Snowy Owl a first on Christmas bird count

Christmas Bird Count held Dec. 16 in New Ulm area

Audubon Society A snowy owl, like the one pictured above, was spotted in New Ulm in Dec. 16’s Christmas Bird Count.

NEW ULM — The results of the annual Christmas Bird Count are in with two unusual species making a mark on the report.

More than a dozen counters spent Saturday, Dec. 16, watching feeders and traveling a total of 213 miles to count 32 separate species and 1,374 individual birds.

“It was fairly similar to what we see (during) years when it is nice weather and there is not a lot of snow on the ground and stuff like that,” Compiler Elaine Poulson said. “We had a snowy owl which we have never had before, so that was a nice first for us.”

The owl was identified by John Olson. He spotted it in a tree close to Highway 14 about a mile east of the Hwy 14 and15 intersection around 4 p.m. according to the count report.

The other species marked as unusual in the report was a flock of 20 rusty blackbirds. Mark Tacke and Greg Dierson spotted the flock on County Road 7 near a frozen slough.

After consulting their bird books, the two decided that the brownish tone of the birds and their eyes were identifying marks of rusty blackbirds, according to the report.

A third species that Poulson considered unusual, but not unheard of, was a belted kingfisher.

The most commonly spotted bird was the European starling with 314. It was followed by the house sparrow, 166; black-capped chickadee, 117 and the rock pigeon 111.

This year marks the 118th Christmas Bird Count sponsored by the Audubon Society. The count is the longest running wildlife census in the world, according to

The count is organized into 15-mile-wide circles where volunteers record any and all birds seen or heard, according to the website.

It was started on Christmas Day in 1900 by Dr. Frank Chapman who founded what became the Audubon magazine. New Ulm’s count was started by Tacke in 1986.

“The Christmas Bird Count is a tradition that everyone can participate in,” Geoff LeBaron Audubon’s Christmas Bird Count director said in a press release. “Adding observations to more than a century of data helps scientists and conservationists observe trends that will help make our work more impactful.”

As of Christmas Day the Audubon Society reported 162 counts completed with over 5.7 million birds counted. The national data will not be available until after the count ends Jan. 5 and the data is reviewed.