11 March 2017

2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count Results

Well, it seems that I have no time to add to this blog anymore, but since I've discussed our results from the Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count since 2009-2010, I don't want to stop now. 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: 2015-20162014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011, and 2009-2010. 

In 2015-2016, we saw the greatest summed average of individuals of any of our counts (202.5).  In 2016-2017, our summed average of individuals dropped by nearly 100 (108.75).  We tallied 26 species at our feeding stations during the count, which ranks third for all of the years we've participated in the count (we had 29 species in 2015-2016 and 27 species in 2008-2009; 21 species in 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 are our low counts).  The number of species observed was greater than our nine-year average of 23.78 species. We tallied an average of 19.5 species per month (ranking third behind 21.0 species per month in 2015-2016 and 20.5 species per month in 2008-2009).  We observed 18 species in November 2016, 22 species in December 2016, 16 species in January 2017, and 22 species in February 2017.  Our nine-year monthly averages stand at 17.6 in November, 17.9 in December, 17.9 in January, and 19.8 in February.  In general, numbers seem to increase when more snow and colder temperatures are present, and we didn't have much of either in 2016-2017 (as discussed below).

We began putting out bird food for our winter birds, such as this male Downy Woodpecker and female Northern Cardinal, on October 1, 2016.
The list of species observed during our 2016-2017 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 Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii), Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus).  We had an early Pine Siskin before the November count period, but 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 during the count period.

We've now tallied 37 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the nine seasons that we've participated in this count.  A Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata) showed up and was eating bird food from under a feeder during the February 2017 count period, marking the first time during the Winter Bird Feeder Count in the nine seasons we've participated that we have observed this species.

A single Song Sparrow was present under our feeders in December 2016 and February 2017.
The low temperature during our 2016-2017 count was 14 degrees Fahrenheit in December and the high temperature reached 63 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  November and December temperatures during the 2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property were within the range of previous years, but January and February were much warmer than average. January saw the highest low temperature during the nine-year history (36 degrees Fahrenheit) and the highest high temperature during the nine-year history (61 degrees Fahrenheit).  February saw the second highest low temperature during the nine-year history (28 degrees Fahrenheit, second only to 33 degrees Fahrenheit in February 2016) and the second highest high temperature during the nine-year history (63 degrees Fahrenheit, second only to 67 degrees Fahrenheit in February 2016).  The low temperatures were below average in December but above average in November, January, and February, and the high temperatures were below average in November and December but well above average in January and February.  Snow cover was within the range of other counts, with the exception of January and February, when there was less than 1 inch of snow for the first time in any of the counts during our nine-year history.  Low and high snow cover totals were below average in November, January, and February.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in December (6 inches).
We tallied between 3 and 6 Downy Woodpeckers at our feeders during the count.
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2016-2017 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), Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis), Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis), Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater), House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus), American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis), and House Sparrow (Passer domesticus).

House Finches were present during all four months of the count.
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos, 28 in December), European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris, 15 in December), American Tree Sparrow (13 in December, 10 in January, and 12 in February), Dark-eyed Junco (10 in December, 10 in January, and 10 in February), American Goldfinch (22 in November and 23 in February), and House Sparrow (32 in November and 25 in January).  The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were House Sparrow (17.0) and American Goldfinch (14.0). 
White-crowned Sparrow numbers took another hit at our feeders in 2016-2017.
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys) numbers have been a roller coaster during the nine seasons we have participated in the count.  From 2008-2009 to 2013-2014, this species declined in number of individuals at our feeders from an average of 3.0 to an average of 0.3.  In the next two seasons, numbers increased back to an average of 2.3. In 2016-2017, we found an average of just 0.5. We'll need to keep a close eye on this species moving forward.

We had not observed White-throated Sparrows at our feeders during the first six seasons of the count, but they've been present in the past three seasons.
We logged average high counts for 9 species in 2016-2017: Sharp-shinned Hawk (Accipiter striatus, 0.50), Red-bellied Woodpecker (2.75), Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus, 1.75), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus, 0.50), White-breasted Nuthatch (3.50), Yellow-rumped Warbler (0.25), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis, 0.50), Dark-eyed Junco (9.50), and Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus, 0.25). 

2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Red-bellied Woodpecker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
Blue Jay
American Crow
Black-capped Chickadee
Tufted Titmouse
White-breasted Nuthatch
European Starling
Yellow-rumped Warbler
American Tree Sparrow
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia)
White-throated Sparrow
White-crowned Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
Northern Cardinal
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Brown-headed Cowbird
Purple Finch
House Finch
American Goldfinch
House Sparrow