Bird Count Reports

Saskatoon Fall Migration Bird Count
September 11, 2021

by John Patterson and Stan Shadick

The weather was overcast and cool for the 2021 Fall Bird Count, with high humidity and occasional light showers in the afternoon. The conditions were conducive for birding, and 166 species were reported, which is well above the long-term average (LTA) of 147, but the count date did not coincide with a major migration wave and abundances were generally unremarkable. Due to continued Covid restrictions car-pooling was not possible, so most sectors had one or more small teams or individuals in the field.

All counts in this narrative have been corrected for effort1, so valid comparisons can be made between years. The original counts (ie uncorrected) are shown in the accompanying tables.

Overall abundance matched the LTA, but the counts for 70% of species were below their LTA. A new low count was set for only one species: Northern Harrier (28%)2. New high counts were set for eight species, most notably Greater Scaup, which has not been reported previously on the Fall count and Wood Duck, where an unprecedented 20 birds were seen on a small pond in sector SE/G.

Other species setting new high counts were Common Goldeneye, Ruffed Grouse, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Common Loon, Purple Martin and Sedge Wren. Ruffed Grouse was the exception among game birds where the overall count was well below the LTA (43%).

 Some of the grebe species have recovered from very low abundances last year, but Horned Grebe was at an 18-year low. After recording only a single Western Grebe last year, it went unreported this year for only the second time since 1995. The high count in recent years was 12 (2018). In 1997, 183 were counted. American Coot (22%) is still low by historical standards, but has recovered strongly from low counts in 2019-20.

Among the blackbirds it was a study in contrast, as Yellow-headed and Red-winged blackbird were at 2% and 13% of the LTA while Western Meadowlark, Brewer’s Blackbird and Common Grackle were all at or above 200% of the LTA.

It was an average year for warblers with 17 species and overall count at 82% of the LTA.

Thank you to all participants for your continued support of the SNS fall count.


1 Corrected count = Raw count x Average party hours (1995-2020) ÷ Party hours (2021).

2 Percentages in brackets represent the current year’s corrected count as a percent of the long-term    average since 1995.


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