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2018 Seattle Christmas Bird Count - December 2018

Species tallied
(count day + count week)
122 species
Count Day: 117 species
Count Week: 5 additional species
Individual Birds: 46,798 birds
Observers: 315
CBC participants scouring Union Bay ©

Overview:

The 2018 Seattle Christmas Bird count was held on a windy, then rainy day – intrepid CBC-ers persisted, though, and found all the birds willing to be found. Our total of over forty-six thousand birds was lower than average, about the fourth lowest year in the past twenty years. Not amazing, but also not as low as it might have seemed during the day. The count-day species total of 117 was the lowest since 2003, and even when we add in five count-week birds, our total of 122 species was the lowest in a decade. The effects of the weather probably overwhelm most efforts to draw trend conclusions out of the results, but it is interesting nevertheless to see how this year compares with others….‚Äč

Highlights:

We continue to have strong participation numbers – this was our third year with over 300 participants. Eighty-eight feeder watchers contributed 2,441 birds, about 5% of the total. On the bird front; one species was new for the count - Eurasian Collared-Dove. Considering that over 5,700 Eurasian Collared-Doves were reported in Washington CBCs last year, and given that we were one of the last counts in the state to finally add this species to their circle, this is one of the least surprising new species to report. I think in Washington now the only counts without this species are the North Cascades count in the mountains and the ferry trip from Anacortes to Sidney.

Western Tanager female flickr

A single Barn Swallow at Magnuson Park was another highlight. This species has only appeared on three previous counts (along with two count week sightings). Other notable birds included a feeder-watch Western Tanager [6th sighting in the ‘modern CBC era’], a count-week Clark’s Grebe [5th ever for the count], and a count-week Townsend’s Solitaire [6 of the last 10 counts, but only 10 times total in the last 50 years].

The bigger story though were low numbers for many species – At least partially due to the weather keeping the boat party from their usual route, almost all saltwater species showed very low totals including ducks, grebes, alcids, most gulls and loons. On land, the results were more mixed, as the more detailed discussion below will note, with many species lower than average, but some surprisingly high counts as well.

Notable misses:

Five species were only picked up as count week birds: Redhead, Clark’s Grebe, Bonaparte’s Gull, Great Horned Owl and Townsend’s Solitaire. In addition, species missed entirely for the count circle that have been seen in half or more of recent counts included: White-winged Scoter (our first year missing them since the 1920s!), California Quail, Marbled Murrelet, Evening Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.

Record high counts:

For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for four species: Wood Duck (121), American Wigeon (4076), Eurasian Collared-Dove (15) and Yellow-rumped Warbler (465, more than 150 higher than the previous best). A few other species came close to their highest marks: Anna’s Hummingbird (3rd highest total at 457), Chestnut-backed Chickadee (3rd best ever, 385), American Goldfinch (2nd best ever, 732), White-throated Sparrow (3 seen, tied for 3rd best ever), White-crowned Sparrow (2nd best ever, 105), and Dark-eyed Junco (3rd best ever, 1737).

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:

Wood Ducks on Union Bay © Dick Holcomb

As with recent years, the trend in general was for dabbling ducks to be doing about average and saltwater ducks to continue their seeming local decline. Along with the previously mentioned Wood Duck [121, 364%] and American Wigeon [4076, 181%], several other ducks were seen at higher than average numbers, including: Gadwall [674, 109%], Mallard [1700, 135%] and Green-winged Teal [187, 175%]. At the other end, Greater Scaup [48, 16%], Lesser Scaup [47, 13% - record low], Harlequin Duck [24, 38%], Surf Scoter [173, 20% - record low], and Black Scoter [4, 24%] were some of the species that were well below their previous averages.

Grebes and Pigeons:

Pied-billed Grebe were again seen in good numbers [211, 111%], but all other grebe species were low: Horned Grebe [187, 60%], Red-necked Grebe [47, 42%], Eared Grebe [1, 60%], Western Grebe [119, 16% - record low]. Rock Pigeon numbers were down [1293, 59%], but Band-tailed Pigeon did alright [70, 133%] and the previously mentioned Eurasian Collared Doves [15] were good to add to our count circle.

Alcids, Loons and Cormorants:

Alcids were pretty elusive this year. In addition to missing Marbled Murrelet, the three species seen all came in at less than half their recent average: Common Murre [16, 22%], Pigeon Guillemot [21, 39%], Rhinoceros Auklet [24, 43%]. The three loon species seen were similarly found in below-average numbers: Red-throated Loon [12, 41%], Pacific Loon [19, 85%], Common Loon [5, 41%]. The story for cormorants was mixed: Brandt’s Cormorant [103, 46%], Double-crested Cormorant [840, 117%], Pelagic Cormorant [35, 77%].

Gulls:

We found 8 species of gull, and the numbers were not bad: A few came in high: Mew Gull [1373, 115%], California Gull [36, 130%]. Others were low: Ring-billed Gull [146, 69%], Western Gull, Iceland & Herring [each with 3 seen, respectively 38%, 81% and 86% of their average]. Though birds labelled Glaucous-winged Gull were well down [733, 54%], if you combine that species with the Western x Glaucous-winged Gull numbers [1297, 370%], the combined total of 2030 is 119% of the merged average. The changed proportions were likely somewhat influenced by more guidance advising caution in assuming all large gulls were pure Glaucous-winged.

Hawks and Owls:

Other than Bald Eagle [112, 136%], other raptors came in at low numbers: Sharp-shinned Hawk [4, 39%], Cooper’s Hawk [14, 63%], and Red-tailed Hawk [27, 73%]. Along with the count week only Great Horned Owl, we did decently with owls given the wind and rain, finding a dozen owls of four species on count day itself: Barn Owl [3, 100%], Western Screech-Owl [1, 59%], Barred Owl [6, 81%] and N. Saw-whet Owl [2, 125%].

Passerines:

Corvids were a mixed bag: Those seen at higher than usual rates were California Scrub-Jay [12, 126%] and Common Raven [6, 135%], while Steller’s Jay [89, 49%] and American Crow [5577, 64%] were low. This marks the fewest Steller’s Jays found in 20 years, and the crow numbers continue a trend of being much lower than the years near the early 2000s when a crow roost was inside the count circle.

Several passerine species were found at relatively normal rates despite the excuse of the weather: Black-capped Chickadee [1711, 104%], Bushtit [1079, 113%], Golden-crowned Kinglet [898, 93%], American Robin [2610, 97%] and House Finch [657, 91%].

 

Lincoln's Sparrow © Tom Murray


Others were notably low this year, presumably just because of transient factors like the day’s weather or the season’s weather: Red-breasted Nuthatch [91, 67%], Pacific Wren [122, 64%], Ruby-crowned Kinglet [204, 58%], Varied Thrush [68, 56%] and Townsend’s Warbler [9, 35%]. Others were low but seemed to be confirming a general trajectory of lower numbers for the count: House Sparrow [204, 48%], Purple Finch [3, 20%], and Red-winged Blackbird [82, 58%, perhaps following Brewer’s Blackbirds out of the circle?]

There were a few passerines found at higher than usual numbers too though! These included Hutton’s Vireo [13, 289%], Chestnut-backed Chickadees [385, 123%], Cedar Waxwing [122, 129%] and American Goldfinch [732, 156%].

Sparrows: Other than the notably high counts of White-throated Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco mentioned earlier, all other sparrow species were low this year, most notably: Spotted Towhee [226, 80%], Fox Sparrow [45, 30%], Song Sparrow [618, 78%], Lincoln’s Sparrow [1, 6%!!].

Feeder Watch:

Count Day:  38 species
Individual Birds:  2,441 birds
Observers:  88
Feeder Locations:  62


This year, once again our feeder watcher participation reached a record high, contributing over 5% 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, 88 observers found over 2400 birds over the course of the day. The total count of birds was lower than previous years, as was the species count of 38 – no doubt the weather played a role here as it did with the count overall.

One feeder contributed the count’s only Western Tanager – always a great bird in the winter. Top ten species found at feeders by number were: Dark-eyed Junco (429), Bushtit (369), House Finch (205), Black-capped Chickadee (171), European Starling (161), American Crow (156), Anna’s Hummingbird (125), American Robin (125), American Goldfinch (111), House Sparrow (101). Nine of those were on the top-ten list last year as well!

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

Matt Bartels, Seattle CBC Count Compiler
 

Species Recorded During 2018 Seattle CBC

Greater White-fronted Goose (2) Bonaparte's Gull (CW) Black-capped Chickadee (1711)
Brant (42) Mew Gull (1373) Chestnut-backed Chickadee (385)
Cackling Goose (151) Ring-billed Gull (146) Bushtit (1079)
Canada Goose (834) Western Gull (3)  
Trumpeter Swan (18) California Gull (36) Red-breasted Nuthatch (91)
Wood Duck (121) Herring Gull (3) Brown Creeper (67)
Northern Shoveler (144) Iceland (Thayer's) Gull (3)  
Gadwall (674) Glaucous-winged Gull (733) Pacific Wren (122)
Eurasian Wigeon (10) [Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (1297)] Marsh Wren (6)
[Eurasian x American Wigeon (1)] [gull sp. (372)] Bewick's Wren (207)
American Wigeon (4076)    
Mallard (1700) Red-throated Loon (12) Golden-crowned Kinglet (898)
Northern Pintail (6) Pacific Loon (19) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (204)
Green-winged Teal (187) Common Loon (5)  
Canvasback (135) [loon sp. (2)] Townsend's Solitaire (CW)
Redhead (CW)    
Ring-necked Duck (601) Brandt's Cormorant (103) Hermit Thrush (4)
Greater Scaup (48) Double-crested Cormorant (840) American Robin (2610)
Lesser Scaup (47) Pelagic Cormorant (35) Varied Thrush (68)
[Scaup sp. (25)] [cormorant sp. (45)]  
Harlequin Duck (24)   European Starling (1157)
Surf Scoter (173) Great Blue Heron (49)  
Black Scoter (4)   Cedar Waxwing (122)
Bufflehead (604) Bald Eagle (112)  
Common Goldeneye (380) [Bald Eagle adult (84)] House Sparrow (204)
Barrow's Goldeneye (210) [Bald Eagle immature (25)]  
[Goldeneye sp. (3)] [Bald Eagle unspecified (3)] House Finch (657)
Hooded Merganser (50) Sharp-shinned Hawk (4) Purple Finch (3)
Common Merganser (366) Cooper's Hawk (14) Pine Siskin (687)
Red-breasted Merganser (233) [accipiter sp. (1)] American Goldfinch (732)
Ruddy Duck (1) Red-tailed Hawk (27)  
[duck sp. (2)]   Spotted Towhee (226)
  Barn Owl (3) Fox Sparrow (45)
Pied-billed Grebe (211) Western Screech-owl (1) Song Sparrow (618)
Horned Grebe (187) Great Horned Owl (CW) Lincoln's Sparrow (1)
Red-necked Grebe (47) Barred Owl (6) White-throated Sparrow (3)
Eared Grebe (1) Northern Saw-whet Owl (2) White-crowned Sparrow (105)
Western Grebe (119)   Golden-crowned Sparrow (206)
Clark's Grebe (CW) Belted Kingfisher (20) [Zonotrichia sp. (3)]
     
Rock Pigeon (1293) Red-breasted Sapsucker (3) Dark-eyed Junco (1737)
Band-tailed Pigeon (70) Downy Woodpecker (54) [Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (1082)]
Eurasian Collared-Dove (15) - 1st record Hairy Woodpecker (1) [Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (3)]
  Northern Flicker (245) [Dark-eyed Junco (undifferenciated) (652)]
Anna's Hummingbird (457) [Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (84)]  
  [Northern Flicker (Red x Yellow-shafted) (4)] Red-winged Blackbird (82)
Virginia Rail (1) [Northern Flicker (not differenciated) (157)]  
American Coot (7382) Pileated Woodpecker (7) Orange-crowned Warbler (2)
    Yellow-rumped Warbler (465)
Killdeer (30) Merlin (5) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon's) (249)]
Black Turnstone (63) Peregrine Falcon (4) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (93)]
Surfbird (34)   [Yellow-rumped Warbler (unspecified) (123)]
Sanderling (62) Hutton's Vireo (13) Townsend's Warbler (9)
Dunlin (30)    
[sandpiper sp. (10)] Steller's Jay (89) Western Tanager (1)
Wilson's Snipe (7) California Scrub-Jay (12)  
Spotted Sandpiper (2) American Crow (5577) [passerine sp. (42)]
  Common Raven (6)  
Common Murre (16)    
Pigeon Guillemot (21) Barn Swallow (1)  
Rhinoceros Auklet (24)    
     
cw = count week    
Bold = record high counts    
Red = new species to the count    
     
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