113th CBC Florida Regional Summary

By Bill Pranty

During the 113th season, a record-setting 70 CBCs were conducted in Florida. New counts at Babcock Ranch Reserve and Clermont compensated for counts not held at Hamilton County and Lower Keys--the latter for the second consecutive season. These 70 CBCs accounted for 8887 accepted count-day observations of 340 taxonomic forms and 2,668,258 individuals. The taxonomic forms comprised 285 native species, the reintroduced Whooping Crane (a non-countable introduced population), all 14 countable exotics, 25 non-countable exotics, two color morphs, one hybrid, one intergrade, and 11 species-groups.

American Kestrel
Photo by Chuck Gehringer
American Kestrel    Click on image to enlarge
Twelve CBCs, including one inland (*) exceeded 149 species: West Pasco (170), Alafia Banks (165), *Gainesville (162), St. Petersburg (162), Jacksonville (160), Sarasota (158), St. Marks (157), North Pinellas (156), Aripeka-Bayport (155), Merritt Island N.W.R. (155), South Brevard County (155), and Cocoa (151). Nine CBCs, including five inland (*), tallied more than 50,000 individuals: Cocoa (1,041,359, with 1,000,000 Lesser Scaup), *STA5-Clewiston (83,494), *Lake Placid (67,461), Merritt Island N.W.R. (63,484), *Kissimmee Valley (57,125), *Gainesville (55,028), Coot Bay-Everglades  N.P. (54,553), *Emeralda-Sunnyhill (52,388), and St. Petersburg (50,213). Only six species (Double-crested Cormorant, Great Blue Heron, American Kestrel, Belted Kingfisher, Gray Catbird, and Yellow-rumped Warbler) were tallied on all 70 counts. If the entirely insular Dry Tortugas National Park CBC is excluded, then 10 species were seen on the remaining 69 counts: Pied-billed Grebe, Cattle Egret, Turkey Vulture, Red-shouldered Hawk, Killdeer, Red-bellied Woodpecker, Eastern Phoebe, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Northern Mockingbird, and Northern Cardinal.

Nine species exceeded 50,000 individuals statewide: Lesser Scaup (1,082,246), Tree Swallow (151,186), American Coot (148,440), American Robin (131,727), Fish Crow (68,382), Laughing Gull (65,228), White Ibis (56,233), Yellow-rumped Warbler (54,454), and Red-winged Blackbird (54,322). In contrast, 22 native species or natural vagrants were represented by a single individual each (excluding count-week reports): Long-tailed Duck, Sooty Shearwater, Manx Shearwater, Neotropic Cormorant, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Purple Sandpiper, Glaucous Gull, Black Tern, Groove-billed Ani, Chuck-will's-widow, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Costa's Hummingbird (first Florida record), Calliope Hummingbird, Brown-crested Flycatcher, Tropical Kingbird, Gray Kingbird, Bell's Vireo, Blue-winged Warbler, Tennessee Warbler, Prothonotary Warbler, Western Tanager, and Western Spindalis.

Sandhill Crane
Photo by Chuck Gehringer
Sandhill Crane    Click on image to enlarge
The following section mentions only those rarities that were supported by digital images or documentation forms. Totals of whistling-ducks were 3548 Black-bellied on 25 counts and 2210 Fulvous on three (all but 10 of these at STA5-Clewiston). Nearly all of the 132 Egyptian Geese were found in Broward and Miami-Dade counties, with 70 on the Dade County CBC. There were 3357 Muscovy Ducks on 50 counts, and 3531 (mostly feral) Mallards on 51. Presumed Mallard x Mottled Duck hybrids numbered 734 individuals on 10 counts, with 366 at North Pinellas and 285 at St. Petersburg. It was a great season for Black Scoters, with 3251 found on 27 counts, including 1200 far south to Dade County and six at Gainesville that represent the first inland record in Florida. Totals of non-countable gamebirds included 96 Indian Peafowl on eight counts (55 of these at Cocoa) and 77 Red Junglefowl, all at Key West. Northern Bobwhites continue their long decline, with just 205 found on 21 CBCs. A Sooty Shearwater was adequately detailed at Daytona Beach, while a Manx Shearwater was photographed at Dade County. Booby counts at Dry Tortugas National Park were 58 Masked and 167 Brown. Huge counts of Northern Gannets came from Choctawhatchee Bay (3300) and Jacksonville (2500). There were 9642 American White Pelicans on 51 counts and 19,668 Brown Pelicans on 44, with 64 inland at Lakeland. One of the nesting Neotropic Cormorants at Wakodahatchee Wetlands was tallied on the West Palm Beach CBC. Wading birds totaled 121,941 individuals statewide, with 418 "Great White" Herons, 245 Reddish Egrets, 1321 Roseate Spoonbills, and 4409 Wood Storks.

Raptor totals included the following: 4928 Osprey on 66 counts (including two extremely high totals that I questioned), 1671 Bald Eagles on 63, and 3447 Red-shouldered Hawks on 68. Two White-tailed Kites graced Long Pine Key, while Kissimmee Valley accounted for 64 of the state's 94 Snail Kites. The Great Black-Hawk was again seen at Dade County; that bird may now be in excess of 30 years old and represents the last individual of a population of presumed escapees first noted in the mid-1970s. Accipiter totals were 155 Sharp-shinned Hawks on 58 CBCs and 336 Cooper's Hawks on 63. Of the state's 67 Short-tailed Hawks, 11 were at Key Largo-Plantation Key, with nine each at Dade County and Key West.

A surprising six Black Rails were heard at Coot Bay-Everglades N.P. West Palm Beach reported its first Purple Swamphen, with others at Fort Lauderdale (11) and STA5-Clewiston (45). Of the state's 126 Purple Gallinules on 13 counts, 50 were at Emeralda-Sunnyhill. Limpkins totaled 734 on 42 counts, with 134 at Lakeland, 90 at Kissimmee Valley, 75 at West Palm Beach, and 70 at Sarasota. There were 10,755 Sandhill Cranes on 47 CBCs, including 3000 at Gainesville. Totals of small plovers were 132 Snowy, 126 Wilson's, 1503 Semipalmated, and 89 Piping. Fourteen Long-billed Curlews were found on seven counts, with a surprising five at Alafia Banks. The 607 Red Knots found statewide represented only 20% of the total found during the 102nd season; totals dropped below 1000 individuals beginning with the 111th season.

The presumed Herring Gull x Lesser Black-backed Gull photographed at Tampa represents the first record for Florida's Gulf coast. One thousand Sooty Terns at Dry Tortugas N. P. suggest that the species is now resident there. A Black Tern photographed at West Pasco furnished only the second record in Florida during winter; another tern was adequately detailed at Pensacola. Eight Common Terns photographed at Sanibel-Captiva were the only reports accepted. Four-digit totals of Black Skimmers were 1650 at Coot Bay-Everglades N.P., 1300 at North Pinellas, and 1100 at St. Petersburg. Without doubt, the main avian event in Florida this season was the massive and unprecedented invasion by thousands of Razorbills, which reached all coastal areas--even to Pensacola!  Reported on 20 CBCs (four of these count-week), the most staggering total was the 600 on the Dade County CBC! (Shockingly, 10 compilers provided no details for the Razorbills on their CBCs; these were appended with the "DD" editorial code rather than being deleted).

Continuing their statewide decline, Eurasian Collared-Doves numbered only 6286 on 64 counts, the lowest total of individuals since I became editor 11 years ago. Gainesville produced the only Groove-billed Ani. As always, Fort Myers was the CBC hotspot for Burrowing Owls, accounting for 215 of the 250 found statewide. Hummingbird tallies were 160 Ruby-throated on 29 counts, 15 Rufous on seven, three Black-chinned at Tallahassee, the state's sole Costa's and Calliope also at Tallahassee, one Buff-bellied at Apalachicola Bay-St. Vincent N.W.R., and 25 hummingbirds not identified to species. Numbers of Picoides were 1670 Downy on 64 counts, 21 Hairy on 12 counts, and 29 Red-cockaded on seven. Statewide falcon totals were 2448 American Kestrels on all 70 counts, 87 Merlins on 40, and 56 Peregrine Falcons on 31. Budgerigars continue to linger, with CBC totals believed to represent 100% of the individuals remaining in Florida: 16 at Aripeka-Bayport and four at West Pasco. Totals of the three other countable psittacids were 908 Monk Parakeets on 16 counts, 748 Nanday Parakeets on 11, and 91 White-winged Parakeets--a very questionably "established" species--at Dade County. In contrast, there were 119 Red-masked Parakeets on two counts (all but five at Kendall Area), 273 Mitred Parakeets on two (mostly at Kendall Area), and 230 White-eyed Parakeets at Dade County. Psittacids are now rarely reported on the Fort Lauderdale CBC; have they largely disappeared or are they being overlooked?

Twelve species of flycatchers were found this season; among these were Say's Phoebes photographed at Choctawhatchee Bay and (for its sixth consecutive winter) Zellwood-Mount Dora. Great Crested Flycatchers clearly are increasing on Florida CBCs; there were 296 on 28 counts, with eye-opening totals such as 60 at Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary, 42 at Coot Bay-Everglades N.P., 37 at Ten Thousand Islands, and 30 at Long Pine Key. Four species of kingbirds--including the state's only Tropical and Gray kingbirds and two of its three Cassin's kingbirds--were at STA5-Clewiston; the other Cassin's was photographed at Pensacola. Florida Scrub-Jays numbered 368 on 20 counts, with the largest totals (at Merritt Island N.W.R., South Brevard, and Lake Placid) coming from CBCs that support large amounts of fire-maintained habitats. Jackson County again provided the state's only Horned Larks, with 19. Kendall Area produced 22 Cave Swallows, while single Barn Swallows were documented at Econlockhatchee and Lake Placid.

Another feature of this season was the invasion of Red-breasted Nuthatches, with 176 found on 22 CBCs, including 18 at Cedar Key and birds south to St. Petersburg (four) and South Brevard (one). Twelve Red-whiskered Bulbuls, another questionably "established" species, were tallied at Kendall Area. It was not an invasion year for Golden-crowned Kinglets; 39 were found on six counts, all in the Panhandle. Only 21 Common Mynas were tallied on three counts. Kendall Area accounted for three Hill Mynas. Two Sprague's Pipits were documented at Gainesville, while Apalachicola Bay-St. Vincent N.W.R. provided the other seven. Twenty-five warbler species were accepted this season. Rarest among these were single Blue-winged at Coot Bay-Everglades N.P. and Kendall Area (count-week) and a Prothonotary also at Coot Bay-Everglades N.P. Surprising so far north was the Louisiana Waterthrush photographed at Ichetucknee-Santa Fe-O'Leno. A Western Tanager was adequately detailed at Econlockhatchee, while single Western Spindalis were at Dade County and Key West (no details but present all winter).

Choctawhatchee Bay provided the only three Clay-colored Sparrows, excepting those during count-week at Clermont and West Pasco. The ratio of "Sharp-tailed" Sparrows was 239 Nelson's on 13 counts, 85 Saltmarsh on six counts (all but eight of these along the Atlantic coast), and six not identified to species. I encourage participants of the Coot Bay-Everglades N.P. CBC to clarify the status of these species via digital imagery. It was a better-than-average winter for Fox Sparrows, with nine found on three counts, led by Gainesville with four. Single Blue Grosbeaks were documented at Pensacola and Zellwood-Mount Dora. There were 447 Painted Buntings on 41 counts, and 94 Indigo Buntings on 23. Brewer's Blackbirds were tallied on two CBCs: 146 at Choctawhatchee River and one at Aripeka-Bayport. Spot-breasted Oriole populations have been reported to be in decline recently; this season, two were found at Kendall Area with another count-week at Dade County. Surprisingly high counts of Baltimore Orioles came from Gainesville (29) and Tallahassee (13). It was a poor season for Pine Siskins, with just 10 reported on four counts. House Finches numbered 989 on 44 CBCs, while 2202 House Sparrows were tallied on 53. An Orange-cheeked Waxbill at Fort Lauderdale may have been the same individual photographed there in October 2012.

For the fifth CBC season, Bruce Anderson reviewed most of the 168 documentation forms received for 44 counts. Bruce and I deleted 33 reports from 26 counts (with no count "losing" more than two species). These deleted reports represent just 0.4% of all CBC observations. Species deleted due to lack of details or because the details ruled out the claimed species were Greater White-fronted Goose (two counts), American Black Duck, Cinnamon Teal, Neotropical Cormorant, Broad-winged Hawk, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Sanderling, Willet, Common Tern (four counts), Roseate Tern, African Collared-Dove, Common Nighthawk (two counts), Hairy Woodpecker, Eastern Wood-Pewee (two counts), Eastern Kingbird, Red-eyed Vireo (three counts), Tennessee Warbler, Yellow Warbler (three counts), Black-throated Blue Warbler, Black-throated Green Warbler, Canada Warbler, White-crowned Sparrow, and Pine Siskin. Another 84 reports were accepted but appended with the "Details Desired' or "Questionable Number" editorial codes. Additional effort by compilers could greatly reduce the number of reports that need to be questioned or deleted from Florida's CBCs.

Bruce Anderson and Valeri Ponzo improved drafts of this summary.