Bird Count Reports
Saskatoon Spring Migration Bird Count
May 25, 2013
by Craig Salisbury
The 2013 Saskatoon area spring migration bird count, held May 25th, produced very average results, due in part to high water levels and unsettled weather on the day of the count.
Despite below average precipitation in May, late snow melt filled sloughs to capacity and beyond, leaving very little shoreline. In many rural areas access to prime bird habitat was cut off as some grid roads were under water. Intermittent and localized showers during count day meant some teams saw long periods of light rain while other teams experienced little or no precipitation. Wind speeds were moderate to high for most of the day, with gusts reaching 59 kilometres per hour in the evening.
In total, 30,245 birds were seen in the Saskatoon area, below the long-term average of 32,412. The 176 species recorded were only one above the average of 175. No new species were added to the all-time spring count list, but 11 species seen infrequently on past counts were found, including Greater Scaup, Broad-winged Hawk, Rough-legged Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Black-necked Stilt, Whimbrel, Black-throated Green Warbler, Bay-breasted Warbler, Palm Warbler, Red Crossbill and White-winged Crossbill.
While duck and goose numbers were average, grebe numbers were up slightly. Fifty-two Pied-billed Grebes and 64 Red-necked Grebes were new records, surpassing the previous record of 50 for both species seen in 1988 and 2012, respectively.
A record 91 Swainson’s Hawks were reported, eight more than the previous record of 83 seen in 1990. Only 56 Red-tailed Hawks were seen, making it only the sixth time since 1987 that more Swainson’s Hawks were seen than Red-tailed Hawks.
With limited shoreline, total shorebird numbers were just over half the long-term average at 4,881 birds. Only 24 of the 34 species of shorebirds reported on previous spring counts were recorded.
Five Eurasian Collared-Doves were counted, one more than the record four seen in 2010. This bird was introduced in the Bahamas in the 1970s and appeared in Florida in the 1980s. Since then it has spread throughout North America, making its first local count appearance in the spring of 2005.
Only 5 Loggerhead Shrikes were seen, tying the low record set in 2001 and 2008, and well below the long-term average of 20. The eastern subspecies of this bird is considered extirpated in New Brunswick and Quebec, and is in continual decline in Ontario. The prairie subspecies found in our area is also considered to be in decline. Lacking the strong talons of most predators, this bird is known for impaling and holding its prey (insects and small animals) on the thorns of shrubs or on barbed wire.
Sixteen of the 23 species of warblers seen on previous spring counts were recorded, with a total of 1090 individuals, exceeding the long-term average of 772. Yellow Warblers were once again the most common at 879 birds.
A record 137 Spotted Towhees were identified, breaking the previous record of 110 set in 1995. In general the numbers of other sparrows were slightly above average, while longspurs and buntings were noticeably absent.
White-winged and Red Crossbills, which were unusually common in some Saskatoon neighbourhoods this past winter, remained in the area in small numbers. Thirty-two White-winged Crossbills eclipsed the previous record of 6 set in 2010 and 2011, and 7 Red Crossbills beat the previous record of 4 seen in 1997 and again in 1999.
You can download the complete tabulated report here:
Saskatoon Nature Society
Connecting People and Nature
Saskatoon Nature Society
Box 448, RPO University
Saskatoon, SK S7N 4J8