By Benjamin P. Burtt
TOPIC: The Results of the December 2004 Feeder Survey
This column is divided into two sections
Section 1 contains a summary of the results of the December Feeder Survey as it appeared in Stars Magazine of the Post Standard in Syracuse on the above date.
Section 2 contains all the results with more details such as the complete list of species and their numbers, a discussion of those species that were abundant, those scarce, the very rare species listed and those that show a population trend through this season so far.
SECTION 1: THIS IS A COPY OF THE COLUMN THAT APPEARED IN THE POST STANDARD ON JANUARY 9, 2005
What birds are showing up at feeders this winter? The table below shows a list of the birds reported on the December Feeder Survey around the average home in Central New York. The first column shows the percent of the feeders that had each species. For example, 98% of the reports listed chickadee. On the average the observers had 5 chickadees in November and in December. This table is based on the results of the Feeder Survey for the first week of December. You can compare what you are seeing with these December Feeder Survey Results.
Percent of feeders
Number per report
Tree sparrow (Nov.)
Tree sparrow )Dec.)
You may wonder about the tree sparrow entries. The average per feeder was 3 in November and the same in December. This suggests that there was no change. However, although people had only 3, there were a lot more people listing it. 25% of the feeders had them in November and they were reported on 47% of the feeders in December. Thus a lot more people had the bird in December so the total number reported in December was higher. They are still migrating south to our area and See SECTION 2 below where they are discussed again.
How was this information obtained? Readers counted the birds in their yard several times each day during the first week of December. 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. We know that there were at least that many birds of that species near their home.
There were 65 species reported altogether, but most people had about 14. The number of birds listed on a typical report for the first week of December, 2004 is shown in the table above. The results for the previous month are shown for comparison. These are in order of the birds most often reported ( i.e. the percent of the feeders that have the bird, which is the first column of numbers). The chickadee is at the top of the list since 98% of the reports listed it. Lots of crows and geese were seen, but they were not at feeders
Numbers higherWe had twice as many cardinals in December as in November. It has been ten years since there were as many cardinals reported in December. Crow numbers were up since November. More hairy woodpeckers were tallied than in the past.
CAPTION: Record numbers of cardinals are showing up at feeders in Central NY this winter. Females are brown with a tinge of red in the wings and tail. First year birds are like the adults now, but not quite so brilliant. This painting is from Peterson’s “Field Guide to the Birds of Eastern and Central North America”, fifth edition . (Courtesy of the Houghton Mifflin Co. )
Red-wings and grackles are low this year and the house finch population has been going down for the past three years. This winter there has been no southward migration of evening grosbeaks, redpolls or siskins.
Here are further details of the December Feeder Survey that did not appear in the newspaper.
Skipping geese, starlings, gulls and crows, the most abundant bird right at the feeders was the goldfinch. In the past on the average, if people had goldfinches, they had about 5 at their feeder. This year they had 10. In Canton, John and Marilyn Ross had a flock of 76!
In the list of birds by number, after the goldfinch came the mourning dove, house sparrow, chickadee, junco and house finch.
Tree sparrows breed far north beyond the limit of the trees. Over the years, the feeder survey shows that a few leave their summer home in October and show up here. The numbers increase in November and this year the December tally was twice what it was in November. So they were following their customary schedule! Even more will be here next month. Thus they migrate over a period of several months.
In some winters northern finches migrate south into New York for the winter months. These include evening and pine grosbeaks, crossbills, redpolls and pine siskins. This time there were only seven reports of siskins and two for the redpoll. The only person to see evening grosbeaks was Pete Biesemeyer of Malone. He had 15. So those birds apparently have enough food in the north and we probably won’t see very many this winter.
THE SHORT LISTS
Short lists are just as important to a feeder survey as are the longer lists. The shortest one this time came from Norma Griffin’s fourth grade class at the New Haven Elementary School. They reported 7 mourning doves and 7 goldfinches.
Listing 5 species was Mrs. William Woernley of Homer. There were 7 on Eugenia Fish’s list from Cortland. Tallying 8 species were Niles Brown of Tully and Marsha Smith of Dryden.
There were 9 species tallied by Mary Berkman in Camillus. In the same town Helen Clark also listed nine.
THE LONG LISTS
There were 32 species on Linda Quackenbush’s list from Waterloo. Ken Smith of Freeville tallied 28. Listing 27 was Ken Zoller of West Winfield. Kathy and Scott Trefz listed 25 in Perryville. At Whitney Point, Steve and Dorothy Hanzlik listed 23. Listing 22 were John Hanyak in Marcellus., Bob Asanoma in Liverpool and Estelle Hahn in Dewitt.
Tallying 21 each were Lawrence Abrahamson in Marcellus, Dave Pardee in Brewerton, John and Elizabeth Wallace in Baldwinsville and Matt Young of DeRuyter. The average report included 14 species.
LIST OF RARITIES
There was only a single report of each of the following 16 species. The number seen is first. It is followed by the species name and then the the name of the observer and the town where the birds were seen.
1 kestrel, Lawrence Abrahamson, Marcellus.
3 Redpolls and 15 evening grosbeaks, Pete Biesemayer, Malone.
1 black Duck, Niles Brown, Tully
5 Goldeneyes, Morgan Cooper, Skaneateles Lake.
1 loon, Lawrence Daley, Cazenovia
50 lesser scaup, Sandy Pond, Don, no last name given
1 screech owl, Estelle Hahn, Dewitt
1 Horned owl, Ken Smith, Freeville.
1 Field sparrow, 1 northern shrike, Kathy and Scott Trefz, Perryville.
1 rough-legged hawk, 1 rusty blackbird, Matt Young, DeRuyter.
11 blue geese, 3 bufflehead, Ken Zoller, West Winfield
The Entire ListBelow is the list of all species reported. The first figure for a species, is the total number of them spotted on 100 reports and the second figure, the one enclosed in parentheses, is the number of reports that list the species.
If you divide the number of birds by the number of reports that listed the species, you get the average number visiting a feeder. This is how I calculated the numbers in the Table above in SECTION 1. For example, for the chickadee divide 524 by 98 and you obtain 5.3 which rounds off to 5 chickadees on the average feeder. You can make the same calculation for any other species that interests you.
Loon 1 (1); great blue heron 2 (2); snow goose 325 (2); blue goose 11 (1); Canada goose 6,537 (53).
Ducks: black 1 (1); mallard 105 (8); lesser scaup 50 (1); goldeneye 5 (1); bufflehead 3 (1); hooded merganser 9 (2); common merganser 11 (3).
Hawks: sharp-shinned 6 (6); Cooper’s 18 (17); red-tailed 27 (23); rough-legged 1 (1); kestrel 1 (1).
Pheasant 6 (6); ruffed grouse 7 (4); turkey 165 (12).
Gulls: ring-billed 149 (15); herring 37 (4); rock dove 273 (18); mourning dove 731 (84); screech owl 1 (1); horned owl 1 (1).
Woodpeckers: red-bellied 44 (38); downy 177 (84); hairy 84 (56); flicker 6 (4); pileated 5 (5).
Blue jay 297 (81); crow 2,004 (87); raven 5 (3); chickadee 524 (98); titmouse 143 (66); red-breasted nuthatch 45 (36); white-breasted nuthatch 132 (84); brown creeper 5 (5); Carolina wren 4 (4); golden crowned kinglet 1 (1).
Bluebird 9 (3); robin 66 (12); mockingbird 3 (3); cedar waxwing 156 (7); northern shrike 1 (1); starling 1,076 (33); cardinal 274 (74).
Sparrows: tree 164 (47); chipping 1 (1); field 1 (1); song 7 (4); white-throated 69 (29); white-crowned 7 (4); junco 453 (87).
Red-winged blackbird 9 (3); rusty blackbird 1 (1); grackle 5 (3); cowbird 41 (9).
Purple finch 30 (10); house finch 452 (62); redpoll 3 (2); siskin 15 (7); goldfinch 741 (77); evening grosbeak 15 (1); house sparrow 602 (47).
The next feeder survey starts Sunday, February 6