The John Wesley Powell Audubon Society participated in last month's 119th annual Christmas Bird Count.
Audubon society member and ISU Associate Professor Angelo Capparella said this year’s count set a record for bald eagles spotted in the county.
“We had 13 bald eagles on the count. They've been going up every year as more and more eagles are nesting in our area,” Capparella said. “We're up to around approximately six bald eagle nests just in McLean County alone, and those eagles will stay around and feed wherever there's open water.”
But Capparella also noted the Christmas Bird Count showed fewer species than in previous years. This year, the Audubon Society reported 59 species of birds. He said recent years showed counts somewhere in the mid-60s.
Usually species counts depend on the abundance of open water, like reservoirs and ponds, Capparella said.
“But what we think happened this year was there was that blizzard and rough wintery weather in November before it then turned warm again,” he said. “And we think that may have chased things a little farther south and out of our area.”
The Christmas Bird Count is used to show how birds adapt to climate change by adjusting their wintering ranges, Capparella explained. He said the changes confuse birds as to where they should migrate to and when, and where to find food sources.
“This kind of data has been feeding into the climate reports showing that a lot of our birds are going to be really stressed through this human-caused climate change,” he said.
The Christmas Bird Count is organized by the National Audubon Society. The local audubon society has participated since 1967.
People like you value experienced, knowledgeable and award-winning journalism that covers meaningful stories in Bloomington-Normal. To support more stories and interviews like this one, please consider making a contribution.