by Lewis Young

Varied Thrush Photo Credit: Will Young
Varied Thrush Photo Credit: Will Young

The 23nd annual Eureka Christmas bird count was held on Sunday December 20 in mild weather.  We are one of about 30 counts in Montana that are part of National Audubon Society’s long running citizen science Christmas Bird Counts. Twenty people went to the field and 19 people counted at their feeders.  Sixty-two species were recorded which is the 5th highest.  The total number of individual birds was 3222 which is the 6th highest.  There were record high counts for 4 species (Canada Goose, Wild Turkey, Eurasian Collared-dove, Pine Grosbeak).  One new species was found—Greater White-fronted Goose.  These geese are only occasionally observed in Montana as they migrate through so to see them here was a treat.

Canada Geese (488) were the most numerous species observed and other most common birds included Wild Turkey (466), Mallard (231), Common Redpoll (225), Black-capped Chickadee (184), and Common Raven (157).  Only 1 or 2 individuals were seen for 14 species such as Gadwall, Pied-billed Grebe, Northern Harrier, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Merlin, Snowy Owl, Gray Jay, Chestnut-backed Chickadee, Pacific Wren, Varied Thrush, and American Tree Sparrow. Three species were seen only during count week (3 days before and 3 days after count day):  Ferruginous Hawk, Wilson’s Snipe, and Great-horned Owl.  This was the first time a Ferruginous Hawk, normally a summer resident of eastern Montana, has been sighted on the Eureka CBC.

It was only the second year that Snowy Owl and Varied Thrush have been seen on count day and only the 3rd year for Hoary Redpoll.

Eurasian Collared-doves continue to increase and Mourning Dove numbers plummeted this year.  The Snowy Owl sighting was a pleasant surprise as none had been reported anywhere in western Montana before count day.  Other owls continue to be difficult to see on count day with only a Great-horned Owl being heard during count week although several other species such as Northern Pygmy Owl are certainly present in the area.  Killdeer were again found near Rexford taking advantage of the mud flats as Koocanusa Reservoir goes down.

Finch numbers were variable with a record high for Pine Grosbeaks (142 versus 58 previous high), good numbers of House Finches and Common Redpolls, but very low numbers of Pine Siskins, Red Crossbills, and Evening Grosbeaks.

Species not seen this year but seen in most previous years include Clark’s Nutcracker (only the second year not seen), Brown Creeper (only the 3rd year not seen), and Townsend’s Solitaire (only the 4th year not seen).

The full table of all past count data is getting very long to print on regular sized paper.  If you would still like to see it, it is easy to email as an Excel spreadsheet to those with email.  I can print a few hard copies for those without email.  Call me if you want a copy.

Thanks to everyone that helped make this another successful count!

Lewis Young
Phone 889-3492

high = record high count for Eureka CBC
new = new species for Eureka CBC
cw = seen only during Count Week
Greater White-fronted Goose1new
Canada Goose488high
Green-winged Teal4
Common Goldeneye15
Hooded Merganser14
Common Merganser14
duck sp.11
Wild Turkey466high
Ruffed Grouse5
Pied-billed Grebe1
Horned Grebe5
western grebe5
Great Blue Heron3
Bald Eagle23
Bald Eagle, adult 16
Bald Eagle, immature 7
Northern Harrier1
Sharp-shinned Hawk1
Ferruginous Hawkcw
Rough-legged Hawk33
Red-tailed Hawk2
Buteo sp.3
Wilson's snipecw
Rock Pigeon100
Eurasian collared-dove136high
Mourning Dove4
Great Horned Owlcw
Snowy Owl1
Belted Kingfisher2
Hairy Woodpecker5
Downy Woodpecker17
Northern Flicker42
Northern Flicker(red-shafted)11
Pileated Woodpecker8
Northern Shrike5
Gray Jay2
Steller's Jay9
Black-billed Magpie21
American Crow42
Common Raven157
Black-capped Chickadee184
Mountain Chickadee68
Chestnut-backed Chickadee1
chickadee sp.12
Red-breasted Nuthatch49
White-breasted Nuthatch2
Pygmy Nuthatch14
nuthatch sp.15
Pacific (winter) Wren1
American Dipper8
Golden-crowned Kinglet5
Varied Thrush1
European Starling114
Bohemian Waxwing165
American Tree Sparrow1
Song Sparrow6
sparrow sp.6
Dark-eyed Junco (form?)4
Dark-eyed (Oregon) Junco2
Dark-eyed (Slate colored) Junco3
Cassin's Finch3
House Finch80
Red Crossbill3
Pine Grosbeak142high
American Goldfinch2
Common Redpoll225
Hoary Redpoll3
Pine Siskin28
Evening Grosbeak26
House Sparrow136
new species1
cumulative species119