03 March 2018

2017-2018 Winter Bird Feeder Count Results

Sadly, the formal Indiana Audubon Society Winter Bird Feeder Count came to an end after the 2016-2017 season, as coordinators were not seeing enough participation from birdwatchers around the state to make it worth continuing this annual count.  This is surprising to me, as the Winter Bird Feeder Count is one of the easiest counts to conduct, and counters don't even need to stand in the cold or drive in the ice and snow to record the birds they're seeing.  Regardless, I decided to keep conducting the count and managing my own resulting data.  The 2017-2018 season was my 10th consecutive, and I'm starting to see some trends in the birds visiting our feeders during this count period annually.  During this count, 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: 2016-20172015-20162014-20152013-20142012-20132011-20122010-2011, and 2009-2010. 

The summed average number of individuals observed during the 2017-2018 count was 143.25, third only to results seen in 2015-2016 (202.5) and 2008-2009 (154.25).  We tallied 21 species at our feeding stations during the count, the lowest tally we've had, tying results from 2009-2010, 2011-2012, and 2013-2014 (29 species is our high for the count period, observed in 2015-2016).  The number of species observed was below our ten-year average of 23.60 species. We tallied an average of 17.5 species per month (ranking near the middle of our average species per month through our 10-years of doing the count).  We observed 14 species in November 2017, 18 species in December 2017, 20 species in January 2018, and 18 species in February 2018.  For comparison, our 10-year monthly averages stand at 17.2 in November, 17.9 in December, 18.1 in January, and 19.6 in February.  In general, numbers seem to increase both as we get closer to spring and when more snow and colder temperatures are present.

Winter feeding of our birds, including this Black-capped Chickadee, began on October 15, 2017.
The list of species observed during our 2017-2018 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), Northern Flicker (Colaptes auratus), American Crow (Corvus brachyrhynchos), Brown Creeper (Certhia americana), Carolina Wren (Thryothorus ludovicianus), American Robin (Turdus migratorius), Gray Catbird (Dumetella carolinensis), Yellow-rumped Warbler (Setophaga coronata), Eastern Towhee (Pipilo erythrophthalmus), Field Sparrow (Spizella pusilla), Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), White-throated Sparrow (Zonotrichia albicollis), Snow Bunting (Plectrophenax nivalis), Rusty Blackbird (Euphagus carolinus), Common Grackle (Quiscalus quiscula), Common Redpoll (Carduelis flammea), and Pine Siskin (Carduelis pinus).  I observed a Song Sparrow at our feeders between the count periods and three Song Sparrows eating food in our driveway the day after the February count period ended.  We also had Northern Flicker and American Crow near our feeders between the count periods.  An American Robin showed up in our yard shortly after the February count period concluded.

We've now tallied 38 species using our feeders (or hawks showing an interest in feeder birds) during the 10 seasons that we've participated in this count (reported erroneously as 37 in last year's report).  We didn't add any new species to our tally during the 2017-2018 count.

Tufted Titmouse is a regular winter feeder bird, showing up during all four count periods in 2017-2018.
The low temperature during our 2017-2018 count was 15 degrees Fahrenheit in December and the high temperature reached 62 degrees Fahrenheit in February.  November and December temperatures during the 2017-2018 Winter Bird Feeder Count on our property were slightly below the average, but January and February were much warmer than average for the second consecutive year.  Snow cover was mostly within the range of other counts, with the exception of December, when there was the most snow of any December period in our 10-year history (8 inches).  Also of note is that the February period saw 0 inches of snow for just the second time, with the first time this happened occurring last year.  Low and high snow cover totals were below average throughout the count, except for the high snow cover total in December, which was above average.  The deepest snow cover during the count was observed in December (8 inches).

A female Red-winged Blackbird (top left) showed up at our feeders during the January count period; two males were present in February.
Species observed most frequently (those present during all four count periods) in 2017-2018 were Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, Hairy Woodpecker, Blue Jay, Black-capped Chickadee, Tufted Titmouse, White-breasted Nuthatch, American Tree Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, Dark-eyed Junco, Northern Cardinal, House Finch, American Goldfinch, and House Sparrow.

House Finches (female on the left, male on the right) were most abundant at our feeders in January.
Species observed in greatest abundance during a single month of the count (with the greatest number observed at one time in parentheses) were American Tree Sparrow (13 in January), Dark-eyed Junco (12 in January and 11 in February), Northern Cardinal (11 in January and 11 in February), Brown-headed Cowbird (250 in December), House Finch (20 in January), American Goldfinch (22 in November), and House Sparrow (14 in December and 10 in January).  The most abundant species based on average over the four months of the count were Brown-headed Cowbird (65.0) and American Goldfinch (10.3).

American Tree Sparrow numbers at our feeders have shown a decline in recent years.
A few species we've documented over the years with seemingly interesting trends in numbers are Mourning Dove, American Tree Sparrow, Fox Sparrow, White-crowned Sparrow, and Purple Finch. Mourning Doves increased steadily from 2008-2009 to 2011-2012, then decreased fairly steadily to 2015-2016, and their numbers have remained fairly constant for the past few years.  American Tree Sparrows increased slightly to a maximum in 2011-2012 but then have generally decreased over the next six seasons.  Fox Sparrows were first documented at our feeders in 2010-2011, were not seen for the next two seasons, and then have been a regular at our feeders during snowy periods to present.  White-crowned Sparrows are a surprising winter regular at our feeders; their numbers generally decreased from 2008-2009 to 2013-2014, but have increased to 2008-2009 numbers into the 2017-2018 season.  Purple Finches were not observed at our feeders until 2015-2016, but have been a regular occurrence during the count period since.

An average high count for Purple Finch (male shown above) was documented in 2017-2018 at our feeders.
We logged average high counts for 3 species in 2017-2018: Hairy Woodpecker (2.00), White-crowned Sparrow (3.00, tied with 2008-2009), and Purple Finch (0.75). 

2016-2017 Winter Bird Feeder Count Species List
Cooper's Hawk (Accipiter cooperii)
Mourning Dove (Zenaida macroura)
Red-bellied Woodpecker (Melanerpes carolinus)
Downy Woodpecker (Picoides pubescens)
Hairy Woodpecker (Picoides villosus)
Blue Jay (Cyanocitta cristata)
Black-capped Chickadee (Poecile atricapillus)
Tufted Titmouse (Baeolophus bicolor)
White-breasted Nuthatch (Sitta carolinensis)
European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris)
American Tree Sparrow (Spizella arborea)
Fox Sparrow (Passerella iliaca)
White-crowned Sparrow (Zonotrichia leucophrys)
Dark-eyed Junco (Junco hyemalis)
Northern Cardinal (Cardinalis cardinalis)
Red-winged Blackbird (Agelaius phoeniceus)
Brown-headed Cowbird (Molothrus ater)
Purple Finch (Haemorhous purpureus)
House Finch (Carpodacus mexicanus)
American Goldfinch (Spinus tristis)
House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

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