2015 Christmas Bird Count Results

NYC / Camilla Cerea / Christmas Bird Count

2015 Seattle Christmas Bird Count – December 26, 2015

Species tallied
(count day + count week)
129 species
Count Day: 127 species
Count Week: 2 additional species
Individual Birds: 45,606 birds
Observers: 224


The 2015 Seattle Christmas Bird Count featured a new record number of human participants, 224, but lower than usual number of birds. The total number of individual birds counted, 45,606, was the lowest since 1996. Though the total number of birds seen was low, the overall diversity was good: 127 species were tallied on count-day, a little bit higher than our 10-year count-day tally. Two additional species (Eared Grebe and Wilson’s Warbler, along with one hybrid Clark’s x Western Grebe) were added in the count week, giving us a total of 129 species, one more than last year and just above our 10-year average.


Two hundred and twenty-four people took part on December 26, setting a new record, with 197 birders in the field and 27 feeder watchers. New birds for the count included a Bullock’s Oriole in Ravenna, a Great Egret in Portage Bay and a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker in Bellevue. In addition, a count week Western x Clark’s Grebe was a new form for the count. Other notable finds: A Rock Wren at Alki – only the 2nd time ever seen on our CBC. A Common Yellowthroat was found for just the 4th time ever, and a count-week Wilson’s Warbler was just the 5th sighting for the count. Common Redpoll were found for just the 5th time on the count.

Notable misses:

Snow Goose, American Kestrel, Brewer’s Blackbird and Evening Grosbeak were the most notable species that eluded us this year, though none of them are guaranteed in the circle.

Record high counts:

For the modern period (1972-present), high counts were recorded for:

Cackling Geese (170, almost triple last year’s high of 57)
Surf Scoter (1932, almost 650 higher than the previous count high)
Pied-billed Grebe (245, 19 higher than the 2013 previous high)
Pelagic Cormorant (86, just one above the previous high of 85)
Virginia Rail (12 – one up from the previous high)
Barn Owl (tied for high of 4)
Barred Owl (15, five higher than the 2010 previous record)
Northern Saw-whet Owl (3, tied for high)
Belted Kingfisher (43, edging out 2013’s previous high by one)
Chestnut-backed Chickadee (389 – tied with last year for the record)
Brown Creeper (115–-16 higher than previous record)
Spotted Towhee (345, 25 above previous high)
Dark-eyed Junco (1494, 282 higher than previous record)
(and the highlight birds mentioned above)


Ducks and geese:

Geese and swans in general were seen at higher than usual numbers. The record total for Cackling Geese (170), represents the continued move of Cackling Geese into our region for winter – they now are found in good numbers just outside the count circle, and this year a few groups flew through the area. Dabbling ducks for the most part were found at close-to-normal numbers. Notable exceptions: Wood Duck (59) showed up at double the normal rate and Green-winged Teal (61) once again were hard to find, coming in at just half of the 10-year average. With the exception of record Surf Scoter numbers (1932), diving ducks were down almost across the board. Ring-necked Duck (322) were seen at 60% their normal average. Only 20 Greater Scaup were tallied, compared to a 10-year average of over 450. White-winged Scoter (6) and Black Scoter (2) continued their long decline in the count area.

Grebes and loons:

All species of loon were seen in low numbers, with 25 total seen, compared with a 10-year average of almost 80. Grebes in general were seen in relatively normal numbers, though Western Grebe (493) while twice as high as last year were still seen in the third lowest numbers of the last 40 years. Pied-billed Grebe (245) numbers continue to trend upwards – the last three years have been the highest numbers on record.


72 Bald Eagle were noted, about average for recent counts, though well down from last year’s 93. Cooper’s Hawk (26) were found at better than average numbers, while Sharp-shinned Hawk (10) and Red-tailed Hawk (17) numbers were down. As for falcons, the 17 Merlin found was above average and close to the record high of 18, while the 6 Peregrine Falcon noted was a bit low.

Shorebirds, alcids and gulls:

Most shorebird numbers were down. Killdeer (18) were seen at the lowest level in twenty years. Black Turnstone (70) and Surfbird (51) were well below average, while Dunlin (102) were seen at their highest level since 2006. Common Murre (15) were present at levels well below their 10-year average of 87. Rhinoceros Auklet (17) were also at about 1/3 of their recent average. Gulls in general were seen in pretty normal numbers. Mew Gull (1670) and California Gull (56) were both seen at well over-average numbers.


Owls were found in good numbers this year, with seven species found. Barred Owl (15), N. Saw-whet Owl (3) and Barn Owl (4) were all high or tied for all-time highs. Short-eared Owl (2), once semi-regular on the count in small numbers, were seen for the first time on a count since 2001.


American Crow (5391) though the most numerous single species found on the count, were found at just half of their recent average, the second lowest total in 20 years. With the relocation of the main local crow roosts outside of Seattle, CBC totals have declined from their record highs of over 18,000 a decade ago. Black-capped Chickadee (1566) and Bushtit (1038) were right in line with recent averages, while Chestnut-backed Chickadee (389), and Brown Creeper (115) were significantly above average. The Wilson’s Warbler (count week) and Common Yellowthroat (1) were both highlights for this year’s count, but overall warbler numbers were low. Yellow-rumped Warbler (86) were found at half their average, and Townsend’s Warbler (19) at 2/3 their normal rate. Sparrows were found at higher than average levels almost across the board. Spotted Towhee (345) and Dark-eyed Junco (1494) set new count records, and Fox Sparrow (220) were found at 135% of their normal rate. Only four Purple Finch were found on the count day, all by our growing ranks of feeder watchers. Purple Finch continue to be only marginally present in Seattle proper. Finch species in general can be quite variable from year to year, and this year overall the numbers were a bit low. A pleasant exception to the trend was the appearance of Common Redpoll (13), a species noted for only the fifth time in the past 40 years of Seattle CBCs. Finally, two of our familiar introduced species, European Starling (1446) and House Sparrow (341) continue a downward trend, at only about 60% of their 10-year averages.

Thanks to everyone who participated and made this another great count.

Matt Bartels

Seattle, WA

Species Recorded During 2015 Seattle CBC


Greater White-fronted Goose (15) Virginia Rail (12) Black-capped Chickadee (1566)
Brant (153) American Coot (4530) Chestnut-backed Chickadee (389)
Cackling Goose (170)
Canada Goose (984) Killdeer (18) Bushtit (1038)
Trumpeter Swan (9) Spotted Sandpiper (3)
swan sp. (15) Black Turnstone (70) Red-breasted Nuthatch (81)
Wood Duck (59) Surfbird (51)
Gadwall (531) Sanderling (79) Brown Creeper (115)
Eurasian Wigeon (9) Dunlin (102)
American Wigeon (2165) Wilson’s Snipe (11) Rock Wren (1)
Mallard (1261) Pacific Wren (203)
Northern Shoveler (204) Common Murre (15) Marsh Wren (14)
Northern Pintail (7) Pigeon Guillemot (44) Bewick’s Wren (284)
Green-winged Teal (61) Marbled Murrelet (2)
Canvasback (233) Rhinoceros Auklet (17) Golden-crowned Kinglet (1277)
Ring-necked Duck (322) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (363)
Greater Scaup (20) Mew Gull (1670)
Lesser Scaup (253) Ring-billed Gull (237) Hermit Thrush (3)
Greater/Lesser Scaup (27) Western Gull (10) American Robin (2176)
Harlequin Duck (37) California Gull (56) Varied Thrush (118)
Surf Scoter (1932) Herring Gull (5)
White-winged Scoter (6) Thayer’s Gull (2) European Starling (1446)
Black Scoter (2) Glaucous-winged Gull (1279)
scoter sp. (2) Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (hybrid) (174) Cedar Waxwing (46)
Bufflehead (700) gull sp. (441)
Common Goldeneye (453) Orange-crowned Warbler (4)
Barrow’s Goldeneye (306) Rock Pigeon (2411) Common Yellowthroat (1)
Common/Barrow’s Goldeneye (12) Band-tailed Pigeon (26) Yellow-rumped Warbler (64)
Hooded Merganser (62) Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (1)
Common Merganser (401) Barn Owl (4) Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (21)
Red-breasted Merganser (193) Western Screech-owl (2) Townsend’s Warbler (19)
Ruddy Duck (4) Great Horned Owl (2) Wilson’s Warbler (cw)
duck sp. (25) Barred Owl (15)
Long-eared Owl (1) Fox Sparrow (220)
California Quail (3) Short-eared Owl (2) Dark-eyed Junco (499)
Red-necked Pheasant (1) Northern Saw-whet Owl (3) Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (1)
Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (994)
Red-throated Loon (9) Anna’s Hummingbird (328) White-crowned Sparrow (55)
Pacific Loon (4) Golden-crowned Sparrow (181)
Common Loon (9) Belted Kingfisher (43) White-throated Sparrow (1)
loon sp. (3) Song Sparrow (942)
Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (1) Lincoln’s Sparrow (24)
Pied-billed Grebe (245) Red-breasted Sapsucker (14) Spotted Towhee (345)
Horned Grebe (328) Downy Woodpecker (82)
Red-necked Grebe (100) Hairy Woodpecker (7) Red-winged Blackbird (88)
Eared Grebe (cw) Northern Flicker (170) Bullock’s Oriole (1)
Western Grebe (493) Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (154)
Western x Clark’s Grebe (hybrid) (cw) Northern Flicker (intergrade) (5) House Finch (679)
Pileated Woodpecker (20) Purple Finch (4)
Brandt’s Cormorant (356) Haemorhous sp. (1)
Double-crested Cormorant (636) Merlin (17) Red Crossbill (3)
Pelagic Cormorant (86) Peregrine Falcon (6) Common Redpoll (13)
cormorant sp. (3) falcon sp. (1) Pine Siskin (778)
American Goldfinch (346)
Great Blue Heron (56) Hutton’s Vireo (8) Spinus sp. (30)
Great Egret (1) House Sparrow (341)
Steller’s Jay (190)
Sharp-shinned Hawk (10) Western Scrub-Jay (5)
Cooper’s Hawk (20) American Crow (5391)
Accipiter sp. (1) Common Raven (2)
Bald Eagle (72)
Red-tailed Hawk (17)
cw = count week
Bold = record high counts
Green = new species to the count