Thirty-five Christmas Bird Counts (CBC) were conducted this year in the Commonwealth of Kentucky. A total of 144 species was recorded, up from last year’s 137. There was one additional “spuh” bird – a possible Orchard Oriole in Louisville – that wasn’t cooperative enough for a photograph or more than a brief view. Total individuals counted were 261,837, which includes only birds identified to species. Three count circles exceeded 90 species: Louisville (96), Allen County East (94), and Ballard County (91). Five count circles reported between 80 and 89 species, 11 observed between 71 and 79 species, and the remaining 16 counted between 36 and 68 species.
Weather was rather mild in Kentucky, as it was last year. The low temperatures ranged from 19°F to 54°F. The high temperatures ranged from 29°F to 65°F. All-day or most-day cloudy weather predominated the counts (n=22); 23 reported no rain. Of the 12 counts that reported rain, six reported all-day rain; primarily light rain. Light snow was reported on three counts, but for only part of the day. Rivers and creeks were open. Lakes and ponds were open, with four counts reporting some frozen water on smaller ponds. As always, the distribution of count days across the count period was not uniform. With the traditional holidays and related travel falling mid-week this year, counts were distributed across more days: of the 23 days of the count period, 15 were used to run bird counts. The eight weekend days hosted 20 of the 35 CBCs.
Numerous highlights of this CBC season are listed below. Most of these are on eBird checklists, most documented by photographs, and all have considerable identification notes on the rarities: Ross’s Goose (10 on 3 counts), Cackling Goose (5 on 2 counts), Surf Scoter (1 at Louisville), American White Pelican (910 on 2 counts), Great Egret (2 on 2 counts), Black-crowned Night-heron (5 at Louisville), Osprey (1 at Louisville), Golden Eagle (4 on 4 counts), Lesser Black-backed Gull (9 on 2 counts), Glaucous Gull (1 at Land Between the Lakes), Forster’s Tern (28 on 2 counts), Barn Owl (10 on 4 counts), Short-eared Owl (1 at Lexington), Merlin (11 on 4 counts), Peregrine Falcon (2 on 2 counts), Prairie Falcon (1 at Louisville), White-eyed Vireo (2 on 2 counts), Red-breasted Nuthatch (1 at Bernheim Forest), Brown-headed Nuthatch (2 at London), House Wren (9 on 6 counts), Marsh Wren (1 at Paradise), Gray Catbird (3 on 2 counts), Orange-crowned Warbler (5 on 3 counts), Common Yellowthroat (1 at Paradise), Northern Parula (1 at Louisville), Prairie Warbler (1 at Russell-Adair County), Grasshopper Sparrow (1 at Elkton), LeConte’s Sparrow (7 on 2 counts), Clay-colored Sparrow (1 at Ballard County), Dark-eyed Junco “Oregon” form (1 at Otter Creek), Vesper Sparrow (4 on 2 counts), Lincoln’s Sparrow (1 at Allen County West), Western Tanager (1 at Louisville), Indigo Bunting (1 at Somerset), Western Meadowlark (1 at Allen County East), and Brewer’s Blackbird (18 on 2 counts).
The ten most numerous species were European Starling (59,934); Common Grackle (20,298); Ring-billed Gull (16,704); Snow Goose (12,818); Red-winged Blackbird (12,119); American Robin (11, 339); Mallard (9157); Mourning Dove (8579); Canada Goose (6711); and Sandhill Crane (6038). There were 20 common species that were reported on all 35 counts; 22 species were observed on only one CBC. Two count circles counted over 25,000 birds: Elkton (34,791) and Ballard County (26,826).
The 448 participants, including some multi-CBC people, logged a total of 1241 party-hours (401.75 on foot; 784.75 by car; 18.5 by bicycle; 3 by golf cart; and 33 by horse and buggy) and 6626.25 party-miles (308.25 on foot; 6132.75 by car; 68.25 by bicycle; 4 by golf cart; and 113 by horse and buggy). Birders spent 39.5 hours owling while travelling 101.5 miles. Twenty-two feeder watchers logged 44.5 hours observing birds. As always, we are working to increase CBC participation on some counts, and would welcome more observers, especially in some areas far from population centers.
I offer sincere thanks to the 448 observers who participated in this year’s counts. Once again, most of these observations have also been reported in eBird. My special gratitude goes to the 35 hard-working compilers who organized and executed their counts, submitted count results online, and endured my many requests and questions – much delayed this year due to the constraints of the pandemic. To those who completed Rare Bird Reports or otherwise documented the unusual birds, thank you very much.