Portland’s Christmas Bird Count: The Results Are In!

by Candace Larson, Field Biologist; Joe Liebezeit, Staff Scientist & Avian Conservation Manager

On January 2, 2022, Bird Alliance of Oregon held our 96th annual (and second “COVID-safe”) Christmas Bird Count. Field teams and feeder watchers enjoyed a cold and mostly dry day, dodging the snow, ice, and heavy rains that plagued the days prior and immediately following. Because of ongoing risks associated with COVID-19, field teams were once again reduced in size, but a hardy group of 215 field observers and 115 feeder watchers managed to tally a respectable 123 species, right smack in the middle of the 10-year average for the Portland count.

Two birders counting birds for Christmas Bird Count with snow

Many special birds were sighted, including several rare or unexpected species. This year’s coveted “eagle eye” award—bestowed upon the birder who finds the most unusual bird of the day—goes to Ezra Cohen, who found the first-ever Portland CBC MacGillivray’s Warbler, seen skulking in the brambles near the Columbia Slough! Other notable sightings included Common Redpoll, Common Yellowthroat, American Dipper, Black-crowned Night-heron, Greater Yellowlegs, and Western Bluebird. This year’s count also produced 6 Red-throated and 2 Common Loons, a welcome return after zero loons of any variety on last year’s count. Notable misses included Greater White-fronted Goose, a regular on Portland’s count, and Tundra Swan, found on about half of our CBCs.

Overall, field counters and feeder watchers tallied nearly 80,000 individual birds, a recent record high. This was aided in part by a substantial increase in American Crows: over 12,500 this year, which is more than twice last year’s record. Waterfowl numbers overall were pretty average, but Ring-necked Ducks and Greater Scaup revealed themselves in record numbers. Raptors, woodpeckers, and jays also had a strong showing. Species with unexpectedly low totals included Golden-crowned Kinglets and Yellow-rumped Warblers, while Lesser Goldfinches hit another peak. It should be noted that one year’s species total represents a snapshot in time, and does not necessarily reflect trends in overall population numbers.

The Portland CBC feeds into a data set that encompasses over 2,500 CBC count circles across North America and as far south as Brazil. This was the 122nd year for the CBC, making for an impressively long, large-scale data set. Hundreds of studies have been published using CBC data, and findings are used to inform climate change science as well as important management and conservation decisions that help protect birds across their flyways.

Heartfelt gratitude to area leaders Brodie Cass Talbott, Dan Strong, Lynn Herring, Carol Murdock, and Joe Liebezeit, each of whom organized under COVID-era protocols and then compiled the piles of data into a usable tally. And a big shout-out to the field counters and feeder watchers for making this year’s Portland CBC another outstanding success. We look forward to seeing you again next year! If you’d like to participate as a community scientist on next year’s CBC or another project, please visit our website to check out all the exciting opportunities. We’d love to have you join in!

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