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Northern finches replace owls in Minnesota according to Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count (02/06/2006)
The Great Gray Owls did not return to Minnesota this year, according to a preliminary analysis of Minnesota's Christmas Bird Count (CBC) data released by Audubon Minnesota and the Minnesota Ornithologists' Union (MOU).

"After the spectacular number of owls seen last year, we expected to see a higher than average number this year," said Mark Martell, director of Bird Conservation for Audubon Minnesota.

In spite of last year's dramatic invasion of northern owls, "Very few have been reported on Minnesota CBCs with the exception of the Roseau count which tallied twelve Northern Hawk-Owls," according to Roger Schroeder of the MOU. In addition to these twelve owls, a total of seven Snowy Owls were also seen across the state.

For the 100th year, Minnesotans counted every bird they saw on the annual statewide Christmas Bird Count. Over 700 people conducted counts on 70 individual census areas between December 14, 2005 and January 5, 2006.

Instead of owls, the surveys revealed an abundance of finches that moved into the state from Canada several counts in northeastern Minnesota reported dramatic numbers of finches. For example, the Duluth count reported over 7,000 finches, including record high counts of 1,309 Purple Finches, which is 10 times greater than the old record of 132 birds according to Schroeder.

Other unusual birds seen during this season's count include a Black-legged Kittiwake found in Bloomington. This was the first time this ocean-going bird was found on a Minnesota CBC; putting the state at the 200-mark for the total number of species observed over the history of the count. In Western Minnesota no fewer than three Red-shafted Flickers (the western subspecies of the Northern Flicker) were reported, and a greater than usual number of Varied Thrush, Golden Eagles, and Bohemian Waxwings were observed throughout the state. All three of these species live in western North America for most of the year.

"The Christmas Bird Count is the longest-running bird census in the world" said Martell. "The information provides a unique insight into changes in bird populations and distributions."

The annual Christmas Bird Count, the National Audubon Society's longest-running wintertime tradition, is held throughout the Americas and is now considered to be the world's most significant citizen-based conservation effort and what has become a more than century-old institution.

A final compilation of the data will be completed sometime in March of 2006.

CBC results can be reviewed on the Minnesota CBC web site (www.rohair.com/CBC) or the National Audubon Society's website (www.audubon.org).

Audubon is dedicated to protecting birds and other wildlife and the habitat that supports them. Our national network of community-based nature centers and chapters, scientific and educational programs, and advocacy on behalf of areas sustaining important bird populations, engage millions of people of all ages and backgrounds in conservation. 


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