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Bird count reveals possible increase in population despite last year’s die-off

Several factors play role in annual tally, including weather conditions and number of observers
A white crowned sparrow in September in the Durango area.

FARMINGTON – The Audubon Christmas Bird Count took place in December, just a short time after researchers from multiple organizations sent samples to the U.S. Geological Survey’s National Wildlife Health Center and found that there was a large die-off of migratory birds.

Researchers with the New Mexico Department of Game and Fish in December reported that most of the migratory birds arrived in New Mexico already starving most likely because of an unusual storm. A release sent in December said the lab reports indicated that the “single abnormality shared by nearly all birds was body condition ranging from poor to severely emaciated.”

While the results didn’t identify a single reason for the deaths, all of the birds were lacking nourishment and physically over exerted, according to the release.

At the end of December through the beginning of January, the Audubon Christmas Bird Count took place, and while results in general have not yet been released, the representative for Farmington, Alan Nelson, shared the final counts between 2019 and 2020.

In 2019, Nelson reported there were 5,227 birds counted. This year, for the 2020 count, Nelson reported 7,288 birds counted. That makes 2,061 more birds counted in 2020 than 2019

Nelson said several factors can determine the outcome of the count, including the number of counters, areas covered and the weather conditions on the day of the count and the days leading up to the count.

He added that for 2019, there were six species of birds that had a higher population in 2019 than in 2020. Similarly, for the 2020 count, there were a total of 18 species which outnumbered the counts in 2019.

Nelson also said the die-off in early December likely had nothing to do with human interaction.

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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