Kodiak birders tally the state’s most diverse Christmas Bird Count

Results are in from Kodiak’s 50th annual Christmas Bird Count when avian enthusiasts gather each year for one day in December to survey the island’s bird population and send their results to the state and national Audubon Society.

An Eagle found on Near Island. Brian Venua/KMXT

Sixty-eight eager birders gathered on Dec. 18 to find and document as many birds as possible. That group split into 14 ground teams, 21 feeder watchers, and even 2 boats to scour northern areas around the island. 

Bill Pyle compiled this year’s results. He said there’s a lot of work that goes into it.

“Certainly, for uncommon, the rare species, extra documentation is required and so there’s a form for that, describing the bird, its characteristics, plumage size, what have you,” he said.

Altogether, Kodiak birders counted 11,158 individual birds. That’s just shy of the 50 year average of 11,240. But despite the smaller individual animal count, it was one of the most diverse on record with 81 species. That’s compared to the record of 86 species – which is also the most biodiverse count in state history. 

Kodiak’s Christmas bird count results are compiled locally, one person then verifies the data and sends it to the state’s Audubon Society. . This year, Kodiak took the crown for most diverse counts in the state. 

Pyle said their count hit that mark thanks to fair weather as well as the huge breadth groups were able to cover. 

“We’ve got enough people to cover a range of habitats, including Chiniak Bay, part of Marmot Bay, area out in the ocean, as well as people climbing mountains,” he said. “So with the range of coverage and the number of people we have you’re bound to encounter something that’s a little out of the ordinary.”

Pyle said this year was noteworthy in more ways than one.

“We had several species that required extra documentation this year because of their rarity and so I’ve received photos and forwarded those copies of those photos on to the next level of person that’s going to evaluate,” he said. 

This year’s most unique find – a rufous hummingbird. 

“That’s clearly tops for unique species,” said Pyle. “I was looking at a map that was shown to me by the guy who’s taking care of this hummingbird and the next nearest of this rufous hummingbird is like in Washington State! Usually they’re wintering in Mexico and across some of the southern tier of the US.”

Other rare finds for the Christmas Bird Count included a cedar waxwing, also a first encounter for the CBC, a bohemian waxwing, ancient murrelet, both horned and tufted puffins, an American three-toed woodpecker, a Eurasian wigeon, a brambling, and an Iceland (Thayer’s) gull.

More information about the Kodiak Audubon and local birding can be found on their website or on their Facebook page. Full results from this year’s Christmas Bird Count can be found on the National Audubon Society’s website.

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