BIRD COLUMN FOR DECEMBER 12, 2004
By Benjamin P. Burtt
TOPIC: The Results of the November Feeder Survey.
A shorter version of this column appeared in the Post Standard in Syracuse on the above date.
However the version here contains additional details on the birds seen at feeders throughout Central New York. Learn what birds appear at most feeders, which species have above normal numbers, which species are scarce, find out if birds from the north are coming south in normal numbers. There is a complete list of the species seen as well as the numbers of each species per 100 reports.
The November Feeder Survey Results
Readers counted the birds in their yard several times each day during the first week of November. At the end of the week, they sent me a list showing for each species the largest number they saw at any one time during that week.
Most people listed about 14 species. There were 69 species reported on the combined lists. We tallied 88 in October, but many have migrated since then.
Here are the species on the typical report. Did you have these? The list below shows the species and the percentage of the reports that included that species.
blue jay 94%
mourning dove 90%
downy woodpecker 86%
white-breasted nuthatch 86%
tufted titmouse 64%
house finch 62%
Species with above normal numbers
This November survey showed that the goldfinch with 1284 on 100 reports was more abundant at feeders than any other bird. It was the most abundant bird in October too. This was also the largest tally for goldfinches for any count in the 45 years that data has been collected.
The count of pine siskins was above normal for a November Feeder Survey. The pine siskin is a bird that normally breeds in the coniferous forests of southern Canada and northern U.S. Some nest in the Adirondacks and at other high elevations in New York State.
Some winters it moves southward. The tally for the November survey suggests that they may become quite abundant by mid-winter. They are attracted by niger seed and sunflower seed. So watch for them.
CAPTION: Pine siskins were being seen in above average numbers in the November survey. This small finch from the north is a about the size of a goldfinch and is heavily streaked. Its field marks are a deeply notched tail and a touch of yellow in the wings and at the base of the tail. This painting is from Peterson’s “Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America”, (Courtesy of the Houghton Mifflin Co. )
Mourning doves were seen in quite large numbers. In fact it has been 7 years since this many were listed.
This was the highest November count of red-bellied woodpeckers since they first began to show up on the feeder survey in Central New York in 1959. It has been 20 years since so many downy woodpeckers have been reported.
Below normal numbers
Several species were tallied in lower than normal numbers for this time of the year. Few bluebirds were listed and hardly anybody saw cedar waxwings. Others with lower than normal numbers were white-crowned sparrow, red-winged blackbird, house finch, redpoll and evening grosbeak.
What has happened to the cedar waxwing? It seldom comes to feeders, but flocks move about feeding on berries where they can find them. In the first week of November, only three people listed waxwings and the total was only 34. The waxwing has never been as low in the 45 years of the feeder survey. This is the second year in a row that their numbers have been way down.
The numbers of red-winged blackbirds was down. Only two people listed redpolls. Evening grosbeaks were seen by only 3 people. It doesn’t appear to be a year for northern finches to migrate down from Canada.
Tree sparrows have begun to appear from the north as they usually do in November. The numbers have not been this high in November since 1995. Are there more of them or are they early? The big influx usually comes in December.
Dark-eyed juncos were migrating down from the north on schedule with many more seen than in October.
Some species were seen by only one person. Two mockingbirds were in Marcellus at Lawrence Abrahamsons. Janet Allen had a catbird in Syracuse. At Malone, Pete Biesemeyer had a gray jay. A merlin spent some time one day at Bill Burch’s in Skaneateles. The only turkey vulture was seen at Whitney Point by Steve and Dorothy Hanzlik.
A great horned owl was tallied by Linda Quackenbush at Waterloo. Paul Radway had a northern shrike in Pompey. The only one to see a red-headed woodpecker was Linda Sherman of Georgetown. Ken Zoller of West Winfield was they only person to list black duck, wood duck, greater yellowlegs, kingfisher and winter wren.
The shortest lists
Remember every list is important regardless of how few birds are seen around the yard. Mrs. Norma Griffin’s 4th Grade Class in the New Haven Elementary School has a feeder just outside and they participate each season. In November they had a 21 goldfinches in sight at once. They also had 7 mourning doves.
Joe Burgdorf at Hannibal listed 7 species. In Jamesville, Morgan Cooper tallied 8. Reporting 9 species was David Ferro of Auburn and Cynthia Wallace of Elbridge. Three people had 10 species. They were Eugenia Fish in Cortland, Dennis and Merry Gantley of Fulton and David and Kathleen Zakri of Liverpool.
Tallying 11 were Janet Allen and David Bigsby both of Syracuse, Mary Berkman of Camillus, Elizabeth Kelly of Hogansburg, Elaine Lyon of Cortland and Phyllis and David Smith of Dryden.
The longest lists
The longest list with 34 species was turned in by Linda Quackenbush of Waterloo. In Pompey, Paul Radway talled 32. Linda Sherman reported 30 in Georgetown. Ken Zoller had 28 in West Winfield. Listing 27 were Dorothy and Steve Hanzlik of Whitney Point and Kathy and Scott Trefz of Perryville.
THE TOTAL LIST
Here is a list of all species reported. The first figure is the number of birds spotted by 100 observers. The number in parentheses is the number of reports out of 100 that listed the species. If you divide the number of birds by the number of reports, you get the average number per observer. You may wish to compare this with your own tally for that species.
Great blue heron 6(5); turkey vulture 1 (1); blue goose 8 (1); snow goose 1200(2); Canada goose 5,268 (44).
Ducks: wood 5 (1); black 6 (1); mallard 47 (8); common merganser 1 (1).
Hawks: harrier 3 (3); sharp-shined 7 (7); Cooper’s 7 (7); goshawk 2 (2); red-tailed 29 (26); kestrel 3 (3); merlin 1 (1); pheasant 6 (5); ruffed grouse 4(3); turkey 86 (8); greater yellowlegs 1 (1).
Gulls: ring-billed 135 (17); herring gull 383 (5); rock dove 284 (19); mourning dove 628 (90).
Owls: screech 2 (2); horned 3 (2); kingfisher 1 (1).
Woodpeckers: red-headed 1 (1); red-bellied 42 (36); downy 160 (86); hairy 75 (52); flicker 7 (6); pileated 3 (3).
Gray jay 1 (1); blue jay 351 (94); crow 1,394 (87); raven 11 (4); chickadee 493 (97); titmouse 152 (64); red-breasted nuthatch 48 (36); white-breasted nuthatch 133 (86); creeper 3 (2); Carolina wren 4 (4); winter wren 1 (1).
Golden-crowned kinglet 3 (2); bluebird 5 (2); robin 155 (33); catbird 1 (1); mockingbird 2 (1); cedar waxwing 34 (3); northern shrike 1 (1); starling 2,780 (35);
Sparrows: tree 65 (25); chipping 4 (3); field 4 (2); fox 12 (7); song 11 (7); white-throated 51 (29); white-crowned 7 (4); junco 407 (88).
Cardinal 154 (74); red winged blackbird 18 (4); grackle 28 (16); cowbird 45 (6); purple finch 25 (14); house finch 160 (62); redpoll 2 (2); siskin 49 (17); goldfinch 1,286 (91); evening grosbeak 4 (3); house sparrow 713 (48).