editor's note: The Las Cruces Christmas Bird Count for 2020 was canceled due to the COVID pandemic.
Mesilla Valley Audubon Society's (MVAS) 45th annual Las Cruces Christmas Bird Count (CBC)
Mesilla Valley Audubon Society's (MVAS) 45th annual Las Cruces Christmas Bird Count (CBC) was held on Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. The weather could not have been more perfect for birding from sunrise to sunset! Here is a summary of the results of the CBC:
Observers: 53 (last yr. 51)
Total Bird Count: 30,652 (last yr. 27,261 - 10-yr. avg. is 32,453)
No. of Feeder Watchers: 6 (last yr. 5)
Other Modes of Birding (other than driving & walking): by bicycle (2 people), by golf cart (2 teams)
Unusual/Rare Birds: 5 (last yr. 5) - Carolina Wren, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture
Count Week Birds (not seen on count day): 6 (last yr. 4) Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Turkey Vulture, Harris's Hawk, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Belted Kingfisher, Fox Sparrow
Total Species Count (includes sp., subsp.): 113 (last yr. 115)
White-winged Dove Count: 6,320 (last yr. 7,516)
American Crow Count: 11,505 (last yr. 4,823)
Total Sparrow Count (excludes towhees, dark-eyed juncos, & house sparrows): 578 (last yr. 1,079)
High Counts: 6 (last yr. 7) Gadwall, A. Wigeon, Lesser Scaup, Bufflehead, A. Crow, Curve-billed Thrasher
Low Counts: 31 (last yr. 17) including Great Blue Heron, Inca Dove, N. Flicker, Cedar Waxwing, W. Meadowlark, Pine Siskin, and most of our wintering sparrows (especially White-crowned and Black-throated)
Notable Absences: Common Merganser, Sandhill Crane, Burrowing Owl, Canyon Wren, Eastern & Western Bluebirds, Brown-headed Cowbird, and Black-chinned, Sagebrush, Swamp, and White-throated Sparrows
There were 4 different hummingbirds seen during our CBC and count week: Rufous, Anna's, Ruby-throated, and an unidentified hummingbird sp.
Our sparrow count was bleak. There were 5 low counts with Black-throated tying a record low and White-crowned setting a new record low. This is the 2nd year that we have had a 50% decline in the number of sparrows in our CBC circle (2017 - 2,157; 2018 - 1,079; 2019 - 578). However, this year's sparrow count set a new record low. The last record low was in 1976 - 822! At that time, the region was experiencing the last major long-term drought. Where are all of our sparrows? There seems to be a few theories floating around; however, the most plausible one is that the change in timing of our monsoon with rain later in the fall has caused seed production to decline. Therefore, less seed for foraging means birds migrate to other places to winter.
Surprisingly, of the 6 high counts, 4 were record highs - the 4 ducks mentioned above.
I would like to thank everyone for their hard work birding in this year's Las Cruces CBC. I hope to see everyone in December 2020.
coordinator and compiler for Las Cruces CBC
Mesilla Valley Audubon Society
To see full report, click here.