27 February 2016

2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count Results

Lindsay and I have participated in the Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count during each of the past eight winters.  During this Indiana citizen science project, the greatest number of each bird species observed at feeders in your yard on the 20th to 25th of November, December, January, and February are tallied.  For our results from all but the 2008-2009 Winter Bird Feeder Counts, see our past posts: 2014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011, and 2009-2010.

Northern Cardinals were the fourth most abundant species at our feeders during the 2015-2016 count.  The bird in this photo is a female.
In the past couple of years, I'd reported that we may be seeing a trend of a decreasing number of individuals visiting our feeder.  That changed this year, as we had a greater summed average of individuals in 2015-2016 (202.5) than in any other count period during our history of the count (second highest is 154.25, observed in 2008-2009). 

Like several other species, Northern Cardinal numbers were higher at our feeders this year than in any year in the past.  The bird pictured is a male.
In terms of number of species observed at our feeding stations during the count, we had our best count ever in 2015-2016, tallying 29 species (27 species in 2008-2009 is our next highest count; 21 species in 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 are our low counts).  The number of species observed was greater than our eight-year average of 23.5 species. We tallied an average of 21.0 species per month (edging out our second highest average of 20.5 species per month in 2008-2009).   We observed 24 species in November 2015, 17 species in December 2015, 24 species in January 2016, and 19 species in February 2016.  Our eight-year monthly averages stand at 17.5 in November, 17.4 in December, 18.1 in January, and 19.5 in February.  In general, numbers seem to increase when more snow and colder temperatures are present.

American Goldfinch numbers have shown a decreasing trend over the eight years of observation at our feeders during the Winter Bird Feeder Count. 
The list of species observed during our 2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count is found at the end of this post.  Species not observed during this count that we have seen on at least one other count include Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus); a Sharp-shinned Hawk showed up the day after the January count period.  This was not an irruption year for Common Redpolls or Pine Siskins, so it is not surprising that we did not have either of these northern visitors at our feeders this season. 

This Sharp-shinned Hawk was not tallied during the Winter Bird Feeder Count at our feeders, but showed up on January 26, 2016, one day after the count period ended.
We've now tallied 36 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the eight seasons that we've participated in this count.  Species observed at our feeders for the first time during the Winter Bird Feeder Count in 2015-2016 include Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus) and Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus).

The Carolina Wren on the right provided our first ever record of this species at our feeders during a Winter Bird Feeder Count.
The low temperature during our 2015-2016 count was 11 degrees Fahrenheit in November and the high temperature reached 67 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  Temperatures during the 2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property were mostly within the range of previous years with the following exceptions: November saw the lowest low temperature during the eight year history (11 degrees Fahrenheit), February saw the highest low temperature during the eight year history (33 degrees Fahrenheit), December saw the highest high temperature during the eight year history (62 degrees Fahrenheit), and February saw the highest high temperature during the eight year history (67 degrees Fahrenheit). The low and high temperatures were below average in November but above average in December, January, and February.  Snow cover was within the range of other counts during each month.  Low snow cover totals were below average each month in 2015-2016, and high snow cover totals were above average in November and February but below average in December and January.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in February (7 inches).

Dark-eyed Juncos are common winter residents.
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2015-2016 were Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus), Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens), Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata), Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus), Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor), White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis), American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea), White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

This male House Finch is lacking carotenoids from his diet.
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater, 220 in February, 80 in January, and 14 in November), Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus, 50 in November), American Tree Sparrow (30 in February and 13 in November), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, 20 in January and 15 in February), House Finch (19 in January and 14 in November), Northern Cardinal (18 in February, 14 in January, and 10 in December), House Sparrow (18 in November and 10 in February), American Goldfinch (14 in December and 12 in November), Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula, 11 in February), and Dark-eyed Junco (10 in January).

This female Red-winged Blackbird hung around into November.
The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were Brown-headed Cowbird (78.5), American Tree Sparrow (14.8), Red-winged Blackbird (14.5), Northern Cardinal (11.5), House Sparrow (11.3), House Finch (10.8), and European Starling (10.0). 

Fox Sparrows have shown up during our feeder count the last three years and four of the last six years.  This year was the first time we had more than one.  During the Great Backyard Bird Count (just before the February feeder count period), there were four Fox Sparrows feeding on cracked corn in our driveway at one time.
White-crowned Sparrows continued to rebound at our feeding stations in 2015-2016.  From 2008-2009 to 2012-2013, this species declined in number of individuals at our feeders from an average of 3.0 to an average of 0.3.  In 2015-2016, we found an average of 2.3 White-crowned Sparrows at our feeding stations during the count period.  Mourning Doves (Zenaida macroura), however, have been decreasing at our feeders during the feeder count since 2011-2012 (to an average of 2.3 in 2015-2016).  House Finches have increased fairly consistently since we've been conducting the count, whereas American Goldfinches have shown a generally decreasing trend.
 
Just can't get enough of those Fox Sparrows!
We logged average high counts for an astounding 17 species in 2015-2016: Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.25), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus, 0.50), Blue Jay (5.75), Tufted Titmouse (3.25), Carolina Wren (0.25), American Robin (Turdus migratorius, 0.50), Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca, 1.00), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia, 1.00), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis, 0.50), Dark-eyed Junco (8.75), Northern Cardinal (11.50), Red-winged Blackbird (14.50), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus, 0.25), Common Grackle (3.50), Brown-headed Cowbird (78.50), Purple Finch (0.25), and House Finch (10.75). 

2015-2016 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Mourning Dove
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos)
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
Carolina Wren
American Robin
European Starling
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow
Song Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird
Rusty Blackbird
Common Grackle
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow

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Gary Sonnenberg said...

That's an impressive list of sightings. I've tried keeping my feeders stocked in winter - at least for a while - but I usually give up because I don't see any visitors. Maybe it just gets too cold here in Wisconsin compared to Indiana.

Scott Namestnik said...

We have a state park across the street which helps!