December 1 - 31, 2011

Welcome to the McGill Bird Observatory weekly report.  Click here for a complete listing of our archives.
Comments or questions are welcome at "mbo AT".


Red-winged Blackbird seems like a peculiar "cover bird" for a December update, but
with more of them banded this month than any species except American Goldfinch,
this actually represents our recent efforts quite well.
Photo by Simon Duval)

MBO gratefully acknowledges the in-kind support provided for winter 2011-2012 by CCFA (Centre de Conservation de la Faune Ailée) in Montreal, in the form of bird seed to keep the MBO feeders stocked throughout the season.






2011 TOTAL


# birds (and species) banded

74 (8)

305 (14)

4182 (87)

35751 (108)

# birds (and species) repeat

45 (6)

144 (8)

906 (50)

6413 (68)

# birds (and species) return

10 (4)

21 (4)

154 (21)

961 (37)

# species observed





# net hours





# birds banded / 100 net hours





Note: table does not include nocturnal banding (owls)

Banders-in-charge:  Simon Duval, Gay Gruner
 David Davey, Barbara Frei, Alison Hackney, Lima Kayello, Lisa Keelty, Marilou Skelling, Rodger Titman

Notes:  Having enjoyed a productive start to the winter monitoring program in November, we eased up a bit on effort this month, with only four banding dates scattered over the first half of December.  Even so, we have already passed the 300 bird threshold for winter.  More significantly, our two key target species for this winter are leading the way, with 75 American Goldfinches and 69 House Finches now banded with both the regular aluminum USGS bands and also white and black alphanumeric bands to increase our chances of getting sightings from observers off site.  To date, we know they have visited the backyards of two of our regular volunteers in Senneville (just north of MBO), but we trust some are starting to range farther afield, and look forward to receiving reports on them.  For more information, visit the finch study page, or go directly to the reporting form.

The number of species observed this month tapered off to 27, but that is actually not far from the December record of 32 set in 2005, when observations were spread over 14 days.  Four new species for this winter were observed this month, all on December 1!  They were Great Horned Owl, Horned Lark, Bohemian Waxwing, and Snow Bunting.  The lark and bunting were our first (and only) sightings of the year, bringing the total count for 2011 to 164, near the high end of our range of 158 to 166 over our previous six full years of operation.

This month’s top 10   [previous week's rank in brackets]

# individuals banded

mean # individuals observed daily

1.  American Goldfinch (34) [3]

1.  European Starling (153) [3]

2.  Red-winged Blackbird (16) [6]

2.  American Crow (78) [2]

3.  Slate-colored Junco (11) [2]

3.  Mallard (32) [9]

4.  House Finch (4) [1]

4.  Red-winged Blackbird (23) [4]

5.  Purple Finch (3) [8]

5.  House Finch (18) [6]

6.  Blue Jay (2) [9]

6.  Black-capped Chickadee (18) [8]

7.  Black-capped Chickadee (2) [9]

6.  American Goldfinch (18) [10]

8.  American Tree Sparrow (2) [4]

8.  Mourning Dove (12) [-]


9.  Slate-colored Junco (12) [7]


10.  Canada Goose (11) [1]

All of the species banded this month were among November's top ten, although they changed positions a fair bit.  Of particular note, hardly any additional House Finches were banded, but American Goldfinches continued in good numbers and moved to the top of the list.  The big surprise was Red-winged Blackbird, with more individuals banded this month than in any previous full winter.  For the second month in a row, we banded 3 Purple Finches, also unexpected given our previous cumulative winter total of 2.   After strong showings in November, we did not band any additional Mourning Doves or Northern Cardinals this month (and didn't even recapture any of those banded earlier in the season). Reflecting our past experience that the finches we band at MBO soon move on, we only recaptured 4 of the 65 House Finches and 2 of the 41 American Goldfinches that we banded in November.

Except for the addition of Mourning Dove and loss of American Robin, the same species as in November populate our list of the most frequently observed species in December. After a long reign atop the list going back to the fifth week of fall (beginning of September), Canada Goose finally was dethroned, falling all the way to tenth place.  Surprisingly, Mallard numbers actually increased during the same period.  Large flocks allowed European Starling to take a rare turn on top of the list of species observed, with nearly twice as many individuals as American Crow.  Despite a sharp drop in the count of House Finches captured, the mean number observed dropped only slightly from 25 to 18, while the mean number of American Goldfinches increased just a bit from 15 to 18.

We have now come to the end of our seventh full year of operation at MBO, and are working on our annual report, which we look forward to sharing early in 2012.  Thank you to all who have contributed to this year's projects, and we look forward to seeing you in the new year!

One of our many colour-banded American Goldfinches that we are now looking forward to receiving reports about from elsewhere.

(Photo by Simon Duval)



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