Québec: Winter 2020–2021

Winter 2020–2021: 1 Dec–28 Feb

Pierre Bannon

Olivier Barden

Normand David

Samuel Denault

Bannon, P., 0. Barden, N. David and S. Denault. 2021. Winter 2020–2021: Québec. <https://wp.me/p8iY2g-azu> North American Birds.

Winter 2020–2021 was very mild, especially in the East. December and January were the mildest with temperatures 2–7° Celsius above normal, while the month of February was closer to normal. Precipitation of snow was below normal in most of the province. The mild temperature and the absence of ice on the main waterways probably explain why so many unanticipated species lingered late in the season while some of them even persevered through the whole winter. Notable vagrants included Western Grebe, Fieldfare, Golden-crowned Sparrow and Bullock’s Oriole. Please take note that some of the rare occurrences addressed in this report are still awaiting official acceptance by the Québec Bird Records Committee.


Two Ross’s Geese were late at Saint-Jean-Baptiste-de-Rouville 14 Dec (P. Bergeron), while one at Chambly 21 Dec established a new record-late departure date for the province (R. Belhumeur). A Greater White-fronted Goose lingered at Chambly 14 Dec–2 Jan (O. Barden et al.) and one (the same?) was noticed at Fryer I. (Carignan) 3 Jan (R. Boulet). One was also found at Saint-Hubert 1 Jan (P. Hénault). A Pink-footed Goose at Chambly 14–24 Dec provided a new record late departure date for the province (O. Barden et al.). Single Tundra Swans  visited Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu 1–14 Dec (R & G. Boulet, m.ob.) and L’Épiphanie 3 Dec (R. Prévost), while a pair in Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine 4 Dec–6 Mar+ provided a second successfull wintering record for the province (A. Richard et al.). A male Northern Shoveler at Saint-Jérôme 29 Jan contributed a record late departure date for the province (L. Tremblay). A record tally of 14 King Eiders was set down for the province at Pointe Saint-Pierre (Gaspésie) 27 Feb (D. Jalbert, A. Gagnon). Two male Redheads at Saint-Stanislas-de-Kostka 24–26 Feb were likely early migrants (S. Huet et al.).

Willow Ptarmigans irrupted in large numbers well south of their range to the Abitibi region. One was even reported at Mont-Laurier in the Laurentides 13 Feb (F.-A. Joanis, ph.). A Western Grebe that showed up at Newport (Gaspésie) 4 Feb (J. M. Smith, ph.) moved to nearby Chandler 5–9 Feb (P. Poulin et al.) and to Grande-Rivière 12–13 Feb (M. Thibault, Albini Couture); this contributed a fourth record for the province and a first in winter. Always rare, a Eurasian Collared-Dove visited Sainte-Marthe 7 Jan–8 Feb (M. Laquerre et al.). An American Coot at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu 17 Dec–28 Feb + (R. Boulet, m. ob.) confirmed a first successful wintering record in the province. A Ruddy Turnstone at Matane 21–24 Dec provided a record late departure date for the province (J. A. Banville). A Dunlin at Rivière-Madeleine 26 Dec–14 Jan was late (G. Blanchette). A Spotted Sandpiper at Rimouski 20 Dec provided a provincial record departure date for the species, exceeding the previous record by 18 days (J. Roy-Drainville et al.).


At least 100 Black-legged Kittiwakes at Matane 2 Feb (L. Fradette) were very unusual at this period. Also 200 Bonaparte’s Gulls at Baie-du-Portage (Îles-de-la-Madeleine) 26 Dec (André Couture) turned out to be a high count for this period, as well as 17 at Pointe aux Outardes 28 Dec (E. Hains). An adult Mew Gull continued at Les Escoumins until 10 Dec (D. Turgeon, ph.). Another Mew Gull of a yet undetermined race was photographed at Port-Daniel (Gaspésie) 6 Feb, a first provincial record for the month of Feb (R. Deschênes et al., ph.). A Pacific Loon was carefully identified at Rivière-Ouelle 1st Dec (J. F. Rousseau). An exhausted Northern Fulmar was spotted in a snow-covered field at Saint-Alphonse-de-Granby 27 Dec (N. Fleury, ph.). Rare in winter, several Double-crested Cormorants lingered through mid-winter, e.g. up to 3 birds in the Lachine Rapids 15 Jan (m.ob.) and 8 at Île Rouge (Les Îles-de-la-Madeleine) 4 Feb (André Couture).

Winter records of Black Vulture seem to have increased recently: up to 2 birds were at times spotted together in the Cap d’Espoir area (Gaspésie) 8–18 Dec (G. Roy, P. Poulin, m. ob. ph.), and one reappeared at nearby Chandler 26 Feb–10 Mar (J. Blais, M. Thibault, ph.). At the other end of the province, one continued at Wakefield 1 Dec–15 Jan (C. Detellier et al., ph.), and one was accepting food given by locals at Obedjiwan (Mauricie) 31 Dec–15 Jan (R. Chachai, fide C. Abran, ph.). Probably encouraged by the mild weather, about 10 Turkey Vultures lingered through mid-winter. Unusual in this part of the province in winter, an immature Golden Eagle noted at Saint-Rosaire 2–23 Jan was possibly feeding on the numerous Wild Turkeys present in the area (M. Saint-Louis et al.), while an adult was spotted at L’Ange Gardien 30 Jan (S. Robert) and an immature at Saint-Armand 1 Feb (B. Hamel). Finally, one at Matagami 18 Feb was well north of its known winter range (A. Paiement et al.). Very unusual at anytime of the year, a Barn Owl  caused a surprise at Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu 25 Dec–18 Jan, establishing a record late departure date (G. Rémillard, ph., fide O. Barden). According to its well-known cyclic irruption at four-year intervals, the Great Gray Owl  was expected to move south in larger numbers this winter, but only about a dozen birds were reported during the season. Short-eared Owls were fairly common this winter; a high count of 9 was reported at Île du Moine 18 Dec (J. Lemoyne).


An immature Red-headed Woodpecker visited Saint-Raphaël-de-Bellechasse 8–24 Dec (A. Barbeau) while an adult brightened Chelsea 12 Jan (EM. Hébert). According to eBird, Red-bellied Woodpeckers were recorded in 36 locations in Jan–Feb compare to 9 only for the same period last year, which corroborates the amazing success of the species in the province and also an outstanding dispersal last fall. One was even reported at Val d’Or 12 Dec–28 Feb+, a first overwintering record for the Abitibi region (S. Perreault). Five Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers this winter were unprecedented: a female in Lafontaine park (Montréal) 8 Jan (O. Claing), a male at Laval 9 Jan (G. Lachaine), a female in the Morgan Arboretum (Sainte-Anne-de-Bellevue) 10 Jan–22 Mar (DJ. Léandri-Breton), a male at Île Goyer (Carignan) 19 Jan–15 Feb (A. Messier), and finally a bird of indeterminate sex at Beauharnois 20 Jan (B. Perras). A Tufted Titmouse at Sainte-Agathe-des-Monts 16 Nov–2 Feb (P. Dupuis) was apparently a first winter record in the Laurentides. A Marsh Wren at Sainte-Catherine 10 Nov–25 Jan (P. Bannon, S. Labbé et al.) and another at Île Bizard (Montréal) 5 Feb (R. Millot) both provided record late dates for the province. Noteworthy was a late Blue-gray Gnatcatcher at Île Perrot until 11 Dec (M. Juteau). A Ruby-crowned Kinglet spectacularly succeeded in overwintering at Rivière-au-Renard (Gaspésie) 3 Jan–4 Mar (K. Saint-Onge). A steadily recorded western visitor in the province, five Townsend’s Solitaires were reported during the period. Hermit Thrush occurrences in winter have become much more regular in the last decade with 7 birds still being seen in Feb. A Fieldfare found at Lévis 13 Jan (D. Garant), and traced again 21 Jan–1st Feb (S. Bégin, L. Plante, M. O’Neill et al.) provided the 9th record for the province, but the first in the last decade. A Varied Thrush discovered at Île Bizard (Montréal) 31 Jan (F. Bussière) was then sighted on and off until the end of the winter. Gray Catbirds are definitely more present in winter in recent years with 5 records in Jan–Feb, while there were 4 Brown Thrasher records in Jan–Feb.


It was a banner year for Hoary Redpoll with birds reported every day throughout the southern part of the province among flocks of Common Redpolls. Red Crossbills were also fairly common in ornamental spruce trees in southern Québec. Single Lark Sparrows made it through the coldest months with one at Saint-Charles-de-Bellechasse 7 Dec–11 Mar, (G. Jean et al.) and another at Victoriaville 23 Dec–20 Jan (N. Lemay and F. Lemay). The Golden-crowned Sparrow reported in the fall at Rimouski (V. Giroux) reappeared 1 Dec and made it through the end of the winter (G. Bouchard, J. Larivée et al.). Single Spotted Towhees delighted Lac Mégantic 2–5 Dec (C. Poulin, M. Turcotte et al.), and Grande-Rivière (Gaspésie) from 25 Nov through at least 3 Mar (A. Leblanc, m.ob., ph.). A Yellow-breasted Chat was spotted at Neuville 6–14 Dec and established a record late date for the province (N. Dupuis Azizah et al.). A male Yellow-headed Blackbird was found at Saint-Étienne-de-Beauharnois 6–31 Jan (L. Goneau et al.), the most steady location for this species in the past 40 years. An adult male Bullock’s Oriole at Saint-Bruno-de-Montarville was seen twice at a feeder 29 Nov & 1 Jan (R. Bourassa), but daily at another nearby feeder 2 Dec–11 Feb (S. Martel, G. Giroux). This represented the 6th record for the province and the latest known date. Two Baltimore Orioles were present at Sept-Îles 22 Nov through 3 Jan but only one made it through 14 Jan (B. Duchesne, C. Couture) while another male made a brief appearance at Gatineau 20 Jan (G. Emery).

Single late Ovenbirds were observed at Rimouski 1–15 Dec (G. Bouchard) and at the Bois de Saraguay (Montréal) 31 Dec (D. Demers). A Common Yellowthroat at Granby 3–5 Jan (S. Jetté) was a rare Jan report for this species. A heroic female Black-throated Blue Warbler that fed on mealworms at Saint-Georges-de-Beauce 28 Nov–17 Feb (S. Nadeau Bernard) was record late. The Yellow-throated Warbler previously found at Québec City in Nov was last seen 6 Dec (L. Bilodeau et al.). Northern Cardinals continued to be found in unusually large numbers across eastern Québec and Saguenay–Lac-Saint-Jean regions. In Gaspésie, there were more sightings this winter than during the whole previous decade. A very late Rose-breasted Grosbeak visited Rimouski 19 Dec–5 Jan (G. Proulx, G. Bouchard). Amazingly a 1st year male Indigo Bunting was discovered for the second consecutive winter, this time at Grenville 25 Jan–27 Feb (D. Mojzak, ph.).                  

ADDENDUM: a male Baltimore Oriole was present all winter from 27 Oct 2019 through 9 Mar 2020 at l’Anse-Saint-Jean (Saguenay), providing a first overwintering record for the province (m. ob., fide G. Savard).

Report processed by Andrew Keaveney, 26 May 2021.

Photos–Québec: Winter 2020–2021

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