2017 Christmas Bird Count Results

NYC / Camilla Cerea / Christmas Bird Count

2017 Christmas Bird Count – December 2017

Species tallied
(count day + count week)
132 species
Count Day: 129 species
Count Week: 3 additional species
Individual Birds: 51,683 birds
Observers: 311


The 2017 Seattle Christmas Bird Count came in strong – after several years with lower than usual numbers, this year was the highest since 2009 with fifty-one thousand birds. With 129 species on count day itself, we tied our previous record for count day species reported (tied with 2006 and 2011). Our count day + count week total of 132 species was only one below the highest total ever recorded in our circle.


Once again, participation was high with over 300 people taking part for only the second time ever. This level of participation puts the Seattle count in the top three largest counts in North America. Feeder watchers continue to be a growing and important part of our circle, with 75 feeder watch participants tallying 2,476 birds (about 5% of the total tally count). On the bird front, we had one species new to the count this year: Rose-breasted Grosbeak which had been seen visiting a yard in the days leading up to the count, and was accompanied by two Mountain Chickadees. There was also a third Mountain Chickadee seen in West Seattle, great for a species tallied only three times previously in the last forty years. Another highlight was two shearwaters (Sooty or Short-tailed), only the third time they’ve appeared for the count. A Townsend’s Solitaire and a Wilson’s Warbler round out the most notable species. Finally, Common Redpolls were a star for many, with a record 140 tallied, spread across six different sectors of the count area.

Notable misses:

Three species were only picked up as count week birds: Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove and Brewer’s Blackbird. In addition, species entirely missed for the count circle included: Greater White-fronted Goose, California Quail, Marbled Murrelet (now missed on count day four of the last five years), Green Heron and Evening Grosbeak.

Record high counts:

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

  • Tundra Swan (4)
  • Wood Duck (79)
  • Redhead (18)
  • Long-tailed Duck (2, tied with several years)
  • Anna’s Hummingbird (758)
  • Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater (2)
  • Bald Eagle (161)
  • Belted Kingfisher (43, tied with 2015)
  • Northern Flicker (474)
  • Merlin (18, tied with 2002)
  • Peregrine Falcon (11, tied with 2011)
  • California Scrub Jay (27)
  • Common Raven (12)
  • Common Redpoll (140)
  • Spotted Towhee (392)
  • Song Sparrow (1022)
  • White-crowned Sparrow (126)
  • Golden-crowned Sparrow (352)
  • Dark-eyed Junco (2162)
  • Wilson’s Warbler (1, tied with a few years)
  • Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1, new to count)


(numbers in brackets indicate the total number seen and the percentage as a ratio of the 10-year average on the count)

Ducks and Geese:

Ducks showed a mixed trend this year, with dabbling ducks largely doing well, but saltwater diving ducks showing evidence of their seeming long local decline. A number of species showed higher than usual numbers: Cackling Geese (285, 853% of 10-year average), Canada Goose (1331, 156%), Wood Duck (79, 280%), Eurasian Wigeon (13, 130%), Redhead (18, 559%), and Red-breasted Merganser (203, 147%). On the other end of the spectrum, a number of ducks came in lower than recent averages: Snow Goose (21, 35%), Ring-necked Duck (341,67%), Surf Scoter (295, 32%), Black Scoter (12, 60%), Bufflehead (509, 57%) and Barrow’s Goldeneye (196, 64%).

Grebes, Pigeons and Hummingbirds:

Pied-billed Grebe came in at their normal strong level (193, 105%) as did Horned Grebe (303, 99%), and Red-necked Grebe (115, 105%). Western Grebe, though twice as high as last year’s count, were still running below the 10-year average (601, 72%). Rock Pigeons were found only a bit below their 10-year average (1939, 87%), Band-tailed Pigeons (95, 197%) came in strong this year. Eurasian Collared-doves continue to be absent from the Seattle CBC. Another huge rise in Anna’s Hummingbird numbers (758, 256%) has to be at least in part attributed to the increase use of feeder watchers for our count.

Shorebirds, Alcids, and Loons:

No clear trends among our winter shorebirds – we recorded seven species, with Killdeer (56, 94%) and Wilson’s Snipe (18, 98%) coming in right around their average, Black Turnstone (73, 79%) and Surfbird (58, 66%) coming in low, and Spotted Sandpiper (6, 167%), Sanderling (150, 278%), and Dunlin (91, 351%) coming in higher than usual. We missed Western and Least Sandpipers, but those have been recorded only once each in the past twenty years.

Alcids were low across the board, even beyond the missing Marbled Murrelets (zero recorded this count). Common Murre (25, 31%) were low this year, though not as low as last year’s total of three.

Like many of the other diving birds, Loons were present in lower numbers, but still remained pretty close to the recent averages: Red-throated Loon (27, 89%), Pacific Loon (20, 83%), and Common Loon (10, 75%).

Tubenoses!! and Cormorants:

The two Shearwaters (Sooty or Short-tailed) spotted by the Bainbridge crew (but flying close to Seattle shores) represent only the second time we’ve had tubenoses on count day (plus once more time on count week). Brandt’s Cormorant (409, 155%), and Double-crested Cormorant (883, 128%) were reported in high numbers, and Pelagic Cormorant (44, 97%) were seen in close-to-regular numbers, perhaps bucking the lower than usual trend for other diving birds.

Hawks and Owls:

All raptors were present in higher than usual numbers this year, from the record high for Bald Eagles (161, 221%), to a single Northern Harrier (1, 900%), only the second time in 10 years. Sharp-shinned Hawk (16, 154%)Cooper’s Hawk (23, 104%), and Red-tailed Hawk (44, 123%) rounded out the strong showing. We recorded 18 Owls from five different species, including Barn Owl (13, 108%), Western Screech-owl (1, 59%), Great Horned Owl (4, 308%), Barred Owl (8, 111%), and Northern Saw-whet Owl (2, 118%).

Woodpeckers and Falcons:

All Woodpecker species were seen at higher than usual numbers, including Downy Woodpecker (89, 134%), and the record high Northern Flicker (474, 153%). In addition to a high count for Peregrine Falcon (11, 145%, we did well with a tie for a high count of Merlin (18, 191%).


Corvids mostly showed up in good numbers, with Steller’s Jay (254, 143%), California Scrub-jay (27, 370% – high count), American Crow (5558, 60%) and Common Raven (12, 442%). The crow total was our third lowest in the last two decades, a continuing figure impacted by the crow roosts moving out the Seattle circle area. Kinglets were a bit lower than usual this year: Golde-crowned Kinglet (771, 73%), and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (334, 92%). Thrush were present in strong numbers,with the highlights being a Townsend’s Solitaire. The story on finch numbers was mixed: on the one hand some were present in strong numbers, led by our record high for Common Redpoll (140, 6667%!), but also seen were Purple Finch (30, 242%) and House Finch (874, 122%). On the low side, we missed Evening Grosbeak, had only nine Red Crossbill (9, 11%), and saw low numbers of Pine Siskin (429, 29%), and American Goldfinch (401, 80%).

Five Sparrow species set record counts: Spotted Towhee (392, 143%), Song Sparrow (1022, 132%), White-crowned Sparrow (126, 261%), Golden-crowned Sparrow (352, 175%), and Dark-eyed Junco (2162, 181%).

Warblers were mostly present in good numbers with Townsends’s a bit low and a single Wilson’s Warbler being a highlight (only three previous count-day sighting for the Seattle count): Orange-crowned Warbler (6,159%), Yellow-rumped Warbler (245, 132%), Townsend’s Warbler (17, 63%).

Feeder Watch:

Count Day: 45 species
Individual Birds: 2,476 birds
Observers: 75
Feeder Locations: 55

This year continued with our growing trend of heavy contribution to the count by feeder watchers spread throughout the count circle, watching and counting the birds in their own yards. Only 75 observers found over 2,400 birds over the course of the day. These totals are a little lower than last year, but the species diversity was a little higher this year and the coverage still amounts to about 5% of the overall CBC count total.

One lucky feeder hosted both a Rose-breasted Grosbeak (new for the entire Seattle CBC) and two Mountain Chickadees! The top ten species (by number of individuals) found at feeders on the count were: Dark-eyed Junco (467), Bushtit (284), House Finch (189), European Starling (173), Black-capped Chickadee (155), American Crow (153), Anna’s Hummingbird (113), American Robin (101), Rock Pigeon (97) abd Hoiuse Sparrow (91).

A massive thank you to everyone who particpated and made this another great count.

Matt Bartels (Count Compiler)

Seattle, WA

Species Recorded During 2017 Seattle CBC

Snow Goose (21) Bonaparte’s Gull (66) Black-capped Chickadee (1827)
Brant (136) Mew Gull (1608) Mountain Chickadee (3)
Cackling Goose (285) Ring-billed Gull (206) Chestnut-backed Chickadee (328)
Canada Goose (1331) Western Gull (7) Bushtit (1173)
Trumpeter Swan (7) California Gull (18)
Tundra Swan (4) Herring Gull (4) Red-breasted Nuthatch (190)
swan sp. (5) Iceland (Thayer’s) Gull (9) Brown Creeper (92)
Wood Duck (79) Glaucous-winged Gull (1390)
Northern Shoveler (158) [Western x Glaucous-winged Gull (703)] Pacific Wren (185)
Gadwall (509) [gull sp. (481)] Marsh Wren (8)
Eurasian Wigeon (13) Bewick’s Wren (326)
[Eurasian x American Wigeon (3)] Red-throated Loon (27)
American Wigeon (2472) Pacific Loon (20) Golden-crowned Kinglet (771)
Mallard (1255) Common Loon (10) Ruby-crowned Kinglet (334)
Northern Pintail (73) [loon sp. (10)]
Green-winged Teal (122) Townsend’s Solitaire (1)
Canvasback (169) Sooty/Short-tailed Shearwater (2)
Redhead (18) Hermit Thrush (11)
Ring-necked Duck (341) Brandt’s Cormorant (409) American Robin (3124)
Greater Scaup (255) Double-crested Cormorant (883) Varied Thrush (160)
Lesser Scaup (330) Pelagic Cormorant (44)
[Scaup sp. (8)] [cormorant sp. (7)] European Starling (1882)
Harlequin Duck (70)
Surf Scoter (295) Great Blue Heron (68) Cedar Waxwing (161)
White-winged Scoter (9)
Black Scoter (12) Bald Eagle (161) House Sparrow (343)
Long-tailed Duck (2) [Bald Eagle adult (100)]
Bufflehead (509) [Bald Eagle immature (36)] House Finch (874)
Common Goldeneye (383) [Bald Eagle unspecified (25)] Purple Finch (30)
Barrow’s Goldeneye (196) Northern Harrier (1) Common Redpoll (140)
Hooded Merganser (87) Sharp-shinned Hawk (16) Red Crossbill (9)
Common Merganser (349) Cooper’s Hawk (23) Pine Siskin (429)
Red-breasted Merganser (377) [accipiter sp. (7)] American Goldfinch (401)
Ruddy Duck (8) Red-tailed Hawk (44) [Spinus sp. (3)]
[duck sp. (111)] [buteo sp. (2)]
Spotted Towhee (392)
Ring-necked Pheasant (CW) Barn Owl (3) Fox Sparrow (140)
Western Screech-owl (1) Song Sparrow (1022)
Pied-billed Grebe (193) Great Horned Owl (4) Lincoln’s Sparrow (15)
Horned Grebe (303) Barred Owl (8) White-throated Sparrow (2)
Red-necked Grebe (115) Northern Saw-whet Owl (2) White-crowned Sparrow (126)
Eared Grebe (2) Golden-crowned Sparrow (352)
Western Grebe (601) Belted Kingfisher (43)
Dark-eyed Junco (2162)
Rock Pigeon (1939) Red-breasted Sapsucker (14) [Dark-eyed Junco (Oregon) (1436)]
Band-tailed Pigeon (95) Downy Woodpecker (89) [Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) (3)]
Mourning Dove (CW) Hairy Woodpecker (6) [Dark-eyed Junco (undifferenciated) (723)]
Northern Flicker (474)
Anna’s Hummingbird (758) [Northern Flicker (Red-shafted) (319)] Red-winged Blackbird (185)
[Northern Flicker (Red x Yellow-shafted) (2)] Brewer’s Blackbird (CW)
Virginia Rail (5) [Northern Flicker (not differenciated) (153)]
American Coot (6832) Pileated Woodpecker (23) Orange-crowned Warbler (6)
Yellow-rumped Warbler (245)
Killdeer (56) Merlin (18) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Audubon’s) (101)]
Black Turnstone (73) Peregrine Falcon (11) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle) (38)]
Surfbird (58) [Yellow-rumped Warbler (unspecified) (106)]
Sanderling (150) Hutton’s Vireo (8) Townsend’s Warbler (17)
Dunlin (91) Wilson’s Warbler (1)
[sandpiper sp. (1)] Steller’s Jay (254) Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1)
Wilson’s Snipe (18) California Scrub-Jay (27)
Spotted Sandpiper (6) American Crow (5558) [passerine sp. (5)]
Common Raven (12)
Common Murre (25)
Pigeon Guillemot (49)
Rhinoceros Auklet (53)
cw = count week
Bold = record high counts
Green = new species to the count