[Tweeters] Seattle Christmas Bird Count 19 Dec 2021 - summary of results

Matt Bartels mattxyz at earthlink.net
Sat Jan 8 09:49:09 PST 2022

Tweeters -

A full report will be posted on the Seattle Audubon website with all the especies totals before long, but for now, here’s a summary of the 2021 Seattle CBC.

2021 Seattle Christmas Bird Counts
19 December 2021

135 species tallied (count day + count week)
Count day: 130 species
Count week: 5 additional species
Individual birds: 54,445 [51849 in-field, 2596 at feeders]
Observers: 260 [162 in field + 98 feeder watchers]

After a Covid year of a feeder-watch only CBC, in 2021 we returned to having in-field teams in addition to feeder-watchers. We still limited in-field participation to maintain safety, but it was great to be back to something closer to normal this time around.

The 2021 Seattle CBC was held on a cloudy but rain-free day. Overall, results were quite good – We tallied the highest number of birds [54,445] in 15 years – not since the era when the crow roost site was inside the count circle have we seen this many birds on the CBC. This is over 6600 higher than our 10-year average. The species total was also a record high – we recorded 130 species on count day [a record], with.5 additional count week species

While we added no new species to the CBC history this year, highlight birds for the count included Ancient Murrelets [8], Common Redpolls [7], Townsend’s Solitaire and Western Tanager, as well as count week Great Egret, Pine Grosbeak and Lesser Goldfinch

Notable misses
Five species were only picked up as count week birds: Ruddy Duck, Great Egret, Marbled Murrelet, Pine Grosbeak and Lesser Goldfinch. In addition, notable misses included: Long-tailed Duck, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Ring-necked Pheasant, Western Screech-Owl and Red Crossbill.

Record high counts
For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for a remarkable 15 species. In addition to the high total count and high species count, we set or tied record highs for: Greater White-fronted Goose [20], Common Merganser [732[, Red-breasted Merganser [516], Pelagic Cormorant [93], Double-crested Cormorant [1142], Northern Harrier [2], Cooper’s Hawk [40], Red-tailed Hawk [53], Northern Saw-whet Owl [8], Hairy Woodpecker [11], Peregrine Falcon [16], Spotted Towhee [518], Song Sparrow [1230], Golden-crowned Sparrow [373], and Orange-crowned Warbler [14].

It’s always tough to be selective with the results to report, but here’s how a few groups fared.
[numbers in brackets indicate the total number seen and the percentage as a ratio of the 10-year average on the count (excluding last year), species with a record-high count noted with an *]. For example, a note of “[100, 50%]” would indicate that 100 individuals were seen, and that this is just 50% of the norm for the past 10 years (the average # seen from 2010-2019 has been 200).

Ducks & Geese
Geese and Swans came in at or above average in most cases: Greater White-fronted Goose* [20, 286%], Brant [123, 102%], Cackling Goose [160, 138%], Canada Goose [1411, 142%], Trumpeter Swan [24, 197%], & Tundra Swan [3, 200%]. Only Snow Goose [50, 69%] bucked the trend with a lower than usual showing. Dabbling ducks were generally present in a bit lower than usual numbers this year: Northern Shoveler [52, 27%], Gadwall [453, 78%], Northern Pintail [28, 37%], & Green-winged Teal [90, 76%]. American Wigeon [2540, 105%] and Mallard [1438, 108%] were closer to their norms.

The diving duck story was a not great overall, with pretty much all species reporting lower than usual numbers, for example: Redhead [1, 15%], Lesser Scaup [109, 35%], Surf Scoter [600, 78%], White-winged Scoter [2, 26%], and Barrow’s Goldeneye [117, 41%]. Mergansers were one group that did better than usual this year across the board, with two setting record-high totals: Hooded Merganser [84, 111%], Common Merganser* [732, 225%], and Red-breasted Merganser* [516, 178%].

Grebes, Pigeons & Hummingbirds
Grebes showed a mixed result. While Pied-billed Grebe numbers [182, 90%] were pretty stable and Red-necked Grebe [136, 125%] numbers were high, Horned Grebe [238, 75%] and Western Grebe [202, 30%] numbers were low this year. Our Rock Pigeon numbers were a little low [1667, 85%], but the three Mourning Doves found were the most we’ve seen on the count since 1978! Band-tailed Pigeon [10, 17%] were found at their lowest level since 1971. Anna’s Hummingbirds [821, 190%] were found at the 2nd highest level ever.

Our alcid story was mixed. On the one hand, Ancient Murrelet [8] was found on count day for the first time since 2006, and at a level not matched since 1990. A Count Week Marbled Murrelet [CW] was also a good find – only the 4th time in the past decade it has made the list. Rhinoceros Auklet [82, 140%] numbers were strong and Pigeon Guillemot [56, 102%] were found at normal levels. The Common Murre numbers [34, 47%] look low when compared to their 10-year average, but that average disguises the highly variable results they show from year to year – while half of that average, the 34 seen this year were also more than was seen in seven of the previous ten CBCs.

Loons & Cormorants
Loon numbers were lower, at about 80% of their decade average: Red-throated Loon [23, 78%], Pacific Loon [21, 83%] and Common Loon [9, 79%]. On the cormorant front, Brandt’s Cormorant were down [123, 61%], but Pelagic Cormorant* [93, 170%] and Double-crested Cormorant* [1142, 145%] were both seen in record high numbers.

Raptors & Owls
Raptors overall were found in solid numbers: The Bald Eagle [131, 149%] total is particularly high if you consider that prior to 1990 we had never even tallied a double-digit total for this species – they’ve moved in! In addition, we saw higher than usual numbers for other raptors: Northern Harrier [2, 600%], Sharp-shinned Hawk [10, 135%], Cooper’s Hawk [40, 178%] and Red-tailed Hawk [53, 145%] were all seen in higher than usual numbers. Likewise, falcons were strong: American Kestrel [2, 800%], Merlin [13, 120%] and Peregrine Falcon* [16, 190%] all cooperated. We had four species of owl on the count: Barn Owl [2, 58%], Great Horned Owl [2, 95%], Barred Owl [15, 172%] and a record total for Northern Saw-whet Owl [8, 421%]. We did miss Western Screech-Owl again – their last sighting on the count was 2018….

Corvids numbers were solid, all told: Steller’s Jay [254, 132%%], California Scrub-Jay [19, 173%], American Crow [6169, 92%], and Common Raven [15, 226%].

Numbers for the ‘little ones,’ from Chickadees to Wrens, were largely consistent with their recent trends: Black-capped Chickadee [1776, 104%], Chestnut-backed Chickadee [413, 110%], Bushtit [862, 86%], Ruby-crowned Kinglet [469, 136%], Red-breasted Nuthatch [207, 137%], Brown Creeper [100, 107%], Pacific Wren [246, 124%], Bewick’s Wren [293, 105%]. Of these, only one, Golden-crowned Kinglet [636, 63%] was down significantly.

Thrush numbers were strong overall. In addition to our one Townsend’s Solitaire, we also saw higher than usual Hermit Thrush [35, 302%] numbers, steady numbers for American Robin [2790, 103%], and high totals for Varied Thrush [192, 162%].

Sparrows showed up, with all nine species above average and three setting record high counts: Fox Sparrow [190, 136%], Dark-eyed Junco [2485, 158%], White-crowned Sparrow [102, 145%], Golden-crowned Sparrow* [373, 162%], White-throated Sparrow [4, 110%], Savannah Sparrow [2, only the 5th time in 20 years they’ve been found], Song Sparrow* [1230, 142%], Lincoln’s Sparrow [16, 107%] and Spotted Towhee* [518, 167%].

Warblers: Orange-crowned Warblers* [14, 286%] were out in force. Yellow-rumped Warblers [290, 133%] were also present in above average numbers. Townsend’s Warbler [17, 78%] numbers, on the other hand, were a bit below average. Pretty nice to find over 300 warblers in Seattle on a single December day.

Thanks to all the participants who contributed to this year’s count.

Matt Bartels
Seattle CBC Compiler
Seattle, WA
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