Arts & Life
5:10 pm
Thu December 19, 2013

Christmas Bird Count May See Fewer Seed-Eaters

Manitowish Waters will hold its annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count Saturday. 

Black-capped chickadees are common at Northwoods bird feeders in winter.
Credit Tashiarr via http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Black-capped_Chickadee_eating_seed.jpg

Groups throughout the Northwoods and across North America help track long term trends in winter bird populations. 

It’s the twenty first year of the Manitowish Waters count.  Coordinator John Bates says over that time he’s seen significant change in bird populations.  This year he’s expecting low numbers, especially of seed-eating birds that often travel here from Canada.              

“This year is a very poor year for us for those Canadian finches, because they’re having a very good year up in Canada.  They don’t need to come down here, they’ve got very good seeding sources and fruiting sources up there.  So the movement of those species into our state is very slim.” 

The all-day count focuses on about an eight mile radius.  Birders divide the circle into quadrants and survey the area in cars and on foot.   People also report numbers of birds at their feeders. 

Bates says with limited resources and energy, they’ll never count every bird. 

“You strive for as much consistency and accuracy as you can get – but you’ll never get it, because there’s no way to know exactly how many birds are coming to your feeder, or if a flock that’s going overhead and you’re trying to do a really fast count.” 

Bates says it’s patterns that show up over time that matter. 

He says the group usually identifies about 25 different species – a much lower number than in many other areas, where winter conditions are more favorable to birds.