Three Redpolls, two Gray Jays and a Chickadee in a Pine tree

Now in its 114th year, the Christmas Bird Count is a bird census that occurs across North America between December 14 and January 5.  The count is administered by the National Audubon Society who partners with Bird Studies Canada.  The North American count is made up of regional counts, each run over a 24-hour period and within a 24 kilometre diameter circle.  These counts are conducted by volunteer birders who set out, binoculars in hand, to track species and numbers of birds either seen or heard throughout the day.  The submitted results contribute to a data set more than a century old that provides information on the long-term health of bird populations across the continent.

The noisy Blue Jay is often seen (and heard) on Christmas Bird Counts. (Photo Credit: Mike Burrell)

There are counts going on across the province, but here are details for a few of the counts occurring in Ontario Parks:

The Pinery Provincial Park: December 14, 2013 
For info or registration, please contact Friends of Pinery Park: 519-243-1521 or the Park Visitor Centre (weekends only): 519-243-8574

This count is centred in Thedford and The Pinery is in the corner of the count area.  The range of habitat, including the lake, park, and surrounding agricultural areas, ensures many guilds of birds are spotted.

Female Purple Finch and American Goldfinch on a winter’s day (Photo Credit: Mike Burrell).

This count regularly gets about 80-90 species in the count circle, with about 40 of these being found in the park.  The Pinery is renowned for Tufted Titmouse and this count often has the highest count of the species in the whole province.  This count also gets a lot of owls, hawks and woodpeckers and has even spotted some uncommon birds for the season such as Belted Kingfisher, Great Blue Heron, and Long-eared Owl.

Check out the map of the count area


Presqu’ile Provincial Park: December 15, 2013
Contact Maureen Riggs at 613-475-3604 or  

 The Presqu’ile count is now in its 49th year.  A total of 154 species of birds have been counted over the years but the numbers for any individual year have ranged from 59 to 90, with an average over the last decade of about 80.

The count is divided into 11 zones (the park is only 1 zone) and eight of those zones border on Lake Ontario or the Bay of Quinte where open water is typical.  This means many of the birds are waterbirds – a dozen waterfowl species with a chance for coots, grebes, cormorants, gulls and herons.

But what keeps participants coming back is that you never know what any one winter will bring.  Will the winter finches be down this year?  Some years there are none, other years they number in the thousands.  Will there be Snowy Owls this year? Will there still be any late stragglers that have not left for the south yet?  One year a Scarlet Tanager was found.  There are always a few surprises.

The Presqu’ile Count always ends with potluck dinner and count compilation at 4:30pm at the park.

Check out the map of the count area

The Black-capped Chickadee is a common bird in Christmas Bird Counts across the province. (Photo Credit: Peter Ferguson)


Killarney Provincial Park: December 18, 2013
Meet at 8AM at the Park Research Building- Call Park for details: 705-287-2900

The Killarney count is now in its 16thyear.  The most common birds on this count are Downy and Hairy Woodpeckers, Black-capped Chickadees,  White-breasted and Red-breasted Nuthatches, Bald Eagles, Ruffed Grouse, European Starlings, Blue Jays,  and Common Ravens.

Ruffed Grouse can be difficult to spot, but are often seen at the Killarney Bird Count. (Photo Credit: Peter Ferguson)

No prior birding experience is required as novice birders are grouped with experienced birders.  This is a great opportunity to develop your winter birding skills and learn from fellow birders.  After meeting up at 8AM, everyone will break up into smaller groups and head out onto the park’s amazing network of trails.  This is an all-day event with a potluck afterwards.  Pack a lunch as the group will stop at one of the park’s warm-up cabins for a bite to eat.  The park rents snowshoes if you don’t have your own.

Check out the map of the count area


Visit Bird Studies Canada to find a count near you and learn more about the Christmas Bird Count.