Naknek and King Salmon Christmas Bird Count sets local species diversity record

Jan 5, 2018

In the 32 years Naknek and King Salmon have participated in the Audubon Christmas Bird Count, watchers have never counted more than 24 species. This year, birders saw 27.

A hairy woodpecker visits a suet feeder in the Bristol Bay Borough.
Credit photo provided by USFWS

Naknek and King Salmon bird watchers documented a record number of different species for the area during the borough’s 32nd annual Audubon Christmas Bird Count. Saturday’s bird count in the Bristol Bay Borough was a part of the larger Audubon Christmas Bird Count that takes place across North and South America.

“We had quite a few birds detected this year, 1,775 all told. We had really high species diversity. We had 27 species detected this year, which is three more than the next highest year,” said Melissa Cady, the wildlife biologist for Alaska Peninsula and Becharof National Wildlife Refuges. She organized the bird count in the Bristol Bay Borough.

That increase in species diversity is part of an upward trend. The average species diversity for the past three years is 25 species. Previous to 2014, the average species diversity was 18. Cady says relatively mild winters in recent years likely have contributed to more species sticking around Bristol Bay in the winter.

“When the weather is milder and we have more open water, more waterfowl are likely to hang around.  [The] same goes for other species. When the weather is mild, they are not forced further south from harsh weather,” Cady said.

There were a couple of sightings that were novel for the area’s Christmas Bird Count. A hairy woodpecker and a pair of golden-crowned kinglets both made their first appearances on the count day species list. One bird, however, was notably absent.

“We had no ptarmigan detected for the fourth year in a row. So that’s kind of an interesting pattern that continues—low ptarmigan numbers in the region,” said Cady.

Five volunteers watched bird feeders and 14 volunteers got outside for birdwatching walks or drives.

Contact the author at avery@kdlg.org or 907-842-5281.