Eagle-eyed bird watchers are worried after Victoria’s Christmas Bird Count revealed fewer species than usual.

Over the last 10 years the average number has been between 140 and 143. Two hundred volunteers found only 135, the lowest amount since 2007.

“It’s a real surprise for us,” said Ann Nightingale of the Rocky Point Bird Observatory.

“We are seeing huge population declines, some birds are increasing, but many birds are decreasing. The sea birds and really struggling, shorebirds and really struggling, grassland birds, which aren’t birds we don’t see often in Victoria are struggling.”

Regular birds missing include: The Brant, Ring-necked Pheasant, Sanderling, Barn Owl, Western Screech Owl, Northern Saw-whet Owl, Sky Lark, Evening Grosbeak and Red Crossbill.

It’s part of a troubling global decline. Arne Mooers, a SFU Biodiversity professor found even more bad news in a new study.

“We took a new look at extinction rates at all the birds in the world, and we discovered that the rate is perhaps up to six times higher than we previously estimated,” said Mooers.

“Other research has pointed to climate change as a major factor.”

Even though the problem is linked to the big issue of climate change, there are some small actions people can take right in their backyard to help bird populations.

“Keeping control of their cats [helps]” said Nightingale.

“I have cats I love cats… or not using poisons around their yard. Victoria has a rat issue, and the things that eat rats, that have been poisoned or mice that have been poisoned, also die”

There are also other strategies, like getting cats special collars, and maintaining bird feeders.

Experts also say this count is only a snapshot, and there is hope that some numbers could bounce back against the odds. Sooke’s bird count begins Saturday.

The preliminary list says the following were found:

Snow Goose
Gr. White-fronted Goose
Cackling Goose
Canada Goose
Mute Swan
Trumpeter Swan
Tundra Swan
Wood Duck
Northern Shoveler
Gadwall
Eurasian Wigeon
American Wigeon
Mallard
Northern Pintail
Green-winged Teal
Canvasback
Redhead
Ring-necked Duck
Greater Scaup
Lesser Scaup
Harlequin Duck
Surf Scoter
White-winged Scoter
Long-tailed Duck
Bufflehead
Common Goldeneye
Barrow’s Goldeneye
Hooded Merganser
Common Merganser
Red-breasted Merganser
Ruddy Duck
California Quail
Pied-billed Grebe
Horned Grebe
Red-necked Grebe
Eared Grebe
Western Grebe
Rock Pigeon
Eurasian Collared-dove
Mourning Dove
Anna’s Hummingbird
Virginia Rail
American Coot
Black Oystercatcher
Black-bellied Plover
Killdeer
Black Turnstone
Surfbird
Dunlin
Wilson’s Snipe
Spotted Sandpiper
Greater Yellowlegs
Common Murre
Pigeon Guillemot
Marbled Murrelet
Ancient Murrelet
Rhinoceros Auklet
Mew Gull
Western Gull
California Gull
Herring Gull
Iceland Gull
Glaucous-winged Gull
Red-throated Loon
Pacific Loon
Common Loon
Brandt’s Cormorant
Pelagic Cormorant
Double-crested Cormorant
Great Blue Heron
Turkey Vulture
Golden Eagle
Northern Harrier
Sharp-shinned Hawk
Cooper’s Hawk
Bald Eagle
Red-tailed Hawk
Great Horned Owl
Northern Pygmy Owl
Barred Owl
Short-eared Owl
Belted Kingfisher
Red-breasted Sapsucker
Downy Woodpecker
Hairy Woodpecker
Pileated Woodpecker
Northern Flicker
American Kestrel
Merlin
Peregrine Falcon
Hutton’s Vireo
Northern Shrike
Steller’s Jay
Northwestern Crow
Common Raven
Chestnut-backed Chick.
Bushtit
Golden-crowned Kinglet
Ruby-crowned Kinglet
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Brown Creeper
Pacific Wren
Marsh Wren
Bewick’s Wren
American Dipper
European Starling
Varied Thrush
Hermit Thrush
American Robin
Cedar Waxwing
House Sparrow
American Pipit
House Finch
Purple Finch
Pine Siskin
American Goldfinch
Fox Sparrow
Dark-eyed Junco
White-crowned Sparrow
Golden-crowned Sparrow
White-throated Sparrow
Savannah Sparrow
Song Sparrow
Lincoln’s Sparrow
Swamp Sparrow
Spotted Towhee
Western Meadowlark
Red-winged Blackbird
Brown-headed Cowbird
Brewer’s Blackbird
Orange-crowned Warbler
Yellow-rumped Warbler
Townsend’s Warbler
Rusty Blackbird
Red-throated Pipit
American Tree Sparrow
Palm Warbler

Julian Kolsut