The 118th CBC in Tennessee

Twenty-eight counts were completed in the state during the 118th count period, two less than last season. There were no counts conducted at Cookeville or Crossville this season.

The total number of species recorded during the Tennessee counts this season was 164, the same number as last year and slightly above the average for the state. Amazingly, no unique species were found as count week only birds – all species recorded were seen on count day of at least one CBC in the state!

More than 700k individual birds were counted in Tennessee during the 118th CBC. Reelfoot Lake had the most individual birds counted with over 298k tallied.

The Duck River count tallied an amazing 128 species on count day (+ 1 additional species as count week only)! This sets a new record for the state (congrats!), breaking the previous count day record set on the Reelfoot Lake CBC during the 116th CBC season of 124 species! Reelfoot Lake still holds the record for count day + count week species with 139 species tallied during the 117th CBC season. In addition to Duck River, five other counts topped the 100 species barrier – Reelfoot Lake (119), Savannah (117), Perry County (110), Knoxville (104), and Big Sandy (103). Memphis was close again with 96 species counted.

Nine of the 28 counts experienced some form of precipitation on count day. Most counts with precipitation only experienced light rain but the Cades Cove count endured heavy rains all day. Only the Kingsport count reported any snowfall and it was light in the afternoon hours. Twenty-one counts reported temperatures at or below freezing for at least part of count day with the coldest temperature being reported on the Hickory-Priest count on January 1st where the low was 6 degrees Fahrenheit and the high was only 21! Three other counts reported high temperatures that did not get above the freezing mark – Bristol (23), Hiwassee (25), and Savannah (28). Cades Cove enjoyed the highest temperature on count day at 70 F on December 23!

Knoxville once again had the largest number of participants by a wide margin with 62! No other count even had as many as 40 observers with the Nashville CBC coming in a distant second at 36 participants in the field.

Geese and Swans
Duck River had the high numbers of Greater White-fronted, Ross’s, and Cackling geese while Reelfoot Lake once again had the high count for Snow Geese and Knoxville had the high count for Canada Geese. A resident Mute Swan at Memphis was the only one reported and Trumpeter/Tundra swan species were reported at both Memphis (1) and Reelfoot Lake (4) but the observers did not get good enough looks to determine the specific species.

Dabbling and Diving Ducks
Nineteen counts across the state reported Wood Ducks with the high count again coming from Duck River (206). Duck River also had the high count for Gadwall with 20,992 birds counted and only one other count (Big Sandy) even broke the one thousand mark for this species with 2180 tallied. A single Eurasian Wigeon was found at Duck River, the only one reported on a TN CBC this season. Hiwassee recorded the high count for American Black Duck with 100 counted. Duck River produced the high count for Mallard (77,954) with the species being found on every count in the state this season except Roan Mountain. Duck River produced the high counts for Northern Pintail (13,529) and Green-winged Teal (1136) as well as finding the only Blue-winged Teal for the season. Savannah came up with the high count for Northern Shoveler (347).

The high tally for Canvasback (451) came from Nickajack Lake while Hiwassee saw the most Redheads (43). Ring-necked Duck was most numerous at Duck River (2230) while Big Sandy had the high counts for both scaup species with 93 Greater Scaup and 450 Lesser Scaup. Scoters made a good showing across the state this CBC season with all three species detected. Surf Scoters were noted at Bristol (1), Big Sandy (5), and Savannah (2), while White-winged Scoters were seen on the counts at Bristol (4), Big Sandy (1), Nickajack (17), and Savannah (4). Black Scoters were only tallied at Savannah (4) where all three scoter species plus Long-tailed Ducks were discovered! Savannah had the high count with an impressive 17 Long-tailed Ducks and a single was found at Bristol. The 592 Buffleheads counted at Duck River constituted the high mark for the state this season while Big Sandy tallied an impressive 600 Common Goldeneye, almost three-fourths of the total count for the state! Hooded Mergansers once again made a good showing across the state with 23 counts listing the species; White County (247) had the high mark. Common Mergansers were noted on six state counts this season with the high counts coming from Hickory-Priest and Kingsport with four each. Red-breasted Mergansers showed up on 17 of the state’s counts, the majority of those were counted at Duck River where 36 constituted the high count. Seventeen counts across the state had Ruddy Ducks and the high count again came from Reelfoot Lake (1685).

Gallinaceous Species
Only seven total Northern Bobwhites were detected this season on four CBCs. Ruffed Grouse were found on only two counts – the Great Smoky Mountains National Park count had two on count day and the Cades Cove count had one as a count week species. Wild Turkeys had a much better showing with 1009 found statewide with the high count coming from Clarksville (215).

Loons and Grebes
Three Red-throated Loons found on the Big Sandy count were the only ones noted and no Pacific Loons were detected in the state this CBC season. More than 300 Common Loons were tallied across Tennessee on nine different counts with a high of 155 at Big Sandy. Pied-billed Grebes were again found across the state with 1134 individuals tallied on 25 different counts; the high count came from Chattanooga (345). Big Sandy had the state high count for Horned Grebe with 96 tallied.

Pelican, Cormorant, and Herons
Double-crested Cormorants were found on more than half of the state CBCs with a statewide total of 1141 birds. Nearly a third of these were counted at Reelfoot Lake (347). The high count for American White Pelican also comes from Reelfoot where 464 individuals were tallied, more than half of the state total of 813 birds. Great Blue Herons were found on all 28 counts across the state with the largest number coming from Knoxville with 198 counted. A total of 22 Great Egrets were tallied on three counts with the majority of these also coming from Knoxville (13). A single Green Heron at Knoxville was the only one reported. Black-crowned Night-Herons were detected on three counts for a total of 16 individuals; the majority of these were from the Hickory-Priest CBC (13).

New World Vultures and Diurnal Raptors
Black Vulture was detected on 25 of the 28 counts with Kingsport hitting the high mark (317) and Turkey Vulture was represented on 26 CBCs with Buffalo River having the highest total (159). Osprey was found on two counts with Chattanooga and Nickajack Lake tallying one each. Golden Eagles were recorded on six counts in the Volunteer State with Duck River and Nickajack Lake reporting two each and a single bird reported on the Franklin-Coffee County CBC; three counts, Big Sandy, Savannah, and Warren County, reported them as count week additions. Reelfoot Lake again had the high mark for Northern Harrier (40) and the species was recorded on 14 counts across the state. Duck River and Savannah also had double-digit tallies for this species, with counts of 23 and 28, respectively. Three Sharp-shinned Hawks each on the Buffalo River and Savannah counts represented the high marks for Sharpies, where 30 were detected statewide. Sixteen Cooper’s Hawks at Knoxville were far and away the most counted in the state and the only double-digit tally of the season. This species was detected on 26 counts for a total of 92 individuals. A Northern Goshawk was well described on the Duck River N.W.R., the only report of this rare raptor from the north. Only six of the 28 counts were missing Bald Eagle with a total of 280 individuals tallied; the high count came from Reelfoot Lake (87). Red-shouldered Hawk was detected on all but two counts this season with a total of 250 birds recorded; the high count for this species came from Savannah with 23 birds. Red-tailed Hawks made another good showing this CBC season with 680 birds totaled across the state. This species was tallied on all 28 counts across the state where Reelfoot Lake once again boasted the high count (76). Additional forms of Red-tailed Hawks seen this season included a dark morph Harlan’s at Memphis, single Krider’s at Memphis and Perry County, a dark-morph calurus/abieticola at Reelfoot Lake, and another well described light morph abieticola on the Duck River count.

Rail, Coot, and Crane
A single Virginia Rail on the White County count and Soras detected at Reelfoot Lake (2) and Knoxville (1) were the only rail species reported this season. The Chattanooga CBC was host to the largest number of American Coots tallied this season in the state with a total of 3094 birds. A total of 7716 coots were counted on 17 CBCs across the state. Sandhill Cranes were found on a dozen CBCs across the state but it’s no surprise that the high count again comes from Hiwassee (10,773), where the vast majority of the state total (11,303) for this species was recorded. Two Whooping Cranes on the Hiwassee count and three on the Perry County count were the only ones reported.

Shorebirds
Killdeer was noted on 26 of the 28 state CBCs this season with the high mark coming from Reelfoot Lake (795). Two Spotted Sandpipers and a single Solitary Sandpiper found on the Duck River count were notable winter rarities. A single Greater Yellowlegs detected on the Savannah count was the only yellowlegs species reported this season. Dunlin were recorded on four counts across the state with 10 at Hiwassee being the high mark. Least Sandpipers were noted on six Tennessee CBCs with the high count coming from the Franklin-Coffee County count (75). Wilson’s Snipe was detected on 18 CBCs across the state with the high count (172) coming from Reelfoot Lake. American Woodcock was recorded on nine state counts for a total of 18 birds with a high tally of four each noted on the Duck River and Perry County counts.

Gulls and Terns
Fifteen counts across the state produced a total of 4939 Bonaparte’s Gulls. The Perry County CBC recorded the high count for this species (1850) along the Tennessee River portion of their count circle. A Little Gull was detected for a count week species at Reelfoot Lake, where the species is an almost annual winter visitor. Ring-billed Gulls were found on 23 counts statewide with the Reelfoot Lake count providing the largest portion (14,370) of the state total of nearly 39,000 of this widespread species. Thirteen counts reported Herring Gulls this season for a total of 240 individuals. The high count for this species came from Savannah (103). A single Lesser Black-backed Gull on the Big Sandy count was the only one of that species reported the season. Glaucous Gulls were well described on two counts this season with both the Big Sandy and Reelfoot Lake counts reporting this winter rarity among the more common gull species. Single Forster’s Terns were reported on the Clarksville, Duck River, and Hiwassee CBCs.

Pigeon, Collared-Dove, Dove, and Swallow
Rock Pigeon was reported on every Tennessee CBC with the exception of Fayette County (!?), with the high count again coming from Chattanooga (995). Eurasian Collared-Doves were recorded on 17 counts across the state and the high count came from Memphis (59). The ubiquitous Mourning Dove was once again found on every CBC in the state in slightly below average numbers.

Owls, Hummingbird, and Kingfisher
Owling in the pre-dawn hours on this season’s counts produced five species of owls. Barn Owls were detected on five state CBCs with singles noted on four counts and two tallied at Savannah. Eastern Screech-Owl was noted on 21 counts for the season with a high count of a dozen at Elizabethton! Great Horned Owl was tallied on 19 counts across the state with the high count coming from Reelfoot Lake (6). Interestingly, a Snowy Owl was seen and photographed just a few miles outside the Big Sandy count circle on the same day as the CBC there! Barred Owl was reported on 18 counts this season, down from last year and Duck River provided the high count (9). Short-eared Owl was more widespread this CBC season with the species being reported on six counts; the high mark for this owl was again noted at Reelfoot Lake (4). A single Rufous Hummingbird at Knoxville was the only hummingbird reported for the state. Belted Kingfisher was reported on all state counts except Roan Mountain. No surprise that the high count again (38) came from Knoxville.

Woodpeckers and Falcons
Red-headed Woodpecker was tallied on 21 Tennessee CBCs, same as last year, with the Buffalo River count again tallying the state high count (42). Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Downy Woodpecker, and Pileated Woodpecker were all found on all 28 state counts this season. Hairy was missed on two counts (Memphis and Warren County), and Northern Flicker was absent only on the Cades Cove count. High counts for these species were noted as follows: Yellow-billed Sapsucker (48, Knoxville), Red-bellied Woodpecker (162, Knoxville), Downy (101, Knoxville), Hairy (26, Duck River), flicker (85, Reelfoot Lake), and Pileated (26, Great Smoky Mountains National Park).

American Kestrel was noted on all 28 state counts and for the 5th consecutive year the high mark came from Buffalo River (61). Single Merlins were detected on four counts across the state for the season; this was down from last year when 16 were reported across the state. Peregrine Falcon numbers doubled those of Merlin this year with eight Peregrines noted on five state CBCs; this was up from last year when a total of only three Peregrines were reported on two counts.

Flycatcher, Shrike, and Vireos
Eastern Phoebe was reported on all 28 CBCs this season with a high count of 47 noted on the Duck River count. Loggerhead Shrikes were detected on five counts again this season with the statewide number (39) slightly lower than last year (46). The high count was again tallied on the Buffalo River CBC (26). Only Buffalo River and Reelfoot Lake (10) reported double-digit counts for this species with the other three count only reporting single birds. A single White-eyed Vireo at Knoxville was the only one reported. Blue-headed Vireo was more widely reported this season with seven individuals reported on four counts – two CBCs in East Tennessee and two in West Tennessee; the high count was noted at Memphis (3).

Corvids and Lark
Blue Jays and American Crows were tallied on all 28 counts in the state and again in good numbers. Fish Crows were noted on three state CBCs with the high count (33) again coming from East Tennessee in Knoxville! Common Raven was detected on six East Tennessee counts; 11 counted at Roan Mountain was the high mark for the state. Horned Lark was accounted for on nine counts this season; the high count came from Reelfoot Lake (147).

Chickadees, Titmouse, Nuthatches, and Creeper
Carolina Chickadee was again reported on every Tennessee CBC this season with the statewide total (2669) a little lower than last season. Black-capped Chickadee was detected only on the Great Smoky Mountains National Park count where two were reported. Tufted Titmice were also noted on every CBC in the state this season with total numbers (2610) just a bit lower compared to last year. Red-breasted Nuthatches did not have an irruption year in the state and the species was reported on only nine counts across the state with a total of 20 individuals; compare this to an irruption year last CBC season when 123 were noted on 18 counts! White-breasted Nuthatch was only absent on one count in the state (Hickory-Priest) with the overall statewide total (703) down compared to the previous two CBC seasons (939 last year and 920 two years ago). Brown-headed Nuthatch was reported on six counts this season; the high count again came from Savannah (34). Brown Creeper was not reported on only two counts this season (Memphis and Franklin-Coffee County) and the high count came from Savannah (19).

Wrens and Gnatcatcher
The five expected wrens all were tallied again this season. A total of 30 House Wrens were reported on 15 counts across the state, up from last winter; the six on the Duck River count were the high mark for the state. Winter Wren was recorded on all the state CBCs this season with the high count (49) at Duck River narrowly edging out the number reported at Reelfoot Lake (47). Sedge Wrens were reported on four Tennessee counts with a high of three noted on the Perry County CBC. A total of six Marsh Wrens were detected across the state with two each being found at both Fayette County and Perry County. Carolina Wren numbers were down slightly compared to last winter with 2096 tallied statewide. This species was reported on all 28 state counts. Single Blue-gray Gnatcatchers on the Duck River and Kingsport CBCs were the only ones reported.

Kinglets through Waxwing
Golden-crowned Kinglet was noted on every state CBC and Ruby-crowned Kinglet only went undetected on one count (Roan Mountain). The high count for Golden-crowned was noted at Savannah (126) while the high mark for Ruby-crowned was tallied at Knoxville (64). Eastern Bluebirds and American Robins were noted on all the state CBC lists this season and Hermit Thrush was only missed on three counts (Cades Cove, Franklin-Coffee County, and Roan Mountain). Single Gray Catbirds were detected on six counts across the state this season after going absent completely from Tennessee last CBC season. Brown Thrasher was tallied on 24 counts in the state with the high count again coming at Duck River (34). Our state bird, the Northern Mockingbird, was well represented and present in all 28 count circles. European Starlings were again ubiquitous and numerous. American Pipit was counted in 13 count circles with a high count of 144 tallied at Reelfoot Lake. Cedar Waxwings were present on all the counts in the state and the high mark was noted at Duck River (409).

Longspurs and Warblers
Lapland Longspurs were present in greater numbers this winter than last with four CBCs in the western half of the state reporting this open field species. Reelfoot Lake (153) and Savannah (101) had by far the highest counts in the state. Orange-crowned Warbler was found on eight state counts for the season with overall numbers (17) down a bit from the previous two years. Five counts had multiple birds, including four found on the Memphis CBC. Single Common Yellowthroats were found on both the Memphis and Reelfoot Lake counts, the only ones for the state. Palm Warblers were found on 14 counts again, the third year in a row that they’ve been found on that number of counts! The state total (79) however, was up significantly from last year’s total of 33 birds and Knoxville found an astounding 34 birds on their count day! Pine Warblers were found on 14 counts across the state for a total of 84 birds; the Savannah count again hosted the largest number with 43 counted there. Our most common winter warbler was once again the expected Yellow-rumped Warbler and it was only absent from two counts in the eastern mountains (Cades Cove and Roan Mountain). The high count again came from Savannah (747), where a big chunk of the state total of 3533 birds was tallied!

Sparrows and Cardinal
LeConte’s Sparrows made a good showing this season with 24 individuals totaled on six counts, all in the western half of the state. The high counts came from Perry County (10) and Duck River (9). Three American Tree Sparrows were totaled from only two counts at opposite ends of the state (Big Sandy and Franklin-Coffee County). Chipping Sparrows numbers were strong again this season with the state total (1868) only down slightly from the record breaking numbers of last winter. This small sparrow was located on all but three counts across the state, being absent only at Bristol, Roan Mountain, and Shady Valley. By far the highest count was at Savannah (399) but five other counts totaled over a hundred individuals each – Knoxville (102), Perry County (109), Chattanooga (142), Buffalo River (154), and Duck River (201)! Field Sparrows were again present in every count circle in the state with a high mark of 342 birds tallied on the Buffalo River count.

Fox Sparrows were missed on only three counts in the state with a high count of 51 birds noted in Perry County. Dark-eyed Juncos were again widespread and common and found on every Tennessee CBC; the high count came from Savannah (711). White-crowned Sparrows were identified on 22 of the 28 state counts with a high count of 71 birds coming from the Perry County count. Harris’s Sparrow, a rare winter visitor in the Volunteer State, was discovered on two counts – Duck River and Nashville. White-throated Sparrows were again noted on every count in the state with a high count of 999 tallied at Duck River. A total of 48 Vesper Sparrows were tallied on ten counts across the state with the high mark of 20 hit on the Savannah CBC.

Savannah Sparrows were noted on 20 counts across the state with a high count noted at Savannah (310). Song Sparrows were tallied on every count in the state but Duck River once again had the high count; the 919 individuals noted there more than doubled the next highest count for the state! Lincoln’s Sparrows were discovered on just three counts in the state – singles at Nashville and Perry County and two at Duck River. Swamp Sparrows were recorded on all but one CBC in the state, absent only at Cades Cove; the state high count by a wide margin came from Duck River where 1230 individuals were noted. Eastern Towhee was also reported on every state CBC with the lone exception of Cades Cove; the high mark of 146 was noted at Knoxville. Amazingly, two Scarlet Tanagers were documented this season, one each on the Perry County and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park counts! Northern Cardinal was, as expected, reported on every count in the state with Nashville boasting the high count (428).

Blackbirds
There were again no mega-roosts of blackbirds in any of the CBC circles this season. Red-winged Blackbird was found in 23 count circles; the high count (6300) came from the Duck River CBC. Western Meadowlarks were documented on two counts in the western half of the state – two well described birds on the Reelfoot Lake count and a photographed individual on the Perry County count that had been present for a few weeks prior to the count day. Eastern Meadowlark was missing from only three of the 28 count lists, all in the eastern mountains; the high mark was at Savannah (347). Rusty Blackbird was located in 18 count circles across the state, mostly in small to moderate numbers; the high count was tallied at Memphis (341), where nearly a fourth of the state total (1296) was noted. Brewer’s Blackbirds were documented on five counts and while four of those reported single digit counts, Savannah hit the double-digit mark with 11 birds. Common Grackle was noted on 21 state counts while Brown-headed Cowbird was counted on 18.

Finches, Winter Finches, and Weaver Finch
House Finches appeared on all 28 Tennessee counts in good numbers with the high mark counted at Knoxville (330). Purple Finch was detected on 11 counts this season and in low numbers on almost all. Only Fayette County (12) and Savannah (25) had double-digit counts of this irruptive winter finch. No Red Crossbills were reported in the state this season. Total numbers of Pine Siskins were much greater this season (151) compared to last year (8). Four of the 13 counts hosting the species reported numbers in double-digits with 45 at Savannah constituting the high count. American Goldfinch was noted on all counts and House Sparrow was only missing from the Cades Cove and the Great Smoky Mountains N.P. counts.

Closing Thoughts
Thank you again to all the compilers and the hundreds of CBC participants all over Tennessee for all your work on all the counts in the state this season! A special thanks to all the observers that continue to submit good documentation in the form of photographs, audio recordings, and write-ups for rare and unusual species.

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