During the 2017-2018 (118th) Audubon Christmas Bird Count, 211 parties (11 fewer than last year) dedicated 1661 party-hours (61 fewer than last year) across 28 counts (1 fewer than last year, but still higher than the 2010-2017 average). In addition, 33 feeder-watchers provided 53 hours of count data. A total of 2,960,087 individual birds were counted, with Red-winged Blackbird (1,228,149), Brown-headed Cowbird (732,513), Snow Goose (390,969), and White-faced Ibis (66,798) topping the list and collectively representing 81.7% of all birds counted. Can you guess the 19 species that were reported from all 28 CBCs? The answer will be at the bottom of this report – no cheating!
The species total across all Louisiana CBCs was 249 species, 10 short of last year’s tally, plus two count-week species (Yellow Rail and Parasitic Jaeger). It was a particularly cold winter this year (average reported CBC high/low = 59/44 F), perhaps suppressing species numbers a bit this year compared to last, which was an unusually warm winter (average reported CBC high/low = 65/51 F). Despite the relatively low species showing, one new state species record was found on the Thibodaux CBC – a group of four Limpkin – and one new state subspecies record was found on the Grand Isle CBC – a Yellow “Mangrove” Warbler. Why these two tropical birds chose winter of 2017-2018 to show up in Louisiana is beyond me. An additional eight LBRC “Review List” species were found: Common Merganser (East Baton Rouge), Harris’s Hawk (Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie N.W.R.), three White-tailed Hawks (Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie N.W.R.), Anna’s Hummingbird (Lafayette), Brown-crested Flycatcher (New Orleans), Tropical/Couch’s Kingbird (New Orleans), Spotted Towhee (Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie N.W.R.), and Shiny Cowbird (Grand Isle).
Among the 28 Louisiana CBCs, 20 of them hit the 100 species mark, and two tallied 150 or more species: Sabine N.W.R. (158) and Palmetto Island (156). Four additional counts topped 140 species: New Orleans (147), Creole (145), White Lake (142), and Lacassine N.W.R.-Thornwell (141). Among north Louisiana CBCs, the counts with the most species were Red River N.W.R. (119) and Pine Prairie (109).
A respectable number of warbler species was found this year – 15. It was a pretty remarkable year for Yellow-throated Warbler, with 12 reported from five counts (compared to 2 birds from 1 count last winter), and Wilson’s Warbler, with 61 reported from 16 counts, including nine in Baton Rouge and one from a north Louisiana count (Pine Prairie). Other notable warblers included Ovenbird (2, Grand Isle; 1, Venice), Northern Waterthrush (1, Grand Isle; 1, Palmetto Island), American Redstart (1, Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie N.W.R.), Northern Parula (1, Pine Prairie; 1 Lacassine N.W.R.-Thornwell), Prairie Warbler (1, Crowley; 1, New Orleans; 2, Venice), and Black-throated Green Warbler (1, Grand Isle; 2, New Orleans; 1, Venice).
Other notable finds included Fulvous Whistling-Duck (2, Lake Charles; 1, Palmetto Island), Least Bittern (1, Creole; 1, New Orleans), Swainson’s Hawk (1, Creole; 1, New Orleans), Franklin’s Gull (1, Palmetto Island; 1, Sabine N.W.R.), Lesser Black-backed Gull (1, Shreveport), Common Tern (2, Johnson’s Bayou), Sandwich Tern (1, Sabine N.W.R.), Broad-tailed Hummingbird (1, Lafayette), Calliope Hummingbird (2, Baton Rouge; 1, Pine Prairie; 2, St. Tammany), Least Flycatcher (1, Lacassine N.W.R.-Thornwell; 1, Sweet Lake-Cameron Prairie N.W.R.; 1, Venice), Western Kingbird (1, Claiborne; 1, New Orleans), Bell’s Vireo (1, Baton Rouge; 1, Venice), Wood Thrush (1, Creole), Clay-colored Sparrow (1, New Orleans), Harris’s Sparrow (1, Creole; 3, Shreveport), Summer Tanager (1, Lacassine N.W.R.-Thornwell; 1, Palmetto Island; 1, White Lake), Western Tanager (1, Venice), and Rose-breasted Grosbeak (1, Baton Rouge; 1, Fort Polk).
Continuing expansions of several species are apparent, with Neotropic Cormorant now well established in Baton Rouge (50), and also documented in Thibodaux (3) and Reserve-Bonnet Carre Spillway (9). Ten years ago, a handful of Inca Doves would still be largely restricted to western Louisiana, but now 234 birds were counted from 17 counts spanning from Johnson’s Bayou to Venice, and north St. Tammany, Pine Prairie, and Cheneyville-Lecompte. A total of 96 Crested Caracaras, another species that has become increasingly common in southwestern Louisiana and is expanding eastward, were reported from 10 CBCs including one in Venice. Say’s Phoebe has also suddenly became much more regular in the last decade, an although a mere five were reported from four counts this year, two were from New Orleans, one was from Baton Rouge, and one was from Claiborne, which continues to suggest an eastward winter expansion. The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries reintroduction of Whooping Crane continues to excite birders, and five birds were found at White Lake.
The 19 species found on all 28 CBCs were Great Blue Heron, Northern Harrier, Cooper’s Hawk, Red-tailed Hawk, Killdeer, Mourning Dove, Belted Kingfisher, American Kestrel, Eastern Phoebe, Blue Jay, Carolina Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet, American Robin, Northern Mockingbird, European Starling, Yellow-rumped Warbler, White-throated Sparrow, Savannah Sparrow, and Northern Cardinal.
Thank you to those and compilers that coordinated the count effort this year, as well as all the volunteer counters!