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2019 Seattle Christmas Bird Count - 28 December 2019

Species tallied
(count day + count week)
124 species
Count Day: 121 species
Count Week: 3 additional species
Individual Birds: 50,270 birds
Observers: 324 [220 in field + 104 feeder watchers]

 

Overview:

The 2019 Seattle CBC was held on an overcast but rain-free day – much different than the year before when it was windy and rainy. Overall, that helped us find the birds – though the species total wasn’t high, the total number of birds was. The count day total of 121 species was the third lowest in the past decade, and the three count week species are added in, for a total of 124, we still came up with our second lowest total in the past decade, about 4 off the normal total for the decade.

That said, the total number of birds seen was high, with over 50,000 birds seen – only the second time this decade we reached that level. All told, we tallied about 2000 birds more than our decade average.

 

 

Cedar Waxwings and the Space Needle © Tiffany Linbo

Highlights:

Once again, we had over 300 total participants, with 220 in the field and 104 at feeders. Feeder watchers contributed 3,324 birds, about 6.5% of our total individual birds.

Feeder watchers also provided the one new species to the CBC record this time around: Lesser Goldfinch – a species that is slowly extending its range north, but that remains pretty hard to find in the city. For the second year in a row, we had Eurasian Collared-Dove, perhaps a sign they’ll now be a regular count bird. Other highlight birds include a Great Egret [for only the 2nd time] near the Ballard Locks, Rock Wren [only our third ever] at Alki, and a Mountain Chickadee nearby.

 

Notable misses:

Three species were only picked up as count week birds: Western Gull, Mourning Dove and Townsend’s Solitaire. In addition, notable misses included: Greater White-fronted Goose, California Quail, Marbled Murrelet, Bonaparte’s Gull, Iceland Gull, Western Screech-Owl, Evening Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.

Record high counts:

For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for a remarkable 25 species. We normally have just a handful setting new records, so that’s remarkable already: Cackling Goose (412), Wood Duck (126), Anna’s Hummingbird (835), Double-crested Cormorant (980), Great Egret (1), Cooper’s Hawk (33), Barn Owl (5), Barred Owl (16), N. Saw-whet Owl (3), Belted Kingfisher (46), Downy Woodpecker (135), Hairy Woodpecker (11), Hutton’s Vireo (20), Steller’s Jay (267), Common Raven (19), Chestnut-backed Chickadee (576), Brown Creeper (185), Rock Wren (1), Bewick’s Wren (371), Lesser Goldfinch (1), Dark-eyed Junco (2545), White-throated Sparrow (8), Song Sparrow (1155) and Spotted Towhee (496). No doubt, in many of these cases the increase in numbers can be attributed to the increase in feeder watcher observers in recent years – a change in our traditional data collection protocol, but provides a more complete picture of the birds in the area on a single day.

 

Count Team © Roniq Bartanen

Trends:

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. For example a species with a note of [100, 50%] would indicate that 100 individuals were seen, and that this is just 50% or half of the normal number seen over the past 10 years (the average number of individuals seen from 2009-2018 has been 200). Species with a record-high count are noted with an *.

 

Ducks & geese

Geese came in above average across the board: Snow Goose [111, 185%], Brant [150, 124%], Cackling Goose* [412, 538%] & Canada Goose [1804, 199%]. Dabbling ducks were mixed in their results, with some higher like Wood Duck* [126, 281%] and Mallard [1373, 105%], and some lower like Northern Shoveler [122, 65%] and Northern Pintail [19, 25%]. Likewise, the diving duck story was a little more mixed than in recent years, with at least Canvasback [222, 137%] and Ring-necked Duck [700, 138%] coming in higher than usual. The overall story for diving ducks continues to be declining numbers including Greater Scaup [74, 26%], Lesser Scaup [202, 60%], Surf Scoter [335, 40%], White-winged Scoter [1!!, 13%], & Black Scoter [2, 12%].

 

Grebes, hummingbirds, coots & rails

Most grebes came in close to their historical averages. Of note, after last year’s record low of 119, this year Western Grebes rebounded to close to the 10-year average: 637, 89%. We set a new record high with Anna’s Hummingbird* again, with 835 [218%], fully 77 higher than our previous high. We only located 2 Virginia Rail [33%], but American Coot came in strong with 5669, 140% of the decade norm.

 

Alcids & gulls

In addition to missing Marbled Murrelet again (only seen once on count day in last 7 years), Common Murre were notably low [11, 15%] as were Rhinoceros Auklet [45, 81%]. Pigeon Guillemot [56, 104%] were pretty much right on their norm. Several species of gull were missing or low this year. We missed Bonaparte’s & Iceland Gull altogether, and only found Western Gull during count week and 1 Herring Gull [28%] on count day. Mew Gull [301, 25%] and Ring-billed Gull [87, 42%] came in well below average as well. California Gull [45, 158%] and the combo of Glaucous-winged and GWxWestern hybrid [2053, 118%] were the only gulls seen in higher than usual numbers this year.

 

Loons & cormorants

Red-throated Loon [20, 70%] and Common Loon [8, 67%] were down this year, but Pacific Loon was seen at higher numbers than the norm [26, 111%]. On the cormorant front, Brandt’s Cormorant were way down [61, 30%], but Double-crested Cormorant* [980, 131%] and Pelagic Cormorant [84, 176%] were both seen in higher numbers than the usual.

 

 

Raptors & owls

Bald Eagles came in strong with 103 tallied [117% of the decade average], Sharp-shinned Hawk, with just 1 tallied was very low [11%], but Cooper’s Hawk* [33, 154%] set a new high. Picking up an American Kestrel on the count is always nice [1, 800%]. We also had good numbers of Merlin [13, 131%] and Peregrine were a bit low [6, 72%]. We had 4 owls, 3 of them in record or tied-for record numbers, but we did miss Western Screech-Owl, a species barely holding on in the circle: Barn Owl* [5, 155%], Great Horned Owl [3, 159%], Barred Owl* [16, 208%], and N. Saw-whet Owl* [3, 167%].

Great Egret © Tiffany Linbo

Passerines

Corvids did pretty well, all told: Steller’s Jay* [267, 149%], California Scrub-Jay [21, 202%], American Crow [5800, 73%], and Common Raven* [19, 411%].

 

Chickadees were high across the board: Black-capped Chickadee [2075, 124%], Mountain Chickadee [1, 300%], and Chestnut-backed Chickadee* [576, 172%]. Other similar species were high as well: Bushtit [1350, 142%], Red-breasted Nuthatch [223, 160%], Brown Creeper* [185, 228%].

 

Finches: Although we missed irruptive northern finches as expected this winter (missed Red Crossbill & Evening Grosbeak altogether, and Pine Siskin came in low [620, 55%]), otherwise our finch numbers were pretty good: House Finch [822, 114%], Purple Finch [30, 204%], American Goldfinch [739, 147%], and our count first Lesser Goldfinch* [1].

 

Sparrows were found mostly in good numbers this year: Above average sparrow species included: Dark-eyed Junco* [2545, 179%], White-crowned Sparrow [111, 178%], Golden-crowned Sparrow [260, 119%], White-throated Sparrow* [8, 291%], Song Sparrow* [1155, 143%] and Spotted Towhee* [496, 172%]. Lincoln’s Sparrow was right on its average at 15, and only Fox Sparrow [118, 82%] came in a little below average.

Feeder Watch:

Count Day:  45 species
Individual Birds:  3,324 birds
Observers:  104
Feeder Locations:  76

 

This year, once again our feeder watcher participation reached a record high, contributing nearly 7% of the total birds on the count and filling in many of the gaps in our coverage by watching backyards throughout the count circle. Overall, 104 observers found over 3300 birds over the course of the day. No doubt the increase in feeder watchers helped us reach many of the high counts reported above.

 

One feeder contributed the count’s only Lesser Goldfinch – a new species for the count circle. Top ten species found at feeders or yards by number were: Dark-eyed Junco (507), American Crow (395), Bushtit (381), Black-capped Chickadee (251), American Robin (246), House Finch (238), Anna’s Hummingbird (129), European Starling (117), Chestnut-backed Chickadee (106), and American Goldfinch (96). Nine of those were on the top-ten list last year as well!

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

Matt Bartels

Seattle CBC compiler

 

Species Recorded During 2018 Seattle CBC

Snow Goose (111) Mew Gull (301) Black-capped Chickadee (2075)
Brant (150) Ring-billed Gull (87) Chestnut-backed Chickadee (576)
Cackling Goose (412) Western Gull (CW) Mountain-backed Chickadee (1)
Canada Goose (1804) California Gull (45) Bushtit (1350)
Trumpeter Swan (5) Herring Gull (1) Red-breasted Nuthatch (223)
Wood Duck (126) Glaucous-winged Gull (1130) Brown Creeper (185)
Northern Shoveler (122) [Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (923)] Rock Wren (1)
Gadwall (613) [gull sp. (152)] Pacific Wren (230)
Eurasian Wigeon (7)   Marsh Wren (7)
[Eurasian x American Wigeon (1)] Red-throated Loon (20) Bewick's Wren (371)
American Wigeon (2217) Pacific Loon (26)  
Mallard (1373) Common Loon (8) Golden-crowned Kinglet (911)
Northern Pintail (19)   Ruby-crowned Kinglet (387)
Green-winged Teal (118) Brandt's Cormorant (61)  
Canvasback (222) Double-crested Cormorant (980) Townsend's Solitaire (CW)
Redhead (7) Pelagic Cormorant (84)  
Ring-necked Duck (700) [cormorant sp.(3)] Hermit Thrush (10)
Greater Scaup (74)   American Robin (2761)
Lesser Scaup (202) Great Blue Heron (67) Varied Thrush (67)
[Scaup sp. (23)] Great Egret (1)  
Harlequin Duck (48)   European Starling (2008)
Surf Scoter (335) Northern Harrier (1)  
White-winged Scoter (1) Sharp-shinned Hawk (1) Cedar Waxwing (288)
Black Scoter (2) Cooper's Hawk (33)  
Bufflehead (692) Bald Eagle (103) House Sparrow (316)
Common Goldeneye (295) [Bald Eagle adult (73)]  
Barrow's Goldeneye (146) [Bald Eagle immature (24)] House Finch (822)
  [Bald Eagle unspecified (6)] Purple Finch (30)
Hooded Merganser (66) Red-tailed Hawk (42) [Haemorous sp. (30)]
Common Merganser (380) [hawk sp. (1)] Pine Siskin (620)
Red-breasted Merganser (350) [accipiter sp. (2)] American Goldfinch (739)
Ruddy Duck (1)   Lesser Goldfinch (1)
[duck sp. (27)]   [Spinus sp. (5)]
  Barn Owl (5) Fox Sparrow (118)
Pied-billed Grebe (217) Northern Saw-whet Owl (3) Song Sparrow (1155)
Horned Grebe (340) Great Horned Owl (3) Lincoln's Sparrow (15)
Red-necked Grebe (109) Barred Owl (16) White-throated Sparrow (8)
Eared Grebe (3)   White-crowned Sparrow (111)
Western Grebe (637)   Golden-crowned Sparrow (260)
  Belted Kingfisher (46) Spotted Towhee (496)
     
Rock Pigeon (1414) Red-breasted Sapsucker (11) Dark-eyed Junco (2545)
Band-tailed Pigeon (27) Downy Woodpecker (135) [Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (1647)]
Eurasian Collared-Dove (2)  Hairy Woodpecker (11) [Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (12)]
Mourning Dove (CW) Northern Flicker (443) [Dark-eyed Junco (undifferenciated) (886)]
Anna's Hummingbird (835) [Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (143)]  
  [Northern Flicker (Red x Yellow-shafted) (4)] Red-winged Blackbird (112)
Virginia Rail (2) [Northern Flicker (not differenciated) (296)]  
American Coot (5669) Pileated Woodpecker (21) Orange-crowned Warbler (5)
    Yellow-rumped Warbler (207)
Killdeer (25) Merlin (13) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (89)]
Black Turnstone (79) Peregrine Falcon (6) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (38)]
Surfbird (31)   [Yellow-rumped Warbler (unspecified) (80)]
Sanderling (62) Hutton's Vireo (20) Townsend's Warbler (28)
Dunlin (1)    
  Steller's Jay (267) [passerine sp. (16)]
Wilson's Snipe (7) California Scrub-Jay (21)  
Spotted Sandpiper (5) American Crow (5800)  
  Common Raven (19)  
Common Murre (11)    
Pigeon Guillemot (56)    
Rhinoceros Auklet (45)    
     
cw = count week Count Day # of Species: 121  
Bold = record high counts Count Day and Count Week # of Species: 124  
Green = new species to the count Total # of birds: 50270  
     
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