Great Backyard Bird Count Goes Global


For the first time, anyone anywhere in the world with Internet access can participate in the 16th annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18, 2013. Participants simply watch birds at any location for at least 15 minutes, tally the numbers of each species they see, and report their tallies online. The GBBC is a joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada.

This year, anyone visiting the GBBC website will be able to see bird observations pouring in from around the world and contribute their own tallies. Global participation will be made possible thanks to eBird, a real-time online checklist program that the Cornell Lab and Audubon are integrating into the GBBC for the first time this year. The GBBC is open to anyone of any skill level and welcomes bird observations from any location, including backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands, and urban landscapes. The four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

“We’re eager to see how many of the world’s 10,240 bird species will be reported during the count this year,” said Cornell Lab director John Fitzpatrick. “We’re looking forward to this historic snapshot of birds that that will be reported from around the world. We need as many people as possible to help build the wealth of data that scientists need to track the health of bird populations through time.”

Participants will be able to view what others are seeing on interactive maps and contribute their tallies for ongoing bird research and conservation efforts. For the first time, participants will also be able to upload their counts from the field using the eBird BirdLog app for Apple or Android smartphones. To celebrate the new global reach of the count, developers of the eBird BirdLog app are offering regional versions of the app for just 99 cents through February 18. Learn more.

common redpollJust how big is this year’s irruption of northern finches and other species such as the Red-breasted Nuthatch? GBBC reports will help define the answer.

“This count is so much fun because anyone can take part, whether you are an expert, novice, or feeder watcher,” said Gary Langham, Audubon’s Chief Scientist. “Invite new birders to join and share the experience. Once you get involved, you can continue with eBird year round.”

“The popularity of the Great Backyard Bird Count grows each year,” said Dick Cannings, Senior Projects Officer at Bird Studies Canada, “and with the new features, participation will be even more exciting.”

Participating is easy. To learn more about how to join the count, get bird ID tips, plus downloadable instructions, web buttons, and flyers, visit The count also includes a photo contest and a prize for participants who enter at least one bird checklist online. You can also read a summary of the 2012 GBBC. Portions of the GBBC site are now available in Spanish at

The Great Backyard Bird Count is made possible in part by sponsor Wild Birds Unlimited.

Posted by Pat Bumstead

Calgary Christmas Count in Inglewood

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

Last Sunday was a great day to be out counting birds. The weather was pleasant for the most part, and the sun came out, allowing for a few good photographs. I was covering the Inglewood Golf Course, Inglewood Bird Sanctuary, Pearce Estate, and adjacent areas with Ian Neilson and Troy Bourque (both excellent photographers). At the end of the day I checked out the zoo grounds by myself – counting only wild birds.

We started the day walking the golf course and spent about two and a half hours checking the Bow River and looking for passerines. (We had permission from the club to be on their grounds for the count – you don’t need permission to walk the riverbank, but it is a very difficult walk in spots.) There were plenty of Canada Geese and Mallards on the river, plus a few Common Goldeneyes, but nothing else.

Troy Mallards

Mallards on the river.  Photo by Troy Bourque

On the golf course itself we did find one mixed flock of several Black-capped Chickadees, three White-breasted Nuthatches, a Golden-crowned Kinglet, and a Brown Creeper. A Rough-legged Hawk made a low flyover – the first RLHA I recall seeing in this part of the city. Across the river we spotted an adult Bald Eagle, which then flew over us, and was joined by its mate. The pair settled in the same tree on the golf course where they have nested for the past few years (they always overwinter and spend a lot of time near this tree).

Troy Eagle 1

Bald Eagle on the Inglewood Golf Course.  Photo by Troy Bourque


One of the adult eagles. Photo by Ian Neilson

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Eagle on takeoff.  Photo by Ian Neilson

A little farther along we came upon a porcupine perched in a Water Birch at eye level, feeding. The porcupine didn’t mind us at all, so the photographers got some very close shots!

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You don’t see these every day!  Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 1

Don’t you just want to give him a big hug?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Ian Neilson

Troy Porcupine 2

Our best mammal of the day.  Photo by Troy Bourque

It was some pretty tough walking through the snow and brush along the river, so we stopped for a rest and a hearty breakfast at the clubhouse. Then we were off to the Inglewood Bird Sanctuary across the river.  It was the middle of the day and pretty quiet. The chickadees were aggressively looking for handouts of seeds as usual, but we offered only to take their portraits.

Troy me

Can you please hold still for 1/500 of a second?  Photo by Troy Bourque

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Photo by Bob Lefebvre

We had an unusually low number of woodpeckers for the day – no Downies, only one Northern Flicker, and this bird.

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Hairy Woodpecker at IBS.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

After the sanctuary Ian had to depart, and Troy and I had a quick walk around Pearce Estates, which was even quieter than IBS. Then Troy had to leave, and I rushed over to cover the zoo before it got dark. The zoo grounds attract quite a few wild birds because there is a lot of food scattered around for the zoo animals, and lots of cover. It was a little strange to be rushing past Snow Leopards and Siberian Tigers with hardly a glance, but taking note of every House Sparrow.


Mallards.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Over half of the European Starlings reported on the count were at the zoo – 56 out of 109, which is a fairly low number for starlings on the Calgary count.


European Starlings in winter plumage.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

As the light started to fade, I heard a Golden-crowned Kinglet in a stand of Spruces, but couldn’t see the bird. I remembered something that Dan Arndt had told me – kinglets will respond strongly to a playback of their call even in winter – so I played the call on my smart phone app. Within a fraction of a second, three aggressive little kinglets materialized right in front of me, flitting about, vocalizing, and flaring their crown feathers.

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Golden-crowned Kinglet.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre


Here you can even see some of the red in the centre of the golden crown.  Photo by Bob Lefebvre

Then it was off to Arthur and Donna Wieckowski’s to compile the data and enjoy a great chili dinner. For a while it looked like we were going to have a low number of species for the count, but as the last few routes reported, we ended up with 65 species, exactly on our average for the last twenty years.

It was a very long day of birding but also very enjoyable, as always!

Calgary Christmas Bird Count Results

By Phil Cram

Thanks to everyone who participated in the 61st Calgary Christmas Bird Count on December 16, 2012. A record number of 249 birders took part in this year’s count, with 113 feeder-watchers and 136 observers in the field. Birders in the field put in a total of 239 party-hours, 77 percent on foot, covering 239 km on foot and 1156 km by car.

Some count highlights:

65 species were recorded, equalling our average for the past 20 years.

57,149 individual birds were counted, our fifth-highest. Bohemian Waxwings were the most numerous, with almost 17,000 counted, and over 1000 individuals were counted for another nine species.

We had a new species for the count, but unfortunately just for count-week. A Clark’s Nutcracker was seen in Hawkwood on Saturday, perhaps a first-ever sighting in the city. One other rarity was a Yellow-rumped Warbler in Wentworth, first seen and photographed earlier in December and which has survived at least until count-day.

Other unusual species (recorded in two or less years in the prior ten): Trumpeter Swan, 2; Gadwall, 1; and Common Grackle, 1.

Record numbers for: Trumpeter Swan, 2; Redhead, 23; Northern Goshawk, 8; Mourning Dove, 4; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; and Brown Creeper, 31.

High Counts (more than three-times the prior ten-year average) for: Lesser Scaup, 9; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940 (second-highest count ever); and Hoary Redpoll, 9.

Low counts (less than one-third the prior ten-year average) for: Common Goldeneye, 332 (compared with 3062 last year, the highest in Canada); European Starling, 109; Cedar Waxwing, 2; and Snow Bunting, 1.

Missing species (seen on count-day in seven or more years in the prior ten, but missed this year) were: American Wigeon, Harlequin Duck, Hooded Merganser and Mountain Chickadee.

Species seen by only one route (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Gadwall, Northern Pintail, Redhead, Greater Scaup, Ruffed Grouse, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Belted Kingfisher, American Dipper, Cedar Waxwing, Yellow-rumped Warbler, American Tree Sparrow, Snow Bunting, Rusty Blackbird and Common Grackle.

Species seen by only two routes (All feeder-watchers counted as one route):  Trumpeter Swan, Barrow’s Goldeneye, Cooper’s Hawk, Mourning Dove, Pileated Woodpecker, Townsend’s Solitaire, White-throated Sparrow and Purple Finch.

Unverified Species, not included in species list (Awaiting further details and/or documentation): Double-crested Cormorant, Chestnut-backed Chickadee and Song Sparrow.

I will be presenting the results at the Bird Study Group meeting on Wednesday January 9, 2013 at 7:30 PM in Room 211 of the Biosciences Building, University of Calgary, as part of the traditional Calgary region CBC review evening. Please let me know if you notice any omissions or errors in this provisional compilation. Final results will be posted on the Audubon database within two weeks. I will be putting together a route-by-route compilation and will be pleased to email you a copy on request.

List of species recorded on count-day:

Canada Goose, 8399; Trumpeter Swan, 2; Wood Duck, 10; Gadwall, 1; Mallard, 9465; Northern Pintail, 2; Redhead, 23; Greater Scaup, 2; Lesser Scaup, 9; Bufflehead, 148; Common Goldeneye, 332; Barrow’s Goldeneye, 8; Common Merganser, 101; Gray Partridge, 115; Ring-necked Pheasant, 7; Ruffed Grouse, 3; Bald Eagle, 25; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 8; Cooper’s Hawk, 2; Northern Goshawk, 8; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Rough-legged Hawk, 6; Merlin, 24; Killdeer, 2; Rock Pigeon, 2518; Mourning Dove, 4; Great Horned Owl, 7; Belted Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 139; Hairy Woodpecker, 26; Northern Flicker, 135; Pileated Woodpecker, 2; Northern Shrike, 6; Blue Jay, 97; Black-billed Magpie, 2295; American Crow, 152; Common Raven, 537; Black-capped Chickadee, 1570; Boreal Chickadee, 27; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 632; White-breasted Nuthatch, 59; Brown Creeper, 31; American Dipper, 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 54; Townsend’s Solitaire, 2; American Robin, 86; European Starling, 109; Bohemian Waxwing, 16889; Cedar Waxwing, 2; Yellow-rumped Warbler, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 4; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Dark-eyed Junco, 99; Snow Bunting, 1; Rusty Blackbird, 1; Common Grackle, 1; Pine Grosbeak, 152; Purple Finch, 2; House Finch, 1350; Red Crossbill, 237; White-winged Crossbill, 1101; Common Redpoll, 1940; Hoary Redpoll, 9; Pine Siskin, 65; and House Sparrow, 7898.

Christmas Bird Count – Canmore, AB

Posted by Dan Arndt

Canmore’s Christmas Bird Count is was held this year on December 15th, the day before Calgary’s. While I’ve lived in and around Calgary for almost my entire life, I’ve never really spent much time birding around Canmore. Hiking, mountain biking, and road-tripping, sure, but just looking for birds? Never before. Quarry Lake is also an area that I hadn’t ever set foot in, so it was an adventure to explore and learn more about the native birds to the front ranges of the Rocky Mountains.

My Canmore Christmas Bird Count area

My Canmore Christmas Bird Count area

The added bonus about birding in Canmore is the amazing scenery.


EEOR, or East End of Rundle peak, just west of Canmore

Rocky Sunrise 2

Left to right: Princess Margaret Mountain, Mount Charles Stewart, Mount Lady Macdonald


My total area was about 1.5 square kilometers, and within that area I tallied up nearly 8km of traverses back and forth in the park, and up and down the streets of the adjoining neighborhood. I was fairly impressed too, with 14 species, including a couple that I would be very lucky to have on any Calgary list.

I did manage to get a few decent shots of some absolutely gorgeous birds in my morning out, and I hope you had as much fun on your Christmas Bird Count adventures as I have this year!


Boreal Chickadee

Boreal Chickadee

female White-winged Crossbill

female White-winged Crossbill

male White-winged Crossbill

male White-winged Crossbill

male Pine Grosbeak

male Pine Grosbeak

Clark's Nutcracker

Clark’s Nutcracker

Townsend's Solitaire

Townsend’s Solitaire








Christmas Bird Count – Count Week Birds

Posted by Bob Lefebvre

The Calgary Christmas Bird Count is coming up this Sunday, December 16, and that means that we are now in the Count Week period.  Any species which are seen from December 13 to 19, but missed on the count day itself, are included in the database as Count Week birds.  Sometimes there are very good birds which are known to be around but can’t be found on count day, and sometimes it’s an unexpected bird showing up before or after the count. 

If you see an unusual or out-of-season bird during count week, and it is inside the Count Circle, make a note of the sighting.  If the bird is not reported on count day, pass the information about your sighting to Phil Cram, the count coordinator, at crampj(at)

Christmas Bird Count Circle

The Count Circle for the Calgary CBC. Note that the circle does not include all of the city.


This Song Sparrow has been hanging out at Votier’s Flats in Fish Creek Park for a few weeks – outside the count circle.  Can we find one inside the circle? (Photo by Daniel Arndt)

There have been several sightings of Snowy Owls inside the city recently.  This would be a great bird to add either on Count Day or as a Count Week bird.

Calgary Region Christmas Bird Counts

As always there are many Christmas Bird Counts coming up in the Calgary Region (and throughout North America).  There are lots of dates and locations to choose from, so get out and participate in as many as you can.  This citizen science project is in its 113th year!

Sat Dec 15: Banff/Canmore.  Contact Mike McIvor, mdmcivor(at)  403-762-4160.

Sun Dec 16: City of Calgary. Contact Phil Cram, crampj(at)  403-228-4142.  To count birds at your feeders in your yard, contact Jean Moore, jmmoore(at)  403-282-4162.

Tue Dec 18: High River. Contact Greg Wagner, greg.wagner(at)  403-601-3893.

Sat Dec 22: Horseshoe Canyon. Contact Mike Harrison, tringa(at)  403-236-4700.

Sat Dec 22: Pincher Creek. Contact Sam Miller, sammiller(at)  403-627-3275.  Offering free overnight accommodation if needed.

Thu Dec 27: Town of Cochrane. Contact Frank Hennessey, frankhennessey(at)  403-932-4986.

Fri Dec 28: Cochrane Wildlife Res. Contact Jamey Podlubny, svisser(at)  403-288-0658.

Sat Dec. 29: Sheep River/Turner Valley. Contact Doug Collister, collistr(at) 403-540-4573.

Sun Dec 30: Nanton. Contact Mike Truch, mike_truch(at)  403-829-6986.

Mon Dec 31: Snake’s Head, Sundre. Contact Doug Collister,  collistr(at) 403-540-4573.

Fri Jan 04: Dinosaur Prov. Park. Contact Yousif Attia, ysattia(at)  403-585-1125.

Sat Jan 05: BowKan (Exshaw). Contact Cliff Hansen, cehansen(at)  403-673-2422.

Counts are all day but you may quit early. Everyone, regardless of skill level is invited to participate. Compilers ask that you register your intention to participate as soon as possible to facilitate planning, and to avoid going out when count is postponed due to weather, etc.

In addition, there is the half-day Fish Creek Park count, which is not an official Christmas Count but is in its 20th year:

2013. Tue Jan 1, 9am; 20th Fish Creek Prov. Park Bird Count (morning only). Contact Jim Washbrook, jwashbrook(at)  403-613-9216.

Calgary Christmas Bird Count 2012

The 61st Calgary Christmas Bird Count will be held on Sunday December 16, 2012.  Phil Cram is organizing it, and as usual he’d like to get as many birders involved as possible.  The goal is to have over 100 people in the field that day, and over 100 watching their feeders.  If you want to participate in the field, contact Phil by email at crampj(at)  If you’d like to take part in the Feederwatch program, email Jean Moore at jmmoore(at) or phone (403) 282-4162.

Note that Bird Studies Canada is no longer charging a $5 fee to participate in the field, as they did in the past.

Wood Duck.  Photo by Daniel Arndt, December 11, 2011.

It would great to see new records for participation!  It’s a lot of fun, so sign up now, and pass this message on to anyone you know who might be interested.