2009 Focus on Feeders Results & Highlights

We would like to thank the nearly 1,000 backyard bird feeding enthusiasts from across Massachusetts who took part in this fun and educational annual event. Focus on Feeders helps to raise conservation awareness, and further Mass Audubon's efforts to protect wildlife and habitat in Massachusetts.

Highlights from the 2009 event

  • Nearly 50 different species were reported. 
  • See distribution maps of the species observed in the greatest numbers:

    Species

    Number Reported

    American Goldfinch 6,868
    Dark-eyed Juncos 5,582
    Pine Siskin 5,212
    Mourning Doves 4,311
    House (English) Sparrow 3,769
    Black-capped Chickadees 3612

    Map of species by town

  • The biggest change in 2009 was in the numbers of Pine Siskins observed. In past years, Pine Siskins have averaged less than 0.1 birds per observer; this year the numbers were 5.4 per observer. Siskins were reported at only 38% of the feeders, but the average per report was 14.2 birds – substantially more than the next highest, American Goldfinch. 

    The increase in siskins, referred to as an irruption by ecologists, is extraordinary and hasn’t been seen in the past 13 years of feeder watching. The causes of this increase are complex and possibly reflect an increase in siskin numbers, a failure in their winter food supply, or a combination of the two and other factors. The ability to compare this year’s results with our long-term record points to the value of the Focus on Feeders effort. We couldn’t do this without your help!

  • Goldfinch numbers were also up substantially in 2009 as the number per observer nearly doubled from 2008. Despite the increase in numbers of birds per observer for goldfinches and siskins numbers reported for many species were down in 2009. Eurasian Starling reports continue at a reduced rate, and Black-capped Chickadee sightings decreased by approximately 15%. 
  • As always care should be taken before drawing conclusions from what may be short-term and minor fluctuations in numbers.
  • Some interesting patterns are beginning to emerge, and we will continue to provide more detailed analysis of these results in upcoming posts to our web site. Starlings appear to be experiencing a long-term decline in feeder numbers. We will be filtering our database for those participants who have been reporting since 2004 and focus our analysis on changes in those feeder reports. 
  • We had another wet winter, with lots of snow and rain, and generally cold temperatures. Winter finches (grosbeaks and redpolls) and Bohemian Waxwings were reported once again in Massachusetts, but numbers were down compared to last year. Redpoll reports, for example declined by 75%, but were still more abundant than the long-term average.
  • Thanks to your participation, our winter feeder database continues to grow. The current Focus on Feeders program dates from 1997, and the updated rank order of birds visiting feeders since 1997 can be found in the Rank Order Table. 

Please ask your neighbors to join in the fun! The more participants we have, the more valuable the data. A 2001 US Fish and Wildlife Service survey indicated that more than 1,000,000 people in Massachusetts feed birds! We set a record for participation in 2009, and we would like to continue to grow the numbers of reports. Help us smash the 1,000 report barrier in 2010.