Richmond Review

Bird count nets near-record result

by Ryder W. Miller
The annual Audubon Society bird count had a record turnout for participation and the number of bird species counted in the history of the local chapter count. Throughout the world there are 2,150 such counts. The San Francisco tally is now in its 32nd year.
“The real story is the 71,000 birds that were counted,” said Dan Murphy, one of the organizers and count compilers for the local Golden Gate Audubon Society chapter.
“I’d guess a good number of them were present because food resources in the ocean, that are usually well offshore, were right along the coast this year. There were just huge numbers of birds near shore, including 5,160 Common Murres. They are common enough, but usually far from shore. This year we had about 4,500 more than we ever had before. That’s pretty significant.”
This year 184 bird species were observed by 144 participants, who scoured the northern tip of the Peninsula and the City in a 15-mile radius, which included areas offshore at Fort Funston and some areas of the Bay. The total number of birds observed this year was 71,031, the second highest ever. The record was set in 1986 when 95,942 birds were observed.
“I’d guess a good part of the species count has to do with the very mild winter. There are plants with berries and others in flower with nectar, so that’s good. Then there are insect hatches going on and that’s a big deal for land birds,” Murphy said.
There were also some concerns coming out of the annual bird count. Coastal scrub birds continue to be a concern. California quail were not observed in San Francisco and San Mateo counties part of the count. Murphy said there may be only three remaining in eastern Golden Gate Park, indicating that San Francisco’s “official bird” may become extirpated.
Bewick’s wren, wrentit and ruddy turnstone are also facing extirpation. American bittern, western screech owl, loggerhead shrike and horned lark are all species that have not been reported in recent years and are believed to be absent from the Northern Peninsula during the winter. Five year averages for diving ducks continue to confirm these birds could also be in trouble.
The unexplained decrease in the numbers of mourning doves and Brewer’s blackbirds populations since the start of the San Francisco Count in 1983 turned around a little bit this year. Some think there may be a disease affecting the feet of Brewer’s blackbirds.
Some non-native species that visit the area are on the rise, including red-masked parakeets – 307 were seen throughout the eastern and central part of the City.
“That suggests they are moving out of the area of Telegraph Hill and Fort Mason, where they have been for years,” Murphy said. “Along with Eurasian collared dove (118), they are both non-native birds that are gaining a real foothold in the City.”
There were also record numbers of crows enjoying the mild weather. One can observe their mating dances in the skies over Ocean Beach in the spring.
“Crows stole the show with a record count of 914, up from last year’s 523 by a whopping 391,” Murphy said. “For now, you could say both ravens and crows are continuing to have significant success in San Francisco and the Northern Peninsula.”

Categories: Richmond Review

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