Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 29 – 30, 2021
by John Patterson and Stan Shadick
For only the third time, the Spring Count was held over more than one day. In 1982 and 2010, participants were given the option of counting on multiple days, for weather-related reasons. This year the forecast for Saturday, May 29 was for high winds, so participants were given the option of counting on the 29th or the 30th and most chose the latter.
Provincial COVID-19 restrictions were still in place, so there were more small groups and individuals in the field resulting in much higher than normal party hours, as was the case in 2020. This at least partially accounts for the near record tally of 189 species, the highest since 1992.
Three species were found that had not previously been seen on the count: Barrow’s Goldeneye, Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull and Indigo Bunting. Several seldom-seen species appeared after being absent from the count for at least 12 years: Red Knot, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Yellow-bellied Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, and Nashville Warbler.
In the following discussion, raw counts have been corrected for the variation in party hours from year to year (corrected count = raw count x average party hours / party hours) so that counts of different years are comparable. The counts shown in the tables are uncorrected, as reported by the sector leaders.
Each year there are species with unusually low or high counts due to population changes, range expansion/contraction, changes in peak migration date vs count date or weather-related factors. Of particular interest are those species for which the count is outside the range of counts in recent years and is also well above or below the long-term average (1985-2020).
Counts for the following common species were low compared to recent years and to the LTA (2021 count as % of LTA): Northern Pintail (16%), Canvasback (34%), Pied-billed Grebe (26%), Horned Grebe (25%), Eared Grebe (16%), Sharp-tailed Grouse (30%), Black Tern (15%), Double-crested Cormorant (36%), Great Horned Owl (25%), Loggerhead Shrike (26%), Bank Swallow (18%), Mountain Bluebird (25%), Marsh Wren (27%), Sprague’s Pipit (16%) and Cedar Waxwing (23%).
The species whose counts were high compared to recent years and to the LTA are predominantly “urban” birds: Downy Woodpecker (237%), Blue Jay (371%), Red-eyed Vireo (207%), Black-capped Chickadee (232%), Red-breasted Nuthatch (329%) and House Sparrow (245%).
American Coot and Franklin’s Gull numbers, extremely low for the last two years, have recovered somewhat, but remain below the LTA: American Coot (26%) and Franklin’s Gull (9%). The House Finch count was more than double the average of the last four years, as the species recovers from the effects of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis.
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9