On Christmas Day 1900, Ornithologist Frank Chapman proposed a “Christmas Bird Census” as an alternative to the annual Christmas Side Hunt, where people engaged in contests to see who could shoot the most birds and bring in the largest pile of feathers. Thanks to his efforts, the first CBC was conducted among 27 birders in 25 count circles ranging from Toronto, ON to Pacific Grove, CA. Total species for the entire count = 90.
Today? – In 2006 over 57,581 birders participated in 2052 counts in North, Central and South America, The Caribbean and Pacific Islands. Fifty-five counts had 100 or more participants. Eighty-four count circles in the United States alone tallied 150 species or more. All told, 69,354,406 birds from 1894 species were recorded. Of these totals the United States recorded 65,109,503 birds of 643 species. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, recorded 3,658,278 birds of 289 species. The State of Michigan recorded 971,482 birds of 147 species. 393,992 of those birds were recorded in Monroe.
So, which count had the most number of observers? Edmonton, AB (475) followed by Concord, MA (323) and Calgary, AB and Oakland, CA (223 ea). The Monroe, MI count had 29 observers.
Which count recorded the most species? Corpus Christi, TX (238) edged out perennial leader Matagorda County-Mad Island Marsh, TX (233) and Santa Barbara, CA (224). Our Monroe, MI count recorded 82 species, the highest in the state! Anchor Bay (81) and Berrien Springs (81) were close behind. Want to try a CBC south of the border? Mindo-Tandayapa, Ecuador recorded a whopping 417 species!!!!
How about species trends? – Nationwide some interesting trends were observed during the 107th CBC. Waterfowl numbers were extremely good in the Midwest and in Canada, with near record numbers probably due to the extremely mild December month. Winter finch numbers were low last season despite bumper seed crops in the boreal forests of the north, with Evening Grosbeak numbers of most concern. Eurasian Collared-Doves appear to be expanding in numbers across the South, Midwest, and West. Corvid species (crows, jays and magpies) still appear to be affected by West Nile Virus as their numbers were down from previous counts.
Locally, Black-billed Magpie (Eagle Harbor, MI) and Gray-crowned Rosy Finch (Keewenaw, MI) were two new species seen in Michigan. Other interesting sightings include a Boreal Owl (Little Bay de Noc, MI), Green-tailed Towhee (Marquette, MI) and Indigo Bunting (Marquette and Houghton). Of concern were Bobwhite and Pheasant numbers (record lows). Wilson’s Snipe were not seen for the first time in 40 years, and no rails were found. Sparrow numbers were low State-wide. On the upside, Double-crested Cormorants (301) were found in record numbers, as were Bald Eagles (357), Merlin (11), Sandhill Crane (1810), Black-backed (6) and Pileated Woodpecker (162). Common Grackles (50,348) were 7X its average, and Red-winged Blackbirds (25,473) were 4X its average (both seen in Monroe).