Yellowknifers counted a record number of bird species during the annual Christmas Bird Count, Dec. 18.
Seventeen species were spotted across town at this year’s event, organized each year by Ecology North. At the last Christmas Bird Count earlier this year in January, 16 species were spotted, which tied for the record.
About a dozen volunteers came out for this year’s event. Each was assigned a different sector of town to survey, keeping a tally of each species of bird they saw.
Magpies, redpolls and nearly 3,000 ravens were among the most common sights; less common were birds like the northern goshawk that was spotted at the dump on Sunday, or the American Crow spotted next to Woolgar Community Garden. Hildebrandt says birds of prey like the goshawk are the real prize, since they usually migrate south for the winter.
Almost 3,500 birds were counted in total. Four species were listed in the final tally as “Requiring Rare Bird Reports to be Submitted to Regional Editor:” The Bald Eagle, American Crow, European Starling and Snow Bunting.
Reid Hildebrandt has taken part in the bird count for a decade and a half. He knows where to find the backyard bird feeders across town where birds congregate; he knows how to recognize the telltale signs of bird life, like a tree with stripped bark that indicates the presence of a woodpecker.
“It’s a great chance to get off the couch and do something fun,” he says.
This was his first time organizing the count by himself, with long-time organizer Bob Bromley out of town.
“It’s been pretty smooth, and I’m quite happy with how the count is going,” he said during the event.
The Christmas Bird Count extends well beyond Yellowknife.
In fact, it’s one of the largest and longest-running citizen science projects in the world:
According to the Audubon Society’s website, the origins of the bird count go back to 1900, when the ornithologist Frank M. Chapman conceived of the idea as a replacement for traditional Christmas bird hunts. Today, more than 2,000 communities in the Western Hemisphere participate in the count.