The 117th CBC in Florida

The 77 CBCs held during the 117th season set the all-time record for Florida, a trend that has been the norm for the past 10+ years. New counts were established at Big Cypress, Boca Raton, and Christmas. Florida’s CBCs accounted for 9319 accepted observations of 340 taxonomic forms and 1,421,893 individuals. The taxonomic forms comprised 278 native species or natural vagrants, the reintroduced Whooping Crane, all 14 extant “countable” exotics, 23 “non-countable” exotics, one hybrid (Mallard × Mottled Duck), one color morph (“Great White Heron”), one intergrade (“Wurdemann’s Heron”), and 21 species-groups. Five other species, Black-necked Swan at Lakeland, Sabine’s Gull at South Brevard County, Lapland Longspur at Big Cypress, Black-throated Gray Warbler at Fort Lauderdale, and Dickcissel at Sarasota, were recorded solely during count-week.

Eight CBCs, including two inland (*) exceeded 149 “countable” species: *Gainesville (166), West Pasco (161), Alafia Banks (160), Jacksonville (160), North Pinellas (160), St. Petersburg (159), Sarasota (152), and *Zellwood–Mount Dora (150). Four CBCs, including three inland (*), tallied more than 50,000 individuals: *Kissimmee Valley (65,126, with 30,000 Fish Crows), Gainesville (57,771, with 9500 Red-winged Blackbirds and 8000 Sandhill Cranes), *Econlockhatchee (52,552, with 25,000 Fish Crows), and Cocoa (52,186, with 27,000 Laughing Gulls).

Five species (Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, Turkey Vulture, Belted Kingfisher, and Blue-gray Gnatcatcher) were tallied on all 77 counts. Eight species exceeded 50,000 individuals statewide: American Robin (114,606), Fish Crow (100,845), Laughing Gull (83,508), White Ibis (67,969), Tree Swallow (54,552), American Coot (53,553), Red-winged Blackbird (53,026), and Yellow-rumped Warbler (50,751). In contrast, 16 native species or natural vagrants were each represented by a single individual: Long-tailed Duck (at Cocoa), Common Merganser (West Pasco), Eared Grebe (Lakeland), Cory’s Shearwater (Dade County), Neotropic Cormorant (West Palm Beach), Purple Sandpiper (Fort Pierce), Rufous Hummingbird (Kendall Area), Brown-crested Flycatcher (Long Pine Key), Gray Kingbird (STA 5–Clewiston), Warbling Vireo (Kendall Area), Hooded Warbler (Kendall Area), Le Conte’s Sparrow (Aripeka–Bayport), Blue Grosbeak (Zellwood–Mount Dora), Brewer’s Blackbird (Aripeka–Bayport), Orchard Oriole (Wekiva River), and Purple Finch (Bay County).

The following section mentions only those rarities that were supported by photographs or documentation forms. Bold-faced numbers denote high counts since the 102nd CBC season. The 8421 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks on 42 counts indicate continuing population explosion. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks totaled 544 individuals on four counts, with 500 at STA 5–Clewiston. The only Greater White-fronted Geese were four at Gainesville; other rare waterfowl included one Long-tailed Duck at Cocoa and a Common Merganser photographed at West Pasco. Canada Geese, mostly or entirely composed of resident exotics, reached their all-time high total of 1460 individuals on 17 counts, with 450 each at Jacksonville and Tallahassee, 190 at Emeralda–Sunnyhill, and 120 at Bradenton. Among 459 Egyptian Geese on nine counts, high totals were 96 at Boca Raton, 94 at Kendall Area, 82 at Fort Lauderdale, 51 at Stuart, and 50 at West Palm Beach. Muscovy Ducks totaled 4109 individuals on 53 counts, with 700 at Kendall Area.

Increased attention to Mallards, Mottled Ducks, and their hybrids hopefully is improving our understanding of these forms in Florida—presuming, of course, that CBC participants are correctly distinguishing hybrids from the various plumages of Mallards, arguably the most plumage-variable bird species on the planet. This season, 1516 hybrids were reported on 20 CBCs, with triple-digit totals from St. Petersburg (450), Sarasota (320), Bay Lake (225), and Fort Myers and Stuart (100 each). Totals of the parental species were 3717 Mallards on 54 counts and 5282 Mottled Ducks on 51. At the other extreme, ten urban CBCs in the southern half of the peninsula continue to report dozens or hundreds of Mottled Ducks with few or no hybrids—I consider all of these totals to be inaccurate, in many cases, wildly so: Bradenton (200 Mallards, 200 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Fort Pierce (22 Mallards, 230 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Fort Lauderdale (0 Mallards, 150 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Jonathan Dickinson S.P. (13 Mallards, 200 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Lake Wales (0 Mallards, 79 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Naples (15 Mallards, 145 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), North Pinellas (18 Mallards, 40 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Peace River (10 Mallards, 400 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), Sanibel–Captiva (0 Mallards, 110 Mottleds, 0 hybrids), and West Palm Beach (18 Mallards, 230 Mottleds, 0 hybrids).

Statewide, Northern Bobwhites totaled only 114 individuals on 24 CBCs (the lowest total in at least 15 seasons), while 1143 Wild Turkeys were tallied on 40. Seven CBCs totaled 132 Indian Peafowl, while three counts accounted for 155 Red Junglefowl. Three Red-throated Loons were at Panacea, with another at Ponce Inlet. Lakeland produced the state’s only Eared Grebe. The 236 American Flamingos at Dade County represented the feral flock at Hialeah Race Track. A Cory’s Shearwater was photographed at Dade County. Booby totals at Dry Tortugas N.P. were 56 Masked and 122 Brown; others Brown Boobys were at Biscayne N.P. (37), North Pinellas (10), and Dade County and Fort De Soto (singles each). There were 12,066 American White Pelicans on 48 counts, and 18,179 Brown Pelicans on 49, including 50 inland at Lakeland. Storks and wading birds totaled 145,332 individuals statewide, among these being 3997 Wood Storks, 147 “Great White Herons,” 205 Reddish Egrets, 67,969 White Ibises, 12,537 Glossy Ibises, and 1111 Roseate Spoonbills. Three White-faced Ibises were at Jackson County, with eight others at St. Marks.

Raptor totals included 4769 Ospreys on 73 counts, 1700 Bald Eagles on 71, and 3788 Red-shouldered Hawks on 74. Two White-tailed Kites were at Avon Park A.F. Range, with another at Long Pine Key. Snail Kites numbered 108 individuals on 11 CBCs, with 45 at Lake Placid, 33 at Kissimmee Valley, and 11 at STA5–Clewiston representing the double-digit totals. Accipiters numbered 119 Sharp-shinned Hawks on 55 CBCs and 312 Cooper’s Hawks on 66—as recently as 15 years ago, Sharpies consistently outnumbered Cooper’s on Florida CBCs, but no longer. Short-tailed Hawks numbered 78 individuals on 23 counts, with only two double-digit totals: 15 at Key West and 10 at Kendall Area.

Single Black Rails enlivened Aripeka–Bayport and Long Pine Key. Purple Gallinules statewide totaled 261 individuals on 21 counts, with 47 at Kissimmee Valley, 44 at Lakeland, 39 at Christmas, and 34 at Emeralda–Sunnyhill. Purple (Gray-headed) Swamphens were found on three counts: 45 at STA5–Clewiston, 22 at West Palm Beach, and seven at Fort Lauderdale. Limpkins continue their increase, totaling 1552 on 49 counts, with 160 at Sarasota, 142 at Kissimmee Valley, 130 at Lakeland, 120 at Myakka River S.P., and 89 at Bay Lake. Highest counts of the state’s 17,032 Sandhill Cranes on 52 counts included 8000 at Gainesville, 2300 at Lake Placid, 800 at Clermont, and 600 at Kissimmee Valley. Cedar Key accounted for 550 of the state’s 1050 American Oystercatchers; the next-highest counts were 69 at Bradenton and 68 at Panacea. Statewide counts of small plovers were 124 Snowys on nine counts, 192 Wilson’s on 14, 4152 Semipalmateds on 33, and 156 Pipings on 19. Florida’s five Long-billed Curlews were all along the peninsular Gulf coast, with duos at Alafia Banks and Cedar Key, and one at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P. Statewide, 1102 Red Knots were found on 15 counts, with 731 along the Gulf coast and 371 along the Atlantic coast. Fort Pierce produced the state’s only Purple Sandpiper.

A Sabine’s Gull was photographed count-week at South Brevard County. Single Franklin’s Gulls were at Cocoa and St. Marks. Lesser Black-backed Gulls totaled 335 individuals on 21 counts; highest counts were 140 at Cocoa, 39 at Fort Lauderdale, and 36 at Key Largo–Plantation Key. Seventy Sooty Terns were at Dry Tortugas N.P. Two Gull-billed Terns were at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P. with another at West Pasco. Amazing was a Common Tern photographed inland at Gainesville; four others were adequately detailed at Ten Thousand Islands—compilers are reminded that this species must be documented statewide. Black Skimmers numbered 8915 individuals on 36 counts, with 3300 at Matanzas, 950 at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P., 650 each at Jacksonville and Naples, and 525 at Cedar Key.

What is happening with Florida’s exotic doves? Rock Pigeons numbered 10,626 individuals on 55 counts, representing a decline of about 50% of numbers 12–15 years ago. The population of Eurasian Collared-Doves continues to plummet; this season’s 3697 individuals represent by far the lowest statewide total during my 16-year tenure as editor. As always, Fort Myers accounted for most of Florida’s Burrowing Owls—90 out of 103. Single Lesser Nighthawks were at Kendall Area, Long Pine Key, and Pensacola. A flock of Vaux’s Swifts again wintered at Gainesville, with five tallied on the CBC. Among Florida’s 251 hummingbirds were 237 Ruby-throated, one Rufous, and 13 not identified to species. Picoides woodpeckers numbered 1878 Downys on 73 counts, 20 Hairys on 14, and 48 Red-cockadeds on seven. Statewide caracara and falcon totals were 96 Crested Caracaras on 16 counts, 2232 American Kestrels on 76 (every CBC except North Pinellas), 90 Merlins on 45, and 101 Peregrine Falcons on 36. Fourteen psittacid species were found on Florida CBCs, among these 938 Monk Parakeets on 21 counts, 1130 Nanday Parakeets on ten, 573 Mitred Parakeets on three (with 520 at Kendall Area), 170 Blue-crowned Parakeets on five, and 150 White-eyed Parakeets (all at Dade County).

Ten species of flycatchers were accepted; the rarest among these were a Brown-crested Flycatcher at Long Pine Key and a Gray Kingbird at STA5–Clewiston. Nine Ash-throated Flycatchers were found on four counts: five at Zellwood–Mount Dora, two at Clermont, and singles at Gainesville and West Pasco. Great Crested Flycatchers totaled 329 individuals on 25 counts, with 60 at Ten Thousand Islands, 57 at Fakahatchee, and 45 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary; such numbers were unheard of 25 years ago. The highest totals for the state’s 1802 Loggerhead Shrikes were from along the southern Gulf coast, with 245 at Peace River, 134 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and 90 each at Fort Myers and heavily urbanized St. Petersburg. Thirteen of the state’s 18 accepted Yellow-throated Vireos were at Kendall Area; one photographed at Wekiva River was unexpectedly north. One Warbling Vireo was at Kendall Area, where two wintered during 2015–2016. Florida Scrub-Jays numbered 296 individuals on 19 counts; totals have ranged between 236 and 383 over the previous 10 CBC seasons. As expected, Jackson County accounted for all of the state’s Horned Larks, with six. Three Northern Rough-winged Swallows, one of these photographed, were far north at St. Marks.

Tallahassee accounted for all 12 of the state’s documented White-breasted Nuthatches. Brown-headed Nuthatches totaled 743 individuals on 34 counts. Red-breasted Nuthatches staged a minor invasion, with 23 individuals on six counts, four in the Panhandle and two (10 at Cedar Key and one at West Pasco) in the northern half of the peninsula. Kendall Area tallied

20 Red-whiskered Bulbuls this season. Eastern Bluebirds totaled 4183 individuals on 55 counts, with 372 at Ichetucknee–Santa Fe–O’Leno, 318 at Gainesville, 250 at Pensacola, 206 at Bay County, and 205 at Clermont. Six Sprague’s Pipits were found at Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R. The highest totals for the state’s 1026 Cedar Waxwings on 33 counts were 134 at Ichetucknee–Santa Fe–O’Leno and 132 at Jacksonville. A Lapland Longspur was photographed during count-week at Big Cypress.

This season, 23 species of wood-warblers plus Yellow-breasted Chat were accepted, with the rarest being a Hooded Warbler at Kendall Area and a Black-throated Gray Warbler count-week at Fort Lauderdale; nearly as rare were single Nashville Warblers at Gainesville and Bay Lake. Kendall Area produced 21 of the state’s 54 Black-throated Green Warblers and 23 of its 43 Black-throated Blue Warblers; 10 others of the latter were found at Dade County. All three of Florida’s Yellow-breasted Chats were found at Long Pine Key.

Twenty species of sparrows were accepted this season, with one Le Conte’s at Aripeka–Bayport furnishing the only report; other rare sparrows were two Dark-eyed Juncos at Bay County and single Clay-colored Sparrows on four counts. Statewide “Sharp-tailed” Sparrows numbers were down sharply this season, with only 63 Nelson’s on 14 counts and only 12 Saltmarsh on three; 14 others at Port St. Joe were not identified to species. Likewise, Seaside Sparrows numbered only 19 individuals on ten counts, all from along the Gulf coast except for four at Jacksonville. Triple-digit Swamp Sparrow counts came from Avon Park A.F. Range (600), Gainesville (300), and Zellwood–Mount Dora (180). Eighteen Summer Tanagers were tallied on ten counts, all singles or duos except for seven at Kendall Area. There were 114 Indigo Buntings on 17 counts, and 377 Painted Buntings on 44. One Blue Grosbeak was at Zellwood–Mount Dora, with another count-week at Econlockhatchee. The state’s sole Brewer’s Blackbird, at Aripeka–Bayport, returned for at least her fifth winter. Bronzed Cowbirds were found on three counts, singles at Sarasota and Dade County, and 54 at Kendall Area. An adult male Orchard Oriole was detailed at Wekiva River. Gainesville furnished 46 of the state’s 131 Baltimore Orioles; other double-digit counts were 16 at Lakeland and 11 at Crystal River. House Finches numbered 952 on 46 CBCs. Pine Siskins were nearly absent from the state this season, with singles at Sarasota and West Pasco. House Sparrows totaled 1917 individuals on 55 counts. Scaly-breasted Munias were found at Pensacola (44) and Kendall Area (24).

For the ninth year, Bruce Anderson reviewed most of the 160+ documentation forms received from 49 counts. Compiler interest in documenting rarities ranged from superb to non-existent. Bruce and I deleted 35 reports (representing less than 0.04% of all observations) from 22 counts. Most egregious was the Ponce Inlet CBC, which had six undocumented rarities deleted, among these one Black-headed Gull, 14,612 Franklin’s Gulls (!), five Hairy Woodpeckers, one Black-capped Vireo (!), and 31 Yellow Warblers (!). Other counts with multiple deletions were Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary and Crystal River (three species each), and Flagler, Sanibel–Captiva, and St. Petersburg (two each). The deleted species were Greater White-fronted Goose, Common Merganser (two counts), Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Common Nighthawk, Chimney Swift, Purple Swamphen, Black-headed Gull, Franklin’s Gull (two counts), Common Tern (five counts; compilers are reminded that this species is a mandatory write-up statewide due to its rarity during winter), Elegant Tern, Snail Kite, Broad-winged Hawk (two counts), Short-tailed Hawk, Hairy Woodpecker, Red-cockaded Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Ash-throated Flycatcher, Great Crested Flycatcher, Black-capped Vireo, Yellow-throated Vireo (two counts), Red-eyed Vireo, Purple Martin, Winter Wren, Tennessee Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow Warbler (two counts), and Rusty Blackbird. Another 75 reports were appended with the “Details Desired’ or “Questionable Number” editorial codes.