Dallas County Christmas Bird Count notes many geese, few sparrows

A downy woodpecker was among the 47 species of birds seen in the 2019 Dallas County Christmas Bird County. Photo by Ray Harden

On the mild and sunny Saturday before Christmas, 23 people fanned out across Dallas County in the annual Christmas Bird Count. They made observations in parks, cemeteries, backyard feeders, roadsides and in the woods along the Raccoon River.

The annual event is sponsored by the Dallas County Conservation Department, Iowa Ornithologists’ Union, Iowa Audubon Association, Raccoon River Watershed Association and Leeward Solutions LLC.

The group observed 47 species of birds and counted 5,523 individual birds. The most abundant were the Canada geese at 2,315 counted. European starlings were in second place with 1,346. These birds can be seen year round in Dallas County.

The birders made some interesting observations. The unusually warm weather and the absence of snow cover has allowed the summer migrants to stay longer than usual. According to Iowa State University the migrant birds, on average, leave Iowa by mid-November. It is not uncommon to see a few of these birds during the winter months but not in these numbers.

  • Red-winged blackbirds, 187
  • Cedar wax wings, 133
  • American robins, 89
  • Eastern bluebirds, 49
  • Golden-crowned kinglet, 2

The group also saw birds that migrate into Iowa from Canada. The two most common species are the dark-eyed junco — 199 were recorded — and the American tree sparrow, of which 53 were seen.

The observing team was surprised by the few species of sparrows they saw, only three, as well as the low number of goldfinches, only 17. They recorded a higher number of blue jays than expected, with 175 seen.

The data collected in Dallas County, Iowa, will be added to the information collected by other birding groups across the U.S. and Canada. This information will be used to get a picture of the health of the bird populations and help guide conservation action.

The results of previous Christmas Bird Counts have shown a decline of 25 percent to 30 percent in bird population across the U.S. If you would like more details and a complete list of the birds seen during the Dallas county 2019 Bird Count, contact Dallas County Conservation Department Naturalist Mike Havlik at 515-465-3577.


  1. We had several in the bird count. The DNR and Dallas County Conservation have released several immature birds at a pond in Brenton Slough near Granger for several years. The swans must think that is area is their home. Mike Delaney has seen them swimming on the Raccoon River near his cabin. Thanks for the report. RH


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