2009 Iowa City Christmas Bird Count

Chris Edwards and Bob Dick

Iowa City CBC
Species List (57 species)
December 20, 2009

Canada Goose 87
Mallard 88
Ring-necked Pheasant 3
Wild Turkey 101
Great Blue Heron 4
Bald Eagle 50
Sharp-shinned Hawk 2
Cooper’s Hawk 4
Red-tailed Hawk 50
Rough-legged Hawk 3
American Kestrel 19
Ring-billed Gull 7
Herring Gull 6
Rock Pigeon 171
Mourning Dove 102
Eastern Screech-Owl 2
Great Horned Owl 10
Barred Owl 5
Long-eared Owl 4
Owl sp. 1
Belted Kingfisher 2
Red-headed Woodpecker 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 67
Downy Woodpecker 133
Hairy Woodpecker 27
Northern Flicker 6
Pileated Woodpecker 1
Northern Shrike 1
Blue Jay 177
American Crow 649
Horned Lark 42
Black-capped Chickadee 309
Tufted Titmouse 69
Red-breasted Nuthatch 9
White-breasted Nuthatch 102
Brown Creeper 4
Carolina Wren 4
Winter Wren 1
Eastern Bluebird 7
American Robin 2
European Starling 732
Cedar Waxwing 81
American Tree Sparrow 200
Fox Sparrow 1
Song Sparrow 16
Swamp Sparrow 1
White-throated Sparrow 19
White-crowned Sparrow 2
Dark-eyed Junco 1050
Northern Cardinal 496
Red-winged Blackbird 2
Rusty Blackbird 1
Common Grackle 2
Purple Finch 2
House Finch 43
American Goldfinch 89
House Sparrow 795
Eurasian Tree Sparrow 7


The 59th annual Iowa City Christmas Bird Count was held on Sunday, December 20. The total of 57 species was below the count’s ten-year average of 64 species. The absence of waterfowl in our area largely accounted for the low species total. The day was overcast, and about an inch of snow fell during the middle part of the day, hampering visibility for birding and making roads slippery. Temperatures were steady in the mid-20s, with light southerly winds of 4-10 mph throughout the day. The Coralville Reservoir and other standing water was mostly frozen, and the Iowa River and smaller streams were mostly open.
No rare species were found on this year’s count. Unusual birds included a Northern Shrike at Hawkeye Wildlife Area, a Winter Wren at Hickory Hill Park, and a Rusty Blackbird north of Lake Macbride. Species found most years but not this year included Northern Harrier, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and Pine Siskin.
Waterfowl to Gulls
For the second straight year, no waterfowl were found except Canada Geese and Mallards, and their numbers were the lowest in more than a decade. Wild Turkey numbers were slightly above average, but only three Ring-necked Pheasants were found, the lowest total in almost twenty-five years. This contrasts sharply with the all-time high of 141 pheasants seen just four years ago. No Northern Bobwhites were found for the third straight year. The four Great Blue Herons were an all-time high for that species. Bald Eagles and Red-tailed Hawks were found in below-average numbers, while other raptors were at near-normal levels except for Northern Harrier which was missed entirely. Ring-billed Gull numbers were well below average, but the six Herring Gulls tied a ten-year high.
Doves to Wrens
Eurasian Collared-Doves have yet to be recorded on the count, although they have been found in the count circle during other times of the year. Mourning Dove numbers were well below average. A pair of Eastern Screech-Owls was found in the early morning at a traditional location west of North Liberty. Great Horned Owls set a ten-year high, and four Long-eared Owls at Hawkeye Wildlife Area were a nice find. The three Red-headed Woodpeckers were the fewest seen in a decade, and the six Northern Flickers were the fewest in more than twenty years. Other woodpeckers were seen at about normal levels. Northern Shrikes have been recorded for three straight years; this year’s bird was along Greencastle Ave. on the north side of Hawkeye Wildlife Area. Blue Jays and American Crows were seen in average numbers. Chickadees, titmice, nuthatches, and creepers were all found in normal numbers. A Winter Wren at Hickory Hill Park provided only the third record of this species in the last ten years.
Thrushes to Old World Sparrows
Following a banner year in 2008, fruit-eating birds were scarce this year, and numbers of Eastern Bluebirds, American Robins, and Cedar Waxwings were all much lower than usual. A single Fox Sparrow was at a feeder near Kent Park, marking five straight years for this species on the count. A single Swamp Sparrow was at Hawkeye Wildlife Area. American Tree Sparrows and White-throated Sparrows were down this year, while Dark-eyed Juncos were at a ten-year high. A single Rusty Blackbird was only the third one found in twelve years. Other blackbirds were scarce, with only two Red-winged Blackbirds and two Common Grackles found. Purple Finch, House Finch, and American Goldfinch numbers were all down sharply this year, and no Pine Siskins were found following last year’s irruption year. The seven Eurasian Tree Sparrows found at Linda and Roger Fisher’s feeders in Coralville were an all-time high count.

This year there were 29 field observers, fewer than normal, in 11 parties. Field observers were Mark Brown, Chris Caster, Bob Dick, Karen Disbrow, John Donelson, Linda Donelson, Chris Edwards, Jonni Ellsworth, Judy Ellyson, John Erickson, Mike Feiss, Linda Fisher, Jim Fuller, Bruce Gardner, Rick Hollis, Ken Hunt, Ken Lowder, Ramona McGurk, Alan Nagel, Mary Noble, Jason Paulios, Diana Pesek, Jim Scheib, Sharon Scheib, Bill Scheible, Don Swartzendruber, Dick Tetrault, David Weiss, and Carol Winter.
There were 15 feeder watchers in 12 locations this year, about the same as last year but a significant decrease from previous years. Feeder watchers were Jack and Ann Bagford, Barbara Beaumont, Jeanne Bonde, Al Carr, Carolyn Gardner, Marilou Gay, Gloria Henry, Nancy Johns, Barbara Kalm, Paul and Lorraine Kent, Duane and Jill Miller, and Ronnye Wieland.
This year’s count was organized by Bob Dick. The results were compiled by Chris Edwards. The pre-count planning meeting was cancelled due to road conditions. On the day of the count we met for lunch at the North Liberty Community Center, at which time we had 51 species. We met for an evening meal and compilation at The Brown Bottle Café in North Liberty. An interesting aspect of this year’s count was the increased media coverage, as two eastern Iowa TV crews accompanied two field parties for portions of the day. The report on KCRG TV-9 aired several times Sunday night and Monday morning.

Nationally, this year marked the 110th consecutive Christmas Bird Count. More than 45,000 people from all 50 states, every Canadian province, the Caribbean, Central and South America, and many Pacific Islands participate in this annual bird census. Christmas Bird Count results are published annually in a special issue of American Birds. The results of all counts from 1900 to the present are available online at www.audubon.org/bird/cbc, a cooperative project of the National Audubon Society and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology.

Thanks to everyone who participated for making this year’s count a success.

Photo: Immature Bald Eagle south of Solon on count by Jim Scheib