Greater Trail bird count numbers going south

Total for this year's bird count shows continued downward trend

Timing is everything when it comes to counting pigeons.

With only 40 rock pigeons recorded in Trail in the latest Christmas bird count, it leads one to wonder why the fowl was declared a nuisance.

A city bylaw prevents people from feeding the birds, and council is trying to control their continued propagation.

But the organizer for the Trail-Beaver Valley count on Dec. 17, Arnold By, admitted the beasts were elusive, and however many pigeons were actually poking around the city could exceed the number they counted late last month.

“At any one time they can spread out so it depends on the time of day (you count),” he said.

“There could be more but you have to get your timing right on them.”

Although there are no shortage of places a pigeon can flock to  in the city, the loss of habitat throughout the Americas has West Kootenay bird count 2011 numbers down.

By said the totals for each species of bird counted on Dec. 17 have been declining for years, and their 112th annual Christmas bird count numbers continued that trend.

In 2011 507 birds — 37 different species — were recorded in Greater Trail, covering most parks, bird feeders and other watering holes where birds might be found in Trail, Casino and Genelle.

In the Beaver Valley area south of Trail and east of the Columbia River, only 31 species were observed but 814 birds were noted.

The overall number for Greater Trail birds is around three quarters of what it used to be six years ago, said By.

“Their habitat gets destroyed. That is the biggest thing of all with a lot of birds and animals in the Americas,” he said. “The trouble is, our population is expanding too much and reducing the (habitat).”

The number of songbirds is going down due to pesticide use in many southern areas in South and Central America, he added. Forest destruction also contributes to their early demise.

Some weather-related factors and fewer bird counters contributed to the drop in numbers of birds noticed. In Warfield, bird numbers were down because of the cloudy and foggy weather, meaning the birds stayed in the trees.

The largest population of birds in Trail was found to be the pine siskin (142), with a surprising large amount of wild turkeys (55) and an unsurprising 51 American crows. In the Beaver Valley count, wild turkeys led the way with 163 feathered friends, while 110 mallards were spotted as the two most common species.

The most interesting fowl spotted included one golden eagle (Pond d’Oreille area), a ring-necked pheasant (likely released by someone), and a golden-crowned kinglet in Genelle. The kinglet is the size of a chickadee.

“It’s amazing they could survive there but they seem to go around with the chickadees,” By said.

Birds of a feather were grouped together across North America, Latin America and the Caribbean — as well Fernie, Kimberley and Cranbrook — between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5 as the Audubon Society’s annual count took place.

The data helps track trends in migration and species. Last year almost 12,000 people in Canada found 3.3 million birds in hundreds of locations, says Bird Studies Canada, a conservation group.