2023 Christmas Bird Count

Homer 2023 Christmas Bird Count Results
Coordinator/Compiler: Dave Erikson derikson@alaska.net; 907 441-7931. 

On the morning of December 16, “Count Day”, twenty-nine resolute volunteers in eleven field teams
and nine individual feeder-watchers were on a mission to see how many birds could be spotted within
the Homer CBC Count Circle, a 15-mile diameter circle centered at the base of the Homer Spit. By the
end of the day, a total of seventy-two species and 22,352 individuals were tallied by the groups. Seven
additional species were documented during the three days preceding and following the count, referred to
as “Count Week.”

Highlights of this year’s count included the dramatc increase in number of finches, primarily the white-
winged crossbills, which have invaded our area. Other species of finches in these large mixed flocks included the red crossbill, pine grosbeak, common redpoll, and pine siskin. These finches made up over
half of all the birds seen on count day. Individual flocks of over a thousand finches were spotted flying
above the spruce forests of west Homer. These species are referred to as “irruptive” in that they will
undergo mass movements outside their normal range following periods of food shortage in search of
areas with abundant food supplies. This year’s heavy spruce cone crop on the Kenai Peninsula has
attracted large numbers of these irruptive bird species.

The white-winged crossbill number of 5,211 was an all-time high for the count, but an additional 5,482
birds were recorded by field teams as unidentified crossbills or unidentified finches in the largest
foraging flocks, so the likely number of these white-winged crossbills is even greater. Red crossbills (15)
made up a small portion of the flocks.

In addition to our resident finch species, we documented the occurrence of three finches not usually
found in this part of North America. These include the purple finch (2), previously seen on two counts
and two new finch species to the Homer count; the Cassin’s finch (3) and evening grosbeak (count
week). Local birders sighted Cassin’s finch at feeders earlier this winter, and we were fortunate to also
get them on count day. A single evening grosbeak was seen by birders before and after the count during
count week, but it was unfortunately missed on count day. Not only is this bird the first for the Homer
CBC, but the first for the Kenai Peninsula.

The white-throated sparrow (2), a winter resident along the west coast from Washington to Southern
California, has become a more regular winter variant here in Homer. This sparrow has now been
recorded on seven of the last eight of our CBCs.

Other notable bird numbers on this year’s count were the high count for the greater scaup (3,294). A
regular winter resident in Kachemak Bay, the number recorded this year was a record for the Homer
CBC. Lesser scaup were recorded during count week and often occur in small numbers with greater
scaup in these large flocks of greater scaup.

Total bald eagle numbers (131) on this year’s count were consistent with counts over the last decade.
Following the cessation of supplemental feeding of eagles in 2010, bald eagle numbers during this time
of year seem to have stabilized.

Two interesting count week species this year were Anna’s hummingbird and the great gray owl, both rare
in the Homer area during most winters. Anna’s hummingbird is becoming a regular on recent counts. The
great gray owls have only been recorded on one previous Homer CBC.

I would like to thank all the volunteers, both on the field teams and at feeders, for the success of this
year’s count. People who brought the snacks and made the coffee in the morning of the count are also
very much appreciated, as are those who helped with this year’s Winter Bird ID class. I would also like to
express my appreciation to our sponsors, the Alaska Maritime Wildlife Refuge and Kachemak Bay

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