Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count May 27, 2023

Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 27, 2023

by John Patterson and Stan Shadick

On May 27, 2023, fifty-one participants had a pleasant day for counting, until showers and wind moved in late in the afternoon. Wetland habitat was much diminished this year due to drought, but the impact on wetland birds has been selective.

Waterfowl counts were higher than last year with three exceptions: American Wigeon (47%), Redhead (42%) and Ring-necked Duck (40%), all of which have been trending lower in recent years. American Coot (13%) is also in long-term decline, as are the Pied-billed Grebe (23%), Eared Grebe (14%) and Western Grebe (5%).

Large shorebirds and wading birds generally had low counts: for example, American Avocet (55%), Marbled Godwit (27%), American Bittern (33%) and Black-crowned Night-Heron (15%). The count for the latter will recover only when their now-abandoned colony at Porter Lake is flooded again and reoccupied. Small and mid-sized sandpipers had normal or above-normal counts. Examples include Baird’s Sandpiper (470%), Pectoral Sandpiper (248%) and Semipalmated Sandpiper (220%). The plover counts were all below 15% of their LTAs.

For the fifth year in a row the Franklin Gull count was extremely low (9%). Ring-billed Gull count was also low (27%) and has declined in each of the last five years. It is likely that the wetlands hosting their colonies are drying up. Tern counts were also low: Common Tern (55%), Forster’s Tern (27%) and Black Tern (25%). The Black Tern count has been low for several years (5-year average 21%).

Welcome exceptions to the downtrends were: Green-winged Teal (159%), Ruddy Duck (103%), which has returned to normal counts after being low for the previous five years, Red-necked Grebe (131%), Piping Plover (197% – three were found this year) and California Gull (192%).

New high counts were recorded for Osprey (380%) and Bald Eagle (988%) at seven and four respectively. Red-tailed Hawk (48%), is believed to be particularly susceptible to highly pathogenic avian influenza, and it’s count is still low, but it has doubled from last year.

Red-eyed Vireo count (215%) was the highest since 1988. Common Raven count (354%), after a 2-year decline, recovered to set a new high and continue its long-term increase. Horned Lark count was low (21%), which has been the case for several years now. Swallow counts were all below average with Bank Swallow (15%) the lowest. Only a single Ruby-crowned Kinglet (13%) was found, the lowest count since 1994. In contrast, Red-breasted Nuthatch (224%), White-breasted Nuthatch (289%) and House Wren (196%) were abundant, consistent with recent years. Marsh Wren count was very low (13%) as cat-tail marshes went dry. House Finch (194%) seems to be recovering from the effects of Mycoplasmal conjunctivitis, the eye disease especially prevalent 4-6 years ago, as the count increased for the fourth year in a row. Yellow-breasted Chat (537%), which was absent for 22 years, has now been recorded in seven of the last eight years. The four found this year match the all-time high count.

Thank you to all who participated in the count this year. We hope you will join us again on future counts.

Notes: Long-term averages are calculated from 1985 – present. To make year-to-year count comparisons valid, raw counts have been corrected for effort (annual corrected count = annual raw count x long-term average party hours / annual party hours). Corrected counts are presented as a % of the LTA. Raw counts are shown in the tables.

John Patterson, Compiler
Stan Shadick, Organizer

Saskatoon Nature Society

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Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9

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Box 27013 Grosvenor Park
Saskatoon, SK S7H 5N9