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2016 Seattle Christmas Bird Count – December 31, 2016

California Quail © Doug Schurman
126 species tallied (count day + count week)
Count Day: 123 species
Count Week: 3 additional species
Individual Birds: 45,499 birds
Observers: 338!

Overview:

The 2016 Seattle Christmas Bird Count was marked with about a normal number of species seen, but with lower overall bird numbers, almost across the board. The lower tally was not for lack of effort: The total number of observers reached a record high, both for numbers in the field, and for feeder-watchers. The total number of birds counted [45,499] was the lowest total recorded since 1996 but was remarkably only 107 birds lower than last year. Our count-day species count of 123 was only slightly below the normal totals for recent years. Three additional species (California Quail, Western Tanager, and Western Meadowlark) were added in the count week, giving a total of 126 species, a couple below our 10-year average.

Highlights:

Bohemian Waxwing © Doug Schurman

Three hundred and thirty-eight people took part on December 31, setting a new record, with 261 birders in the field and 77 feeder watchers. This level of participation is more than 100 higher than our previous record high from just last year. If last year's numbers are a guide, we should end up in the top five CBC circles in North America for participation this year. The most exciting birds of the count included: Rufous Hummingbird in Ballard - only the 2nd time in 40 years we've recorded one. Glaucous Gull in the Puget Sound - seen by the boat team, the first ever for our CBC, except for one 'count week' record. Lastly, Bohemian Waxwing were reported from Magnuson, Discovery and Seward Parks this year - though the count of nine was not a record high, it is only the 3rd time we've had Bohemian Waxwing in the last 40 years.

Notable misses:

Snow Goose, Eared Grebe, Marbled Murrelet, Mourning Dove, Brewer’s Blackbird & Evening Grosbeak were the most notable species we missed this year – though none of these are guaranteed in the circle in any given year.

Record high counts:

For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for:

  • Tundra Swan [3] - at Newcastle Beach Park, 4th time on count-day in 40 years.
  • Redhead [14] - first time in double digits in over 40 years. Both at Montlake Fill and Medina.
  • Hooded Merganser [137] - more than double last year's total, 167% of 10-year average.
  • Glaucous Gull [1] - first time ever on count day.
  • Barn Owl [4] - tie with 2015, found in three count areas.
  • Common Raven [8] - more than double previous high, found in 4 count areas. Perhaps a sign they are moving into urban areas, as in the east?
  • Pacific Wren [298] - higher than last year's nation-wide CBC high total for this species - perhaps a national record!
  • Bewick's Wren [354] - long-term upward trend.
  • Hermit Thrush [38] - more than 5 times the normal level, seen by 14 count groups.
  • Cedar Waxwing [337] - also more than 5 times the normal level, and hosting scattered Bohemian Waxwing this year!
  • Spotted Towhee [360] - always a strong presence, but on a long upward trend.
  • Dark-eyed Junco [2055] - more than 500 greater than previous high-count.

Trends:

[numbers in brackets indicate the total number seen and the percentage as a ratio of the 10-year average on the count]

Ducks and geese:

Ducks and geese showed a mixed pattern this year, with many at about normal levels, but some notably higher or lower. Wood Duck [48, 184% of 10-yr average], Eurasian Wigeon [14, 149%], Green-winged Teal [159, 147%], Redhead [14, 788%!], Hooded Merganser [137, 167%] and Common Merganser [399, 149%] all recorded numbers well above normal. On the other end, Brant [44, 38% of 10-yr average], Canvasback [87, 35%], Surf Scoter [360, 38%], White-winged Scoter [5, 50%], and Barrow's Goldeneye [125, 39%] were all well-below their recent norms.

Grebes, Pigeons and Hummingbirds:

Pied-billed Grebe [230, 130%] continue a trend of higher numbers in recent years, but all other grebes were low this year. Western Grebe [290, 31%] continue to show their downward trend - this was the 2nd lowest total in 40 years, and the last three years have been the three lowest in this period. Likewise, Red-necked Grebe [75, 62%] were found at their third lowest level in the past 40 years. Band-tailed Pigeon {108, 263%] came in strong, while Rock Pigeon [1172, 50%] were found at only half their normal level. Eurasian Collared-dove continue to be absent from the Seattle count despite their presence seemingly everywhere else in the state. Anna's Hummingibrd [442, 159%] continue to show up in our urban circle in strong numbers.

Alcids, Gulls and Loons:

Alcids, with 78 total across three species, were only about 40% of the 10-yr average. Most notably, zero Marbled Murrelet were found, right on the cusp of Seattle Audubon's "Marbled Murrelet Month." Eight species of gull were found, but the gull total [2753] was about 78% of the 10-yr norm. Likewise, loons came in low at just half their 10-yr average, with 36 total found.

Raptors:

Bald Eagle © Doug Schurman

Bald Eagle [72, 101%], Cooper's Hawk [21, 91%], and Red-tailed Hawk [40, 108%] all came in close to their recent averages. Likewise, falcons showed up at normal levels with 12 Merlin and 8 Peregrine Falcon.

Owls & Woodpeckers:

Six species of owl showed up for the count. Barn Owl [4] tied its record level, while Western Screech-owl [2], Great Horned [2], Barred [7], and Northern Saw-whet Owl [2] all were found at near-normal levels. A Short-eared Owl was a nice find; a species we only occasionally record on the count. Woodpeckers were all present at slightly better than average numbers this year, with the exception of Red-breasted Sapsucker, where the 22 found represent more than twice the expected count.

Passerines:

Pacific Wren [298, 159%] and Bewick's Wren [354, 132%] both were present in record numbers. Thrush were also surprisingly numerous - I'd been expecting a low count for them given recent discussion of missing Varied Thrush in the region. Instead, we set a new record for Hermit Thrush [38, 514%], coming in well above average, with American Robins [3512, 132%] and clocked in with 163 Varied Thrush [157% of the 10-yr average]. While the nine Bohemian Waxwing were a highlight, they were mixed in among a record 337 Cedar Waxwing, five times their normal number. House Finch [811, 109%] and Purple Finch [29, 266%] were present in good numbers, but the irruptive finch species largley skipped the count, with only 1 Red Crossbill, 89 Pine Siskin [6%], and zero Evening Grosbeak. House Sparrows [269, 52%] continue a long decline and showed up at their third lowest level in 40 years. Sparrows in general were found in high numbers, notably Spotted Towhee [360, 133%] and Dark-eyed Junco [2055, 188%] set new record highs, and White-crowned Sparrows [71, 147%] were only one below the all-time record for the count.

Feeder Watch:

Count Day:  42 species
Individual Birds:  2,543 birds
Observers:  77
Feeder Locations:  59


This year saw a massive increase in the contribution feeder-watchers provided to the Seattle Christmas Bird Count. Whereas last year we had 27 participants at 19 locations, this year saw a tripling of the participants, with 79 observers at 59 locations. We had feeder counters from the north to the south edge of the count circle and the results were clear. Overall, 2,543 birds were tallied by feeder watchers, also more than triple last year's total of 731 birds.

Forty-two different species were noted at feeders. Of the over 2,500 birds counted at feeders, over a third came from two species, Dark-eyed Junco [486] and Bushtit [432]! Rounding out the top ten species tallied at feeders were the following backyard regulars: American Crow [222], House Finch [171], Black-capped Chickadee [154], American Goldfinch [140], European Starling [121]; Anna's Hummingbird [97], House Sparrow [75], and American Robin [73].

As feeder watching becomes a more significant part of the overall Seattle CBC effort, we look forward to building a more complete snapshot of the birds present in our circle.

Thanks to everyone who participated and made this another great count.

Matt Bartels
Seattle, WA

Species Recorded During 2016 Seattle CBC

Greater White-fronted Goose (1) Mew Gull (637) Black-capped Chickadee (1624)
Brant (44) Ring-billed Gull (167) Chestnut-backed Chickadee (369)
Cackling Goose (28) Western Gull (4) Bushtit (1179)
Canada Goose (792) California Gull (13)  
Trumpeter Swan (3) Herring Gull (2) Red-breasted Nuthatch (151)
Wood Duck (48) Thayer's Gull (1) Brown Creeper (102)
Gadwall (603) Glaucous-winged Gull (1194)  
Eurasian Wigeon (14) [Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (352)] Pacific Wren (298)
American Wigeon (2381) Glaucous Gull (1) Marsh Wren (8)
[Eurasian x American Wigeon (1)] gull sp. (382) Bewick's Wren (354)
Mallard (1157)    
Northern Shoveler (124) Red-throated Loon (11) Golden-crowned Kinglet (1087)
Northern Pintail (4) Pacific Loon (14) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (421)
Green-winged Teal (159) Common Loon (8) [kinglet sp. (2)]
Canvasback (87) [Loon sp. (3)]  
Redhead (14)   Hermit Thrush (38)
Ring-necked Duck (522) Brandt's Cormorant (243) American Robin (3512)
Greater Scaup (190) Double-crested Cormorant (690) Varied Thrush (163)
Lesser Scaup (322) Pelagic Cormorant (44)  
[Scaup sp. (60)] [Cormorant sp. (4)] European Starling (1450)
Harlequin Duck (53)    
Surf Scoter (360) Great Blue Heron (50) Bohemian Waxwing (9)
White-winged Scoter (5) Green Heron (1) Cedar Waxwing (337)
Black Scoter (19)    
Bufflehead (635) Bald Eagle (72) House Sparrow (269)
Common Goldeneye (406) [Bald Eagle adult (59)]  
Barrow's Goldeneye (125) [Bald Eagle immature (7)] House Finch (811)
[Goldeneye sp. (6)] [Bald Eagle unspecified (6)] Purple Finch (29)
Hooded Merganser (137) Sharp-shinned Hawk (8) [Haemorhous sp. (1)]
Common Merganser (399) Cooper's Hawk (21) Red Crossbill (1)
Red-breasted Merganser (203) [accipiter sp. (4)] Pine Siskin (89)
Ruddy Duck (10) Red-tailed Hawk (40) American Goldfinch (574)
[duck sp. (18)] [buteo sp. (1)]  
    Orange-crowned Warbler (7)
[California Quail (CW)] Barn Owl (4) Yellow-rumped Warbler (244)
  Western Screech-owl (2) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (63)]
Pied-billed Grebe (230) Great Horned Owl (2) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (1)]
Horned Grebe (283) Barred Owl (7) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (unspecified) (172)]
Red-necked Grebe (75) Short-eared Owl (1) Townsend's Warbler (18)
Western Grebe (290) Northern Saw-whet Owl (2)  
    Spotted Towhee (360)
Rock Pigeon (1172) Belted Kingfisher (37) Fox Sparrow (130)
Band-tailed Pigeon (108)   Song Sparrow (825)
  Red-breasted Sapsucker (22) Lincoln's Sparrow (11)
Anna's Hummingbird (442) Downy Woodpecker (68) White-throated Sparrow (3)
Rufous Hummingbird (1) Hairy Woodpecker (6) White-crowned Sparrow (71)
  Northern Flicker (393) Golden-crowned Sparrow (228)
Virginia Rail (2) [Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (224)] Dark-eyed Junco (2055)
American Coot (4583) [Northern Flicker (Red x Yellow-shafted) (3)] [Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (2)]
  [Northern Flicker (not differenciated) (166)] [Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (1382)]
Killdeer (56) Pileated Woodpecker (19) [Dark-eyed Junco (undifferenciated) (671)]
Black Turnstone (29)    
Surfbird (74) Merlin (12) Western Tanager (CW)
Sanderling (70) Peregrine Falcon (8)  
Dunlin (13) [falcon sp. (1)] Red-winged Blackbird (121)
Wilson's Snipe (19)    
Spotted Sandpiper (2) Hutton's Vireo (1) Western Meadowlark (CW)
     
Common Murre (3) Steller's Jay (191) [passerine sp. (16)]
Pigeon Guillemot (53) California Scrub-Jay (12)  
Rhinoceros Auklet (21) American Crow (7296)  
[Alcid sp. (1)] Common Raven (8)  
     
     
cw = count week    
Bold = record high counts    
Green = new species to the count    
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