by Lisa Bate

 Glacier National Park (GNP) held its annual Christmas Bird Count (CBC) on Sunday, December 18, 2022. Sixteen participants contributed to this event by covering 10 different routes in Glacier. Participants spent the day counting all bird species and individuals detected. The weather was dramatic with strong, gusty winds, heavy snow, and temperatures ranging between -2 and 5° F. Snow depths varied from 14 to 32 inches, so most observers skied on their routes. Still water was open (not frozen), but small streams were mainly frozen. 

We only counted 185 birds, comprised of 22 different species, in 2022. This was more than a magnitude lower than our counts in 2021 when we tallied 2,319 birds. This was not surprising, however, considering the weather. We all had to stay on the move with temperatures hovering around 0° F (Figure 1). With the strong, gusty winds, and heavy snowfall, and fog on the lake and streams (Figure 2), most birds were either difficult to detect or foraging in dense cover to limit effects of the wind chill. 

The most common birds in we encountered in 2022 were the Common Goldeneye, Golden-crowned Kinglets, and Buffleheads (Table 1). We only counted 3 Black-capped Chickadees, which tied with our lowest count of this species since we began counts in 1962. Fresh mountain lion tracks were found on the Rocky Point Trail (Figure 3). During count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day), we only added one species—a Brown Creeper—spotted foraging outside an office window the day after the count. 

Glacier’s CBC started in 1962, and contributed to the 123nd year of the National Audubon Society’s CBC. Thanks to all participants for contributing their expertise, time, and energy for this annual event. Your efforts are invaluable in tracking long-term changes in species abundance, diversity, and range changes, in Glacier and throughout North America. Thanks to Glacier National Park Conservancy, and its donors, for providing hot drinks and snacks both before, and after, the count. It was so good to see folks again! 

Table 1. Species and numbers of birds observed during Glacier’s CBC in 2022. 

Common Goldeneye28Barrow’s goldeneye4Mountain Chickadee2
Golden-crowned Kinglet23Canada Goose4Pine Siskin2
Bufflehead21Chestnut-backed Chickadee4Dark-eyed Junco1
Common Merganser13Duck spp4Pileated Woodpecker1
Common Raven13Black-capped Chickadee3Ruffed Grouse1
American Dipper10Hooded Merganser3Steller’s Jay1
Bald Eagle10Trumpeter Swan3Brown Creepercw
Red-breasted Nuthatch8Hairy Woodpecker2Total185
Table 1
Figure 1. Observers on the move to stay warm on Christmas Bird Count Day, 2022. 
Figure 2. Low temperatures, heavy snow, and gusty winds described 2022 Christmas Bird Count conditions.
Figure 3. Fresh mountain lion tracks in fluff snow found on the Rocky Point Trail during Glacier’s 2022 Christmas Bird Count (Photo by Matt and Casey Kuhn).