Citizen scientists keep track of bird numbers

People were wondering what happened to the birds as almost every year many move on just prior to the event

Graph shows how the number of checklists

Graph shows how the number of checklists

Wow, what a remarkable Great Backyard Bird Count for 2017 – remarkable in a disappointing way. The number of individual birds dropped to the lowest since the local GBBC’s popularity began in 2007, with this year’s number of submitted checklists only slightly above those for that year. Still, the number of species remained about the same with the addition of a first time species, the fox sparrow.

Following the usual GBBC pattern just before the count, people were wondering what happened to the birds as almost every year many move on just prior to the event.

Recent snowfalls probably discouraged ground feeders from moving into the area and cats seemed to be too prevalent in some areas. Sightings of many ducks near the hatchery a few weeks earlier became only some.

Two newcomers joined locally, but participation was down to 22 households with 31 observers. Eight local participants were tops for checklists entered in the Thompson-Nicola area.

Highlights and lowlights include: a record year for Bohemian waxwings at 254, as a hatch of chironomids attracted them; woodpecker numbers continued to be a little down for the last five years; compared to last year, common redpoll numbers dropped from 2,128 to 13, being at a low point of their irruption pattern; similarly pine siskin numbers dropped from 1,292 to 165.

The top five for the most individual birds were black-capped chickadees (592), Bohemian waxwings (254), common ravens (236), pine siskin (165) and red-breasted nuthatch (149).

Since the following birds were reported on the most checklists, participants were most likely to see a black-capped chickadee, common raven, red-breasted nuthatch, northern flicker, or downy woodpecker in that order. The many Bohemian waxwings likely wouldn’t be seen as the flocks were only spotted five times.

With 144 countries participating, our community slipped down a little to 22nd place for checklists. The top five countries in order were United States, Canada, India, Australia and Mexico.

Though checklist numbers were much lower compared to the United States, four countries surpassed it for the number of species – Colombia (955), India (801), Mexico (774), and Ecuador (681), with the U.S. (671). Canada (258) was in 27th place.

Many thanks to the Clearwater Library for heavily promoting the event, mentioning it to almost every visitor, and providing blank local checklists.

A summary of the 2017 GBBC, including references to weather factors, migration, and contest photos are available at

Many thanks to everyone who managed to fit counts into their busy schedule. Certainly, the GBBC appreciates your effort as a citizen scientist.

Inset photo: The black-capped chickadee was the species with the most birds seen during this year’s Great Backyard Bird Count in Clearwater.  Wikipedia photo – Wfd