Lower number of birds spotted Saturday in annual bird count

Warmer temperatures on Saturday in Topeka contributed to lower numbers of birds being spotted during the annual bird count, the chairman of the Topeka Audubon Society’s annual count said.

 

Saturday was the 69th annual Topeka Christmas bird count, said Carol Morgan, chairwoman of the Christmas bird count, newsletter editor of the Topeka Audubon Society and past president of the society.

The bird count isn’t a precise census of every bird, but rather is a “snapshot” nationally of the population, Morgan said.

“It gives you an idea,” she said.

On Saturday, 25 volunteers took part in the Topeka bird count, tallying birds within a circle with a diameter of 15 miles. The circle is within Topeka and centers on the Kansas Capitol.

That same geographic area, which is divided into 10 areas, has been used since 1949. About half to two-thirds of that area rests on urban locations.

The area of that circle is a little over 176 square miles, according to math calculations.

Morgan said she spent four-and-a-half hours counting birds, moving about every 30 minutes to count birds, a total of 10 locations. She observed birds at areas including Gage Park, Penwell-Gabel Cemetery, Hummer Sports Park and some downtown pocket parks.

Some counters were out for eight hours.

Morgan and two others in her team saw 30 species of birds and counted about 700 individual birds, she said.

When Morgan was interviewed, the number of bird species and individual birds hadn’t been tallied among the 10 areas where the Christmas bird count was done.

“I think we would be lucky to see 75 species” overall, Morgan said.

Morgan said her “impression” was the number of species and individual birds was down this year because the weather is “too warm.” If the weather is colder, it concentrates some bird populations, she said.

“You’ll see more birds at feeders, more ducks at lakes,” Morgan said. Some wetlands may not have enough water available to support bird populations, she said.

“It feels like climate change to us,” Morgan said.

In 2016, the overall Topeka bird count tallied 98 species and 29,513 birds, Morgan said. In 2011, 85,000 individual birds were seen in Topeka.

Morgan said two Cooper’s hawks, two red-tailed hawks, and a red-shouldered hawk were seen. Four bald eagles were tallied flying over S.W. 21st and Gage.

The overall numbers from the Christmas bird count in Topeka will be shipped in the next few days to the National Audubon Society in New York.

Contact reporter Steve Fry at (785) 295-1206 or @TCJCourtsNCrime on Twitter.

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