A total of 57 Christmas Bird Counts submitted data during the 122nd (2021-2022) season in Alberta. A total of 275,514 individual birds of 111 species were tallied by 1155 field counters and 867 feeder counters. Calgary was the top count with 73 species on count day, up from 69 species the year previous.
A total of ten species were only detected during Count Week (three days prior to and three days after a Count Day), including: Greater White-fronted Goose (Calgary), Horned Grebe (Waterton Lakes NP), Double-crested Cormorant (High River), Killdeer (Calgary), Eastern Screech-Owl (Medicine Hat), Northern Pygmy-Owl (Sheep River), Long-eared Owl (Lethbridge), Harris’s Sparrow (Rocky Mountain House), Red-winged Blackbird (Banff-Canmore), and Western Meadowlark (High River). The top 10 most abundant species in Alberta, in order of most to least abundant were: Canada Goose, Bohemian Waxwing, House Sparrow, Mallard, Common Redpoll, Snow Bunting, Black-capped Chickadee, Black-billed Magpie, Common Raven, and Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon).
Dinosaur PP recorded the coldest low temperature on count day with -42 degrees Celsius, while Sheep River was the warmest at 1 degree Celsius. Elk Island NP had the highest snow with a minimum of 300 cm, and the highest maximum wind speed came from Waterton Lakes NP (76km/hr).
Species and notes
Canada Goose (81,702) was the most abundant waterfowl species reported, down from the previous year, followed by Mallard (23,720), Common Goldeneye (1919), Bufflehead (154), and Common Merganser (111), all of which, with the exception of Common Goldeneye (1919), are increases from the previous count year. Lethbridge reported the highest count of Canada Goose (39,366) in Alberta, and Cackling Goose was reported for Calgary, Lethbridge, and Medicine Hat, showing an increasing trend. Seven Trumpeter Swans were reported, with five in Calgary, and two in High River, and the only Tundra Swan was also in the Calgary count circle. Small numbers of most expected duck species took refuge along the Bow River in Calgary including Wood Duck, Gadwall, Green-winged Teal, Canvasback, Redhead, Ring-necked Duck, Greater Scaup, Lesser Scaup, Harlequin Duck, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Hooded Merganser, and Ruddy Duck. Sharp-tailed Grouse were recorded in lower abundance than last year, with the highest numbers reported for Milk River (51), Dinosaur Provincial Park (28) and Manyberries (17). Four counts recorded Spruce Grouse, with six in Jarvie, five in Hinton, and singles from Athabasca and Banff-Canmore. The only Horned Grebe reported were during Count Week from Waterton Lakes NP, while Double-crested Cormorant was reported at High River. No Common Loons were reported this year, but one American White Pelican was again recorded for High River.
American Coot was reported on only two counts: Medicine Hat (7) and Calgary (1). The only shorebirds in Alberta were a Count Week Killdeer and a Wilson’s Snipe, both in Calgary. Both of these shorebirds were recorded in higher numbers at multiple counts last season, likely due to colder conditions this year. Gulls were virtually absent on CBCs during the 122nd, again likely due to the early cold weather and lack of open water. Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported on 24 Circles but the vast majority coming form Lethbridge (241) and Medicine Hat (178). Mourning Doves were scarce with only six reported among three circles.
As often the case, Bald Eagle was far and away the most abundant raptor (336), a substantial increase over last year (245). Detections of Rough-legged Hawks (60) however, were half that of last year (119), and there was also a decline in records for Northern Goshawk (23). Merlin (63) was the most abundant falcon, followed by Prairie Falcon (18) and Gyrfalcon (6), with Canadian high-counts for Prairie Falcon in Medicine Hat (4), and Gyrfalcon in Devon-Calmar (2). The third most abundant raptor was Merlin, where Alberta is known to be a winter stronghold for the species. Twenty-four Merlins in Calgary was the highest count in a North American CBC. Owl numbers and diversity was sharply down with only five Northern Hawk Owls, four Great Gray Owls, four Short-eared Owls, one Boreal Owl and perhaps most surprisingly, only Count Week Northern Pygmy-Owl. Snowy Owls were present in unremarkable numbers.
Twenty-one American Three-toed Woodpecker at Grand Prairie, and Downy Woodpecker (438) in Edmonton were high counts in Canada, with the former also being a high for North America. At least six Belted Kingfishers were counted, down from last year’s nine. A total of 59 Northern Shrikes were tallied on Count Days in Alberta.
Clark’s Nutcracker (106) at Banff-Canmore was the North American High Count for another consecutive season. Calgary regained the high-count title for Black-billed Magpies (2529) on the continent. Common Ravens in Whitehorse set a new all time record high count (3300). Common Raven remains the species detected most on CBCs in Canada. Edmonton was the Black-capped Chickadee of not only Canada, but all of North America. Counts in Alberta again recorded North American records of both Bohemian Waxwing (15,676) and House Sparrow (7394) in Calgary. There was a healthy count of Snow Buntings in the province (14,794), followed by Horned Larks (1955), and Lapland Longspurs (3).
After the massive finch irruption during the 121st CBC in the east, Common Redpolls (21,850) were in abundance in the west during the 122nd. Pine Grosbeaks (2958) and Evening Grosbeaks (603) were present albeit not in record-breaking numbers. Pine Siskin can be one of the most abundant finches most years, but their numbers were down this year. Not surprisingly, Dark-eyed Juncos (605) led the way in the sparrow department, followed by American Tree Sparrow (72) and White-throated Sparrow (20). One Fox Sparrow in Calgary was a good showing and the only Harris’s Sparrow was a Count Week bird at Rocky Mountain House. Blackbirds were few and far between with only five Common Grackles found on Count Day: three at Fort McMurray and singles at Elnora and Jarvie.