The 119th CBC in Florida

The 77 CBCs held during the 119th season represented a rare decrease from the 118th season. Despite the addition of the Crocodile Lake N.W.R. count in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties, the number of CBCs conducted decreased because six CBCs conducted recently were not run this season: Biscayne N.P. (because of the Federal government shutdown), Boca Raton, Choctawhatchee River, Christmas, Estero Bay, and Lake Seminole–Torreya. The Choctawhatchee River and Lake Seminole–Torreya CBCs, each dormant for the past several years, are removed from the list of active counts. Florida’s 77 CBCs accounted for 9403 accepted observations of 337 taxonomic forms and 2,186,166 individuals. The taxonomic forms comprised 274 native species or natural vagrants, the reintroduced Whooping Crane, all 14 extant “countable” exotics, 24 “non-countable” exotics, one hybrid/backcross (Mallard × Mottled Duck), one color morph (“Great White Heron”), one intergrade (“Wurdemann’s Heron”), and 22 species-groups. Four other species, Cory’s Shearwater, Mississippi Kite, Rufous Hummingbird, and Lark Sparrow, were recorded exclusively during count-week.

Accepted species totals ranged from 22 (at Dry Tortugas N.P., where the park superintendent severely reduced participant effort) to 174 (at Gainesville, remarkably an inland count). Ten other CBCs, including another inland (*) exceeded 149 “countable” species: Sarasota (172), Alafia Banks (165), Jacksonville (158), North Pinellas (155), St. Petersburg (155), St. Marks (154), *Zellwood–Mount Dora (154), Aripeka–Bayport (153), West Pasco (152), and West Palm Beach (151). Two CBCs, including one inland (*), tallied more than 50,000 individuals: Cocoa (911,912, including 850,000 Lesser Scaup) and *Gainesville (53,738).

This summary excludes rare species or high numbers that were not documented properly. Bold-faced numbers denote high counts since the 102nd CBC season, when I became the Florida CBC editor. Four species were tallied on all counts: Great Blue Heron, American Kestrel, Gray Catbird, and Common Yellowthroat. Seven species exceeded 50,000 individuals statewide: Lesser Scaup (887,410), American Robin (95,511), Laughing Gull (87,483), Tree Swallow (83,404), White Ibis (62,202), Fish Crow (56,302), and Turkey Vulture (51,730). In contrast, 11 native species or natural vagrants were each represented by a single individual: Black-legged Kittiwake (West Palm Beach); Common Tern, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Blue Grosbeak, and Orchard Oriole (all at Sarasota); Tropical Kingbird (STA5–Clewiston); Sprague’s Pipit (Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R.); Louisiana Waterthrush (Coot Bay–Everglades N.P.); Tennessee Warbler (Gainesville); Blackburnian Warbler (a species not yet verified in Florida during winter, at Ten Thousand Islands), and Bananaquit (Crocodile Lake N.W.R.).

The 10,460 Black-bellied Whistling-Ducks tallied on 41 counts indicate continuing population growth, with 1350 at Gainesville, 880 at Zellwood–Mount Dora, 775 at Bradenton, 700 at Venice–Englewood, 640 at Sarasota, 620 at Cocoa, and 500 at West Pasco. Fulvous Whistling-Ducks totaled 202 individuals on four counts, with 135 at Zellwood-Mount Dora. Canada Geese, mostly or entirely exotics, numbered 1246 on 13 counts, with 500 at Tallahassee and 400 at Jacksonville. Egyptian Geese numbered 594 individuals on nine counts, with 150 at Fort Lauderdale, 145 at Kendall Area, and 105 at West Palm Beach. Muscovy Ducks totaled 5192 individuals on 57 counts, led by 810 at Kendall Area. The 850,000 Lesser Scaup at Cocoa provided 95% of the state’s total (!); 134 Greater Scaup were distributed among 13 counts, with 37 at Panacea and 33 at Pensacola. Single Common Eiders graced Cocoa and West Palm Beach. Black Scoters totaled 1942 individuals statewide, with 435 each at Cocoa and Matanzas. Seventy Surf Scoters were found on six counts, and 20 White-winged Scoters were found on eight. Highest counts of 4306 Buffleheads statewide were along the northern Gulf coast: 950 at St. Marks, 800 at Cedar Key, and 600 at Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R. Two Common Mergansers photographed at Cocoa furnished the first Florida record of more than one individual.

For several years, I have stressed the need to carefully examine Mallards and Mottled Ducks to determine how many of these may be hybrids (or, more accurately, backcrosses). However, I failed to mention use of the “Mallard/Mottled Duck” listing for ducks that could not be identified to species or backcross. Hoping to remedy the issue, this past season I asked Florida’s CBC participants to use the Mallard/Mottled Duck listing for all “Muddled Ducks” that cannot be identified more specifically. The issue remains so hopelessly confused that I will now combine all Mallards, Mottled Ducks, hybrids/backcrosses, and unknowns into a single “Muddled Duck” total, which this year numbered 9030 individuals. With even experienced birders overlooking obvious signs of hybridization and misidentifying backcrosses as “pure” Mottled Ducks, I believe that determining high counts of Mottled Ducks in Florida should no longer be attempted, except via genetics.

Northern Bobwhites totaled only 175 individuals on 21 CBCs, the fifth consecutive season with statewide numbers under 200. Only four CBCs reported 20 or more individuals, with the highest count of 31 from Avon Park A. F. Range. In contrast, Wild Turkeys numbered 1542 individuals statewide, including 165 at Brooksville and 150 each at Flagler and Melrose. Florida’s exotic fowl totaled 127 Indian Peafowl on 11 counts, and 106 Red Junglefowl on two. No Red-throated Loons were reported this season. There were 1317 Common Loons on 43 counts, including 450 at Choctawhatchee Bay. An adult American Flamingo present at St. Marks since early November 2018 was considered a storm-driven vagrant, while the feral flamingo flock at Dade County numbered 250 individuals. West Palm Beach provided the state’s only two shearwaters during count-week: a Cory’s and an Audubon’s/Manx-type. Seabirds at Dry Tortugas N.P. totaled 96 Magnificent Frigatebirds, 41 Masked Boobys, and six Brown Boobys. West Palm Beach provided the only Neotropic Cormorants (two), where the species has bred for several years. Pelicans totaled 11,827 American White Pelicans on 54 counts and 16,243 Brown Pelicans on 51, including a whopping 370 inland at Lakeland. Storks and wading birds totaled 131,916 individuals, among these 7698 Wood Storks, 93 “Great White Herons,” 132 Reddish Egrets, 66,202 White Ibises, 7727 Glossy Ibises, and 1144 Roseate Spoonbills.

There were 24,075 Black Vultures on 73 counts and 51,730 Turkey Vultures on 76. Diurnal raptor totals included 4175 Ospreys on 74 counts, 1720 Bald Eagles on 70, and 3968 Red-shouldered Hawks on 73. Seven White-tailed Kites were tallied: five at STA5–Clewiston and two at Long Pine Key. Double-digit totals of the state’s 168 Snail Kites on 20 counts were 41 at Kissimmee Valley, 29 far north to Gainesville, 20 at STA5–Clewiston, 13 each at Lake Placid and Orange River, and 10 at Econlockhatchee. An adult Mississippi Kite photographed at Long Pine Key provided the first Florida CBC record and only the third state record during winter. Sharp-shinned Hawks continue their decline, with 86 found on 45 counts. On the other hand, Cooper’s Hawks continue to increase, with 272 individuals on 64 CBCs. Twenty-three Broad-winged Hawks were tallied at Key Largo–Plantation Key. Short-tailed Hawks numbered 76 individuals on 22 counts, with 15 at Kendall Area and 13 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary.

Seven Black Rails were found at Long Pine Key. Purple Gallinules totaled 390 individuals on 29 counts, with 91 at Emeralda–Sunnyhill, 60 at Lakeland, and 58 at Kissimmee Valley. Gray-headed Swamphens numbered 69 on six counts, with 41 at STA5–Clewiston. Limpkins continue their increase (thanks mainly to the establishment of exotic apple snails), with 2185 individuals on 52 counts: 540 at Gainesville, 150 each at Myakka River S.P. and Sarasota, 140 at Econlockhatchee, and 115 at Lakeland. Gainesville accounted for 3300 of Florida’s 11,978 Sandhill Cranes and provided the only Whooping Cranes (two). As usual, the bulk of the state’s American Oystercatchers, 1185 of 1597, were at Cedar Key. Cumulative totals of small plovers were 87 Snowys on eight counts, 98 Wilson’s on 13, 3248 Semipalmateds on 33, and 102 Pipings on 10. Forty-two Whimbrels were found on six counts, including 22 at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P. and 14 at Cedar Key. Single Long-billed Curlews enlivened Alafia Banks and Cedar Key. Marbled Godwits totaled 451 individuals on 14 counts, among these 150 at Cedar Key and 120 at Panacea. The highest counts among the state’s 1658 Red Knots on 21 counts were 375 at North Pinellas, 325 at Sanibel–Captiva, 250 at Fort De Soto, and 200 at Ponce Inlet.

A Black-legged Kittiwake photographed at West Palm Beach provided the only report. Single Franklin’s Gulls graced Bradenton and Sanibel–Captiva. Lesser Black-backed Gulls totaled 434 individuals on 24 counts, with 200 at Cocoa. Highest counts of the state’s 84 Great Black-backed Gulls were 29 at South Brevard, 15 at Cocoa, and 10 at Matanzas Inlet. Single Gull-billed Terns were documented at Aripeka­­–Bayport and Fort Lauderdale. One Common Tern was photographed at Sarasota, while undocumented reports were deleted from three counts; compilers are again reminded that Common Terns must be documented statewide. Black Skimmers totaled 6548 individuals on 29 counts, with 1000 at Naples, 950 at Fort De Soto, 660 at Cocoa, and 600 at Cedar Key.

Rock Pigeons numbered 8549 individuals on 58 counts, representing a continuing decline. Numbers of Eurasian Collared-Doves rebounded from last season, with 4513 found on 69 counts; totals regularly exceeded 10,000 individuals up to the 108th CBC season. In contrast, White-crowned Pigeons had their best showing ever, with 138 individuals on six counts, aided by the 30 on the inaugural Crocodile Lake N.W.R. count; other double-digit totals were 44 at Long Pine Key, 39 at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P., and 20 at Kendall Area. Good details were provided for a Yellow-billed Cuckoo at Sarasota. Single Mangrove Cuckoos graced four near-adjacent CBCs in Miami-Dade and Monroe counties: Coot Bay–Everglades N.P.; Dade County; Kendall Area; and Key Largo–Plantation Key. Six Smooth-billed Anis were found on as many counts; amazingly most were in the northern peninsula, at Alafia Banks, Bay Lake, Jacksonville, and St. Augustine! Also far north were three Lesser Nighthawks photographed at Econlockhatchee. No rare owls were reported; totals for the five regular species were 21 Barns on 15 counts; 268 Eastern Screech-Owls on 53; 262 Great Horneds also on 53; 123 Burrowings on 11; and 408 Barreds on 57. For the fourth consecutive year, a small flock of Vaux’s Swifts wintered at Gainesville, with five individuals tallied on the CBC. Florida’s 303 hummingbirds comprised 291 Ruby-throated, eight Archilochus species, two Selasphorus species, and two not identified more specifically. Picoides woodpeckers numbered 2132 Downys on 71 counts, 21 Hairys on 11, and 46 Red-cockadeds on nine. Northern Flickers numbered 524 individuals on 63 counts. Statewide caracara and falcon totals were 98 Crested Caracaras on 16 counts, 2032 American Kestrels on 77, 79 Merlins on 41, and 55 Peregrine Falcons on 29. Twenty-three CBCs reported at least one of the 16 psittacids found this season; among these were 857 Nanday Parakeets on 13 counts and 823 Monk Parakeets on 20; this is only the second time that Nandays have outnumbered Monks on Florida CBCs (the first time was during the 117th CBC). The only other psittacid to reach triple-digit individuals was Mitred Parakeet, with 265 at Kendall Area and 55 at Dade County.

A Least Flycatcher was north to Gainesville, while single Vermilion Flycatchers graced Gainesville, Kissimmee Valley, Panacea, St. Marks, and Zellwood–Mount Dora. Seven Ash-throated Flycatchers were found on five CBCs: duos each at Gainesville and Mount Dora, and singles each at Clermont, Econlockhatchee, and Sarasota. Great Crested Flycatchers totaled 331 individuals on 35 counts mostly in the southern third of the peninsula, with 54 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 33 at Long Pine Key, 31 at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P., and 26 at Fakahatchee; the northernmost Great Crested was photographed at East Pasco. A Tropical Kingbird was at STA5–Clewiston. Florida’s 27 Scissor-tailed Flycatchers were distributed among 11 CBCs from the central peninsula southward; multiples were at Key West (11), Key Largo–Plantation Key (7), Alafia Banks (3), and Fort Pierce (2). The highest counts for the state’s 1664 Loggerhead Shrikes were again from along the southern Gulf coast, with 212 at Peace River, 96 at Sarasota, 72 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, and 65 at Fort Myers. Kendall Area again accounted for a majority of the state’s 40 Yellow-throated Vireos, with an amazing 23; other counts with multiples were four at Dade County, three each at Fort Lauderdale and Long Pine Key, and two each at Key Largo–Plantation Key and Venice–Englewood (good details were provided for the latter). Florida Scrub-Jays numbered 239 individuals on 19 counts, the second-lowest total since the 102nd season. Six Horned Larks were found at Jackson County, where the species now seems to be resident; another lark was at Gainesville (count-week). Three hundred Northern Rough-winged Swallows each were tallied at STA5–Clewiston and West Palm Beach, with two others photographed north to Tampa.

Tallahassee furnished all of the state’s 26 White-breasted Nuthatches, while Brown-headed Nuthatches totaled 452 individuals on 36 counts. It was a fairly good year for Red-breasted Nuthatches, with 30 individuals on 10 counts; singles reached the central peninsula at Aripeka–Bayport, St. Petersburg, and Wekiva River. On the other hand, Brown Creeper was not found this season. Only eight Red-whiskered Bulbuls were tallied at Kendall Area, representing their entire Florida range. Eastern Bluebirds totaled 3655 individuals on 52 counts, with 275 at Pensacola, 225 at Gainesville, and 220 at Choctawhatchee Bay. A Catharus photographed at Sarasota was either a Swainson’s Thrush or a Gray-cheeked Thrush, the only CBC record this season for either species. (There is no verifiable winter record in Florida of the latter species). Only two Common Hill Mynas were found at Kendall Area; their eventual extirpation from Florida seems inevitable. Twenty Common Mynas were found: 17 at Kendall Area and three at Dade County. One Sprague’s Pipit was found at Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R. There were 3658 Cedar Waxwings on 43 counts, with 500 at Jacksonville, 400 at Matanzas, 320 at Clermont, and 300 at Emeralda–Sunnyhill.

This season, 24 species of wood-warblers were accepted; the rarest were a Louisiana Waterthrush at Coot Bay–Everglades N.P., a Tennessee Warbler photographed at Gainesville, and a Blackburnian Warbler described at Ten Thousand Islands; there is no verifiable record in Florida of the latter species during winter. Single Blue-winged Warblers were documented at Long Pine Key and West Palm Beach. Nashville Warblers were photographed at Gainesville and Kendall Area. Five wood-warblers exceeded 1000 individuals statewide: 38,392 Yellow-rumpeds and 21,439 Palms, each on 76 counts; 8050 Pines on 70; 3557 Common Yellowthroats on 77; and 1032 Black-and-whites on 70. Kendall Area again showed its value to wintering wood-warblers, with 53 American Redstarts, 13 Cape May Warblers, 159 Northern Parulas, 16 Black-throated Blues, 97 Prairies, 16 Black-throated Greens, and two Wilson’s. A Bananaquit was photographed on the inaugural Crocodile Lake N.W.R. CBC—a good start for the count!

Twenty species of sparrows were accepted; the rarest was a Lark Sparrow photographed at West Palm Beach during count-week. Surprisingly, LeConte’s Sparrow was not reported this season. Henslow’s Sparrows numbered seven individuals: four at Gainesville, two at St. Marks, and one at Panacea. Statewide “Sharp-tailed” Sparrows numbers totaled 44 Nelson’s on 10 counts and only nine Saltmarsh on three, 10 other sparrows were not identified to species. Twenty-seven Seaside Sparrows were found on six counts: 17 on five counts along the Gulf coast and the 10 at Jacksonville representing the only Atlantic coastal count. Triple-digit Swamp Sparrow counts were tallied at Avon Park A.F. Range (350), Gainesville (250), and Zellwood–Mount Dora (100). Summer Tanagers totaled 27 on 18 counts, all singles except for five at Kendall Area, three at Gainesville, and two each at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Dade County, and Wekiva River. Western Tanagers were photographed at Cedar Key, Kendall, and West Palm Beach, and a Western Tanager/Scarlet Tanager was photographed at Dry Tortugas N.P.

Rose-breasted Grosbeaks were unexpectedly numerous, with three at Dade County and singles at Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R., Gainesville, Pensacola (count-week), and Sarasota. Painted Buntings numbered 491 on 45 counts, with 55 at Fort Pierce, 50 at West Palm Beach, and 49 at Stuart. A Blue Grosbeak was photographed at Sarasota. Rusty Blackbirds were reported on only two CBCs, with 15 at Econlockhatchee and five at Gainesville. In contrast, no Brewer’s Blackbirds or Yellow-headed Blackbirds were documented this season. Bronzed Cowbirds were documented on three counts: 42 at Kendall Area, six at Sarasota, and one at STA5–Clewiston. Only 10 Spot-breasted Orioles were tallied on CBCs: five at Kendall Area, four at West Palm Beach, and one at Dade County. A female-plumaged Orchard Oriole was described at Sarasota. Baltimore Orioles numbered 93 on 20 counts, with 24 at Gainesville and 19 at Tallahassee representing the only double-digit totals. There were 768 House Finches on 50 CBCs, with 120 at Pensacola and 100 at Choctawhatchee Bay. A Purple Finch was photographed at Tallahassee. Totaling 15 individuals on four counts, Pine Siskins staged a very minor invasion, with singles south to East Pasco and St. Petersburg. House Sparrows totaled 1608 individuals on 54 counts. Scaly-breasted Munias, recently added to the Official Florida bird list as an established species, were found at opposite ends of the state, with 88 at Pensacola and 28 at Kendall Area.

For the eleventh year, Bruce Anderson reviewed most of the 205 documentation forms received from 54 counts. Bruce and I deleted 28 reports from 21 counts, and changed three other species (Great Frigatebird, Common Nighthawk, and Western Tanager) to other listings. One CBC had four undocumented rare species deleted, while two other CBCs each lost two species. Species deleted from Florida’s CBCs were Greater White-fronted Goose, American Black Duck, Broad-winged Hawk (two counts), Sanderling (inland), Pectoral Sandpiper, Gull-billed Tern, Common Tern (three counts), Least Tern, Common Nighthawk, Eastern Wood-Pewee, Great Crested Flycatcher, Cassin’s Kingbird (three individuals!), Barn Swallow, Yellow-throated Vireo, Florida Scrub-Jay, Common Hill Myna, Bay-breasted Warbler, Yellow Warbler, Magnolia Warbler, Yellow-headed Blackbird, Rusty Blackbird, and—most bizarrely by far—Eastern Whipbird (Psophodes olivaceus), a species endemic to eastern Australia! Bruce and I appended 65 other reports with the “Details Desired’ or “Questionable Number” editorial codes.

Bruce and I acknowledge the excellent compiler efforts for the following CBCs: Alafia Banks, Apalachicola Bay–St. Vincent N.W.R., Brooksville, Cedar Key, Cocoa, Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, Dade County, East Pasco, Gainesville, Green Swamp, Lake Placid, Lakeland, Matanzas, Myakka River SP, Panacea, Port St. Joe, Sarasota, South Brevard, Tampa, West Palm Beach, and West Pasco.

Valeri Ponzo commented on a near-final draft of this summary.