The 122nd Christmas Bird Count in Manitoba

There were 20 counts held this year, up two from last, with the resumption of some previously canceled by Covid precautions.  The loss of the Morden count, with the departure of its compiler, was offset by the resumption of the long-inactive Rivers count.

The weather prior to the count period was fairly mild with limited snow. These conditions persisted into the count period, but a heavy snowfall on the 27th of December changed things and set the stage for a brutal winter.  Two counts scheduled for later in the period had to be postponed and species diversity was lower for later counts than it might have been with possibly both a real decline, and a reduction in observer effort.

Winnipeg easily topped the counts with 48 species, followed by Brandon at 38, Selkirk at 36, and a tie between Glenboro and Portage la Prairie at 35 to round out the top five.  At the other end were Cranberry Portage at 14 species, The Pas at 15, Whiteshell at 16, Dauphin at 23, and Gimli at 24 making up the bottom five.

There were 75 count-day species recorded, one more than last year, and one hybrid. Three more species were count-week only: Barred Owl in Balmoral, and Eastern Screech-Owl and Townsend’s Solitaire in Winnipeg. Six species, Downy and Hairy woodpecker, Common Raven, Black-capped Chickadee, White-breasted Nuthatch, and Common Redpoll were recorded on every count, although the last was represented by only one on the Lyleton CBC.  At the other extreme 17 species were found on one count only.  Those not mentioned elsewhere in this report were Ring-necked Pheasant (Lyleton) and Lapland Longspur (Oak Hammock).

The most abundant species was House Sparrow with 21,213, followed by Common Redpoll at 6546, Snow Bunting at 5824, Black-capped Chickadee at 4990, and Rock Pigeon at 4268.  By contrast, there were 11 species represented by single individuals, all mentioned elsewhere in this account.

Canada Geese numbered 16 on six counts with nearly half of these at Portage.  Seven counts reported Mallards totaling 102, with 81 at Winnipeg.  All other waterfowl species consisted of singles—American Black Duck on the Red River, and Lesser Scaup and Ring-necked at a sewage treatment facility, all in Winnipeg; and a Common Goldeneye in Portage.

Whiteshell may have one of the lower species totals, but it did include the only Spruce Grouse (2) in the province this year.

A fairly diverse group of diurnal raptors was seen, including two counts with Golden Eagles (one in Lyleton and three in Glenboro), single Sharp-shinned Hawks at Brandon, Carman, and Glenboro, Northern Goshawks on five counts, Bald Eagles on 14 counts (with three counts having 10 each) for a total of 72, a Red-tailed Hawk in Winnipeg, and 14 Rough-legged Hawks on seven counts (plus one more as a count week sighting).

Eurasian Collared-Doves numbered 120 across six counts, including a total of 51 at Portage.  A total of five Mourning Doves were reported: three at Selkirk and two at Gimli.

Single Northern Hawk Owls were found on four counts, Gimli, Hodgson, Pinawa, and Selkirk.  Riding Mountain had two Great Gray Owls, the only count day record, although there was a count week report for Pinawa.  A Short-eared Owl was a surprise in Winnipeg.

Seven Red-bellied Woodpeckers were reported, with an impressive total of five in Winnipeg and two in Carman.  Riding Mountain had the only report of American Three-toed Woodpecker, with two; Black-backed Woodpeckers came in twos at both Riding Mountain and Hodgson.

A couple of lone falcons were seen, a Gyrfalcon at Hodgson and an American Kestrel at Delta.

Canada Jays (as an aside, when will NAS update their website with the right name?) were found on four counts, totaling 99, with the largest number, 31, at Cranberry Portage.

A Chipping Sparrow at Pinawa was exquisitely described.  The only other native sparrows found this year were White-throated, with singles at Brandon and Glenboro, and 10 in Winnipeg.

Two Northern Cardinals were found in their usual haunts in Winnipeg.

Blackbirds were a little scarcer than usual, with seven Common Grackles on six counts, a Red-winged Blackbird at Brandon (plus a count week sighting at Carman) and a Rusty Blackbird at Cypress River.

American Goldfinches were scarce this year with only 22 reported across three counts, with 19 of them at Cypress River and two at Winnipeg, but perhaps the most surprising was a single bird at The Pas.  Although the Common Redpoll numbers were substantial, Hoary Redpolls were scarce in comparison, and other “winter” finches were unremarkable this year, with the possible exception of Pine Grosbeak, which numbered 1541 across 18 counts, exceeding the Evening Grosbeak total of 1205 on 11 counts.

Winnipeg again reported a House x Eurasian Tree Sparrow hybrid, this year back at the usual location—these birds are getting to be a fair age, as their Eurasian Tree Sparrow parent was last recorded in 2018.

Sadly, a couple of counts reported Cooper’s Hawks without any description; these were duly removed. Compilers should be aware this species is rarely found in winter and virtually all reports are in error and so they need details.  Other than this, documentation was reasonably good for rarities.  Indeed, Pinawa’s description of their Chipping Sparrow should serve as a guideline for all rarities!