparrow – 18,379 at 65 circles (maximum: 1365 at East Lansing)
  • Ring-billed Gull – 18,159 at 57 circles (maximum: 3196 at Battle Creek)
  • Herring Gull – 16,422 at 59 circles (maximum: 2606 at Little Bay de Noc)
  • Rock Pigeon – 16,023 at 68 circles (maximum: 940 at East Lansing)
  • American Robin – 12,785 at 50 circles (maximum: 7345 at Ann Arbor)
  • Canvasback – 12,155 at 7 circles (maximum: 8200 at Anchor Bay)
  • Common Goldeneye – 12,079 at 58 circles (maximum: 5302 at Holland)
  • Dark-eyed Junco – 11,658 at 67 circles (maximum: 837 at Ann Arbor)
  • Blue Jay – 10,069 at 72 circles (maximum: 482 at Ann Arbor)

Sixteen Most Widely Distributed Species (minimum of 90% frequency, or 65 circles; to put this into context, the median was 24%, or 17 circles):

  • Blue Jay (100%)
  • American Crow (100%)
  • Black-capped Chickadee (100%)
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (100%) – 4767 at 72 circles (maximum: 454 at Ann Arbor)
  • Mourning Dove (99%)
  • Downy Woodpecker (99%) – 3928 at 71 circles (maximum: 339 at Ann Arbor)
  • Hairy Woodpecker (99%) – 1214 at 71 circles (maximum: 76 at Ann Arbor)
  • Northern Cardinal (99%) – 7425 at 71 circles (maximum: 609 at Ann Arbor)
  • Bald Eagle (97%) – 872 at 70 circles (maximum: 85 at Monroe)
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (96%) – 2433 at 69 circles (maximum: 239 at Ann Arbor)
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (96%) – 1094 at 69 circles (maximum: 86 at Ann Arbor)
  • European Starling (96%)
  • Rock Pigeon (94%)
  • American Goldfinch (94%) – 8384 at 68 circles (maximum: 797 at Ann Arbor)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (93%)
  • Wild Turkey (92%) – 5198 at 66 circles (maximum: 567 at Midland)
  • House Sparrow (90%)

Exceptional Counts or Outliers (circles with counts outside the expected range for species reported at 36 or more circles; medians are shown for context)

  • Canada Goose (1248) – Midland 9737, Ann Arbor 8482, East Lansing 5676, Clinton 5204
  • Mute Swan (23) – Rockwood 285, Anchor Bay 260, Holland 203, Detroit 193, Monroe 184, Hartland 137
  • Mallard (344) – Tuscola U.F.A. 4643, Monroe 3258, Anchor Bay 2300, Allegan State Game Area 2013, Ann Arbor 1905
  • American Black Duck (4) – Anchor Bay 120, Rockwood 50, Bay City 42, Midland 37, Lake Leelanau 36, Ann Arbor 26, Kalamazoo 24
  • Redhead (14) – Anchor Bay 6600, Detroit River 525, Tawas 400, Beulah 384
  • Bufflehead (17) – Anchor Bay 710, Monroe 367, Battle Creek 169
  • Common Goldeneye (47) – Holland 5302, Monroe 898, Bay City 708, Traverse City 467, Beulah 439, Rockwood 425, Antrim-Old Mission 367, Lake Leelanau 353, Ludington 341
  • Hooded Merganser (15) – Detroit River 159, Clinton 207, Western Macomb County 207, Battle Creek 204
  • Common Merganser (31) – Monroe 1848, Muskegon 1275, Genesee County 729, Midland 575, Antrim-Old Mission 367, Beulah 216
  • Wild Turkey (48) – Midland 567, Ann Arbor 395, Hudsonville 355, Sanilac 208
  • Rock Pigeon (165) – East Lansing 940, Berrien Springs 919, Ann Arbor 863, Detroit River 852, Port Huron 797, Hudsonville 637, Clinton 569, Little Bay de Noc 558
  • Mourning Dove (162) – Western Macomb County 1061, Clinton 988
  • Ring-billed Gull (41) – Battle Creek 3196, Pontiac 2673, Niles 1268, Coloma 1146, Rockwood 1049, Monroe 1040, Anchor Bay 910, Hudsonville 791
  • Herring Gull (63) – Little Bay de Noc 2606, Coloma 1743, Muskegon Wastewater 1500, Battle Creek 1365, Port Huron 1081, Sanilac 803, Holland 781, Monroe 741
  • Great Blue Heron (3) – Rockwood 84, Monroe 60, Detroit River 23
  • Cooper’s Hawk (4) – Ann Arbor 40
  • Bald Eagle (8) – Monroe 85, Rockwood 72, Rudyard 39, Little Bay de Noc 36
  • Red-tailed Hawk (21.5) – Ann Arbor 116
  • Rough-legged Hawk (3) – Hayward Lakes 26, Sanilac 22, Ludington 15, Muskegon Wastewater 12
  • Eastern Screech-Owl (4) – Ann Arbor 26, Anchor Bay 23, Clinton 20, Western Macomb County 19, Niles 15
  • Great Horned Owl (2) – Ann Arbor 21, Clinton 19, Anchor Bay 11
  • Belted Kingfisher (3) – Ann Arbor 22, Western Macomb County 11
  • Red-bellied Woodpecker (24) – Ann Arbor 239
  • Downy Woodpecker (40) – Ann Arbor 339
  • Hairy Woodpecker (14) – Ann Arbor 76, Kalamazoo 57
  • Pileated Woodpecker (7) – Traverse City 21, Antrim-Old Mission 20
  • Northern Flicker (6) – Berrien Springs 57, Rockwood 57, Ann Arbor 37
  • Blue Jay (117) – Ann Arbor 482, Pontiac 378
  • American Crow (171) – Ann Arbor 10,500, Kalamazoo 5500, Albion 1727, Sanilac 980, Lapeer County 785, Pontiac 649
  • Common Raven (15) – Rudyard 149, Les Cheneaux 116
  • Black-capped Chickadee (220.5) – Ann Arbor 1010, Tittabawassee Valley 937, Midland 848
  • Tufted Titmouse (59) – Ann Arbor 474, Kalamazoo 250
  • Golden-crowned Kinglet (4) – Anchor Bay 36, Huron County 28, Sanilac 22
  • Red-breasted Nuthatch (11) – Ann Arbor 86, Western Macomb County 74, Sanilac 67, Huron County 59, Marquette 41, Grand Rapids 39
  • White-breasted Nuthatch (44) – Ann Arbor 454, East Lansing 228, Kalamazoo 228, Pontiac 204
  • Brown Creeper (3.5) – Berrien Springs 36, Ann Arbor 29, Rockwood 27, Western Macomb County 25, Detroit 23, Anchor Bay 21
  • European Starling (482) – Ann Arbor 11,238, Monroe 9750, New Buffalo 5994, Pontiac 3173, Port Huron 2964, Lapeer County 2764
  • Eastern Bluebird (52) – Ann Arbor 229
  • American Robin (31) – Ann Arbor 7345, Coloma 974, Pontiac 804, Rockwood 559, Anchor Bay 490, East Lansing 341, Detroit 305, Western Macomb County 290, Clinton 277
  • Cedar Waxwing (79.5) – Ludington 582, Berrien Springs 510
  • House Sparrow (168) – East Lansing 1365, Ann Arbor 1166, Anchor Bay 1020
  • House Finch (76) – Ann Arbor 761, Kalamazoo 403, East Lansing 360
  • Common Redpoll (72.5) – Mount Pleasant 2362, Hudsonville 869, Tittabawassee Valley 770, Cheboygan 638
  • American Goldfinch (95) – Ann Arbor 797, Kalamazoo 350
  • American Tree Sparrow (57) – Kalamazoo 360, Ann Arbor 341, Waterloo State Recreation Area 337
  • Dark-eyed Junco (130) – Ann Arbor 837
  • Song Sparrow (10) – Rockwood 74, Anchor Bay 73, Berrien Springs 61, Monroe 54, Ann Arbor 52, Kalamazoo 47
  • Northern Cardinal (65) – Ann Arbor 609, Kalamazoo 439, Grand Rapids 367

Circles With New Species (53% of 60 circles with a history of 10 or more counts recorded at least one new species)

  • 4 – two circles (Marquette, Tawas)
  • 3 – two circles (Holland, Little Bay de Noc)
  • 2 – eight circles (Alpena, Ann Arbor, Berrien Springs, Eagle Harbor, Huron County, Oscoda, Port Huron, Western Macomb County)
  • 1 – twenty circles (Albion, Anchor Bay, Antrim-Old Mission, Beulah, Cadillac Area, Carney, Clinton, Detroit, Detroit River, East Lansing, Higgins Lake-Houghton Lake, Hubbard Lake, Hudsonville, Lake Leelanau, Lapeer County, Les Cheneaux, Mount Pleasant, Muskegon Wastewater, Pontiac, Traverse City)

Circles With Highest Species Totals (minimum of 70; the median was 56.5):

  • 94 – Anchor Bay
  • 87 – Rockwood
  • 83 – Western Macomb County
  • 79 – Monroe
  • 77 – Clinton, Holland
  • 76 – Ann Arbor, Kalamazoo
  • 73 – Berrien Springs, Port Huron
  • 72 – Huron County
  • 71 – Coloma, Midland
  • 70 – Detroit

Circles With Greatest Number of Individuals (minimum of 12,500; the median was 15,776):

  • 51,397 – Ann Arbor
  • 46,505 – Monroe
  • 36,978 – Anchor Bay
  • 19,338 – Midland
  • 19,089 – Rockwood    
  • 15,805 – Kalamazoo
  • 14,954 – Pontiac
  • 14,728 – East Lansing
  • 14,402 – Clinton   
  • 14,023 – Holland
  • 13,645 – Battle Creek
  • 13,285 – Western Macomb County
  • 13,006 – Port Huron
  • 12,976 – Hudsonville
  • 12,564 – Coloma

Circles With Highest Indices of Rarity (rare and infrequently seen species as a percentage of the total, with a minimum of 35%; the median was 24.1%)

  • 57.1% – Holland (44 of 77)
  • 46.4% – Marquette (26 of 56)
  • 39.4% – Les Cheneaux (13 of 33)
  • 38.3% – Olivet (18 of 47)
  • 38.2% – Ann Arbor (29 of 76)
  • 37.7% – Clinton (29 of 77)
  • 36.6% – Midland (26 of 71)
  • 36.2% – Alpena (21 of 58)
  • 35.3% – Huron County (24 of 72)
  • 35.3% – Little Bay de Noc (18 of 51)
  • 35.2% – Tuscola U.F.A. (19 of 54)

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