Christmas Bird Count

Peace River Audubon’s 2022 Christmas Bird Count – Saturday, December 17,  2022

Tony Licata’s interesting observations:

Despite  later migration, Hurricane Ian habitat destruction and partly cloudy skies with breezy winds, our total count was  UP to 17036, a 41% increase compared to 12053 in 2021; 22865 in 2020; 16446 in 2019; 22330 in 2018;  19,247 in 2017; 21,266 in 2016;  23,272 in 2015.  The increase  in numbers in 2022 was due to  a 1,352% increase in Lesser Scaup 2193 versus 151 in 2021.  A decrease of 49% in European Starlings lessened the increase.

On count day we saw 133 species, an increase of 5% versus 127 in 2021; 125 in 2020; 120 in 2019; 136 in 2018; 137 in 2017; 140 in 2016; 133 in 2015; 125 in 2014; 143 in 2013.  For count week we saw 134 species, a decrease of 5% versus 137 in 2021; 135 in 2020; 125 in 2019; 140 in 2018; 144 in 2017; 145 in  2016; 133 in 2015.

We had over 60 participants who spent over 100 hours in search of birds by foot, car, golf cart, or boat, and covered over 400 miles by land or sea.

Of note, we recorded on count day for the first time ever three species: Mandarin Duck, Gray-headed Swamphen and Black-throated Green Warbler.

There were 19 birds that we recorded through count week in 2022 but not in 2021:  Least Bittern, Northern Bobwhite, Crested Caracara, Long-billed Dowitcher, Dunlin, Peregrine Falcon, American Goldfinch, Burrowing Owl, Barred Owl, Northern Parula, Virginia Rail, American Robin, Sora, Grasshopper Sparrow, Swamp Sparrow, Orange-crowned Warbler, Cedar Waxwing Whip-poor-will, and marsh Wren.  There were 15 birds that we did not record through count week in 2022 but did in 2021:   Mallard/Mottled Duck, Canada Goose, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Short-tailed Hawk, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Snail Kite, Red-breasted Merganser, Merlin, Black-crowned Night-Heron, Sanderling, Black Skimmer, Cinnamon Teal, Cinnamon/Bluewinged Teal, Eastern Towhee, and Red-headed Woodpecker.

Of the birds we did see, there were  8 species that had at least a 65% decline:  Mallard Duck, Ring-necked Duck, Herring Gull, Common Loon, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Tufted Titmouse, and Downy Woodpecker.

Counts were up at least 200% for 15 species including: Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Fish Crow, Great Crested Flycatcher, Common Grackle, Scrub Jay, White Pelican, Black-bellied Plover, Lesser Scaup, Forster’s Tern, Ruddy  Turnstone, Solitary (Blue-headed) Vireo, Prairie Warbler, Yellow-throated Warbler, and Greater Yellowlegs.

There can be wide fluctuations in counts from one year to the next as with Eastern Bluebird, Indigo Bunting, Scrub Jay, Lesser Scaup, Forster’s Tern, Yellow-throatedWarbler,  and Greater Yellowlegs, which declined more than 65% in 2021, but rose more than 200% in 2022.  The opposite held true for Mallard Duck, Herring Gull, Common Loon, Yellow-crowned Night-Heron, Roseate Spoonbill, Tufted Titmouse which increased more than 200% in 2021, but declined more than 65% in 2022.

           2022 The top 10 birds                                                     2021 The top 10 birds

accounting for 73% of the total sightings were:    accounting for 59% of the total sightings were:

1.      Lesser Scaup  2193   (13%)                                  1.   European Starling  1467      (12%)

2.       Fish Crow 2165                                                    2.    Mourning Dove    944

3.       Common Grackle 2007                                       3.    White Ibis 894

4.       Tree Swallow  1333                                             4.     Tree Swallow 867

5.       Double-crested Cormorant   1071                    5.     Double-crested Cormorant 742

6.       Mourning Dove  1010                                         6.     Boat-tailed Grackle  716

7.       White Ibis  804                                                     7.     Common Grackle   502

8.       Boat-tailed Grackle  795                                      8.     Laughing Gull 391

9.       European Starling  747                                        9.     Black Vulture   270

10.     Laughing Gull  319                                             10.     Turkey Vulture 261

Fish Crow, Lesser Scaup were added to the top ten, while Black and Turkey Vultures were deleted; otherwise all the other species just changed their rankings.

The following 8 birds had equal to or higher totals than in any of the last 20 years: LeastBittern, Indigo Bunting, Crested Caracara, Fish Crow, Peregrine Falcon, Barn Owl, Northern Parula, and Yellow-throated Warbler.

There were 12 birds that are seen occasionally which we did not record through count week in the last two years:  American Bittern, Canvasback, Short-billed Dowitcher,  Marbled Godwit, Sharp-shinned Hawk, Red Knot, American Redstart, Northern Shoveler,  Vesper Sparrow, Hermit Thrush, American Wigeon, and Sedge Wren.

For the full report, please visit


History of the Audubon Society’s Christmas Bird Count (from National Audubon Society’s web site)

Prior to the turn of the century, people engaged in a holiday tradition known as the Christmas “Side Hunt”: They would choose sides and go afield with their guns; whoever brought in the biggest pile of feathered (and furred) quarry won.

Conservation was in its beginning stages around the turn of the 20th century, and many observers and scientists were becoming concerned about declining bird populations. Beginning on Christmas Day 1900, ornithologist Frank Chapman, an early officer in the then budding Audubon Society, proposed a new holiday tradition – a “Christmas Bird Census”- that would count birds in the holidays rather than hunt them.

So began the Christmas Bird Count. Thanks to the inspiration of Frank M. Chapman and the enthusiasm of twenty-seven dedicated birders, twenty-five Christmas Bird Counts were held that day. The locations ranged from Toronto, Ontario to Pacific Grove, California with most counts in or near the population centers of northeastern North America. Those original 27 Christmas Bird Counters tallied around 90 species on all the counts combined.

How Christmas Bird Count Helps Protect Species and Their Habitat

The data collected by observers over the past century allow researchers, conservation biologists, and other interested individuals to study the long-term health and status of bird populations across North America. When combined with other surveys such as the Breeding Bird Survey, it provides a picture of how the continent’s bird populations have changed in time and space over the past hundred years.

The long term perspective made possible by the Christmas Bird Count is vital for conservationists. It informs strategies to protect birds and their habitat – and helps identify environmental issues with implications for people as well. For example, local trends in bird populations can indicate habitat fragmentation or signal an immediate environmental threat, such as groundwater contamination or poisoning from improper use of pesticides.

In the 1980’s CBC data documented the decline of wintering populations of the American Black Duck, after which conservation measures were put into effect to reduce hunting pressure on this species. More recently, in 2009, the data were instrumental in Audubon’s Birds & Climate Change analysis, which documented range shifts of bird species over time. Also in 2009 CBC data were instrumental in the collaborative report by the North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service – State of the Birds 2009.


Peace River Audubon Society results are presented to all members at a social/meeting about one week after the count, as well as on this website and our social media.  To see results from the National Audubon Society click here.

The 2020 Christmas Bird Count Slideshow is now available on YouTube at Many thanks to Eleanor and Bill Marr, Larry Behrens, and Tony Licata for all of their hard work and for making this presentation.

Christmas Bird Count News & Results



By Malcolm Simons

 The venerable Christmas Bird Count is older than I am! Anything that falls within that category is bound to be pretty old—actually quite a bit older in this case, as it passed its 100th birthday in the year 2000. It started as something of a lark, when a small group of birders in Brooklyn and Central Park, New York, thought that it would be fun to see how many birds they could count on Christmas Day…instead of the then-popular pastime of seeing how many birds they could shoot in one day! Incidentally, the term “birder” originally applied to someone who hunted birds, rather than to one who merely observed or counted them.

The idea quickly spread to other groups of people interested in birds in Boston and other New England locations, and eventually to many parts of the country. Today it extends to all 50 states, all of the provinces of Canada, many Caribbean and Central American countries, as well as a few countries on the northern fringe of South America.

It was originally regarded by true Ornithologists as a harmless pastime, with little real scientific value, due to a lack of standardized protocols, uncertain reporting methods, and a wide variation of expertise among those taking part. These problems continue to plague it, but are being improved upon every year. Improved binoculars, scopes, tapes and field guides have greatly improved the ac-curacy of identification. But careful monitoring by leaders and compilers is still necessary in order to avoid wishful thinking in the reports. But the scientists have gradually come to realize that its greatest strength lies in the fact that it is the longest running continuous census of any form of life on the face of the earth! Over the long scope of more than a century, the little glitches inherent in such a widespread volunteer effort tend to even out, and we are left with a very valuable base of data. This value was greatly enhanced after the middle of the past century when computerized storage and analysis of data became available. Today all of the Christmas Bird Count data is available to scientists from all over the world who may be interested in pursuing long-term studies of bird populations and distribution.

For more on the history, please visit the the National Audubon Society CBC website.