Ducks take top local honors in annual Great Backyard Bird Count

Linda Gallagher, Contributing Writer

Courtesy photo

Nationally, the Northern Cardinal was the most often seen wild bird species in the U.S., while in Antrim and Kalkaska counties the Mallard Duck and Common Merganser topped birdwatchers' lists in the Feb. 15-18 online Great Backyard Bird Count.


REGION – During the 2019 Great Backyard Bird Count, sponsored by the Cornell Institute of Ornithology, birdwatchers from both Antrim and Kalkaska counties were among the several hundred thousand participants in the online survey from across the globe. 

Started in 1997 as a means of tracking winter populations of birds in locations throughout North America, more than a dozen people from Antrim County participated in the Feb. 15-18 count, while 10 people braved the cold air to count birds in Kalkaska County.

In Antrim County, Jane Curry, Daryl Bernard and Patricia Hill were the county's top participants. In Kalkaska County, Scott Sneed, Charlie Weaver and Kurt Cox took top participant honors.

The primary spot for spotting birds during the count this year in Antrim County was Elk Rapids' harbor, which perhaps would explain how more mallard ducks were counted than any other species. In Kalkaska County, as in previous years, the Rugg Pond Wildlife Area was the top hot spot.

Besides Mallards, Antrim County birdwatchers spotted a significant number of European Starlings, Blue Jays and Mourning Doves, while Kalkaska County participants reported good numbers of Common Mergansers, Mallard ducks and Blue Jays. Also spotted were good numbers of European Starlings, Cedar Waxwings, Snow Buntings, American Goldfinches, House Sparrows, and Common Redpolls.

Rarer birds, such as a Bald Eagle, two Trumpeter Swans, two Black Ducks, and Brown Creeper were also reported in Kalkaska County. A Rough-Legged Hawk, Snowy Owl, Red-Breasted Mergansers, a type of fish eating duck, and a Red-Breasted Nuthatches, were seen in Antrim County.

Many of the species seen were very different than those spotted in last year's count, which came during a period of very mild winter weather. This year's brutal winter weather in northern Michigan during late January and early February were attributed for pushing many birds further south than usual.

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