Recapping the 120th Central Park Audubon Christmas Bird Count

Every year bird lovers around the world head out between December 14th and January 5th to count every bird they can find as part of the Audubon Christmas Bird Count. This tradition was founded on December 25th, 1900, by ornithologist Frank M. Chapman. Twenty-five counts were held on that day. The results were published in Bird Lore, the immediate predecessor to Audubon magazine that was described as the "Official Organ of the Audubon Societies" and "an illustrated bi-monthly magazine devoted to the study and protection of birds.” According to Bird Lore, the inaugural Central Park Count took place at 10 a.m. under clear skies with a light wind. Twenty individual birds of six species were counted (though White-throated Sparrows were noted to be “abundant.”)

This year, 109 community science volunteers took to the park on December 15th for the 120th Audubon Christmas Bird Count and recorded significantly more birds than they did during that inaugural count. They recorded 5,148 birds of 57 species in total. Despite some notable misses such as Black-capped Chickadee (this bird hasn’t been a complete miss on the Central Park Count since at least 1993), both the total number of birds and species falls well within the 20-year average for the park. Highlights included Green-winged Teal (last counted in 2013), Turkey Vulture (last counted 2009), and Red-headed Woodpecker (last counted 2011).
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NYC Audubon is responsible for reporting data for the New Jersey-Lower Hudson (NJ-LH) Count Circle. Counts taking place in this circle this year included Governors Island, Randall's Island, Riverside Park, Inwood Hill Park, Stuyvesant Town & Cove, East River and Corlears Hook Parks, Bryant Park, Tompkins Square Park, Washington Square Park, Union Square Park, Morningside Park, Lower Manhattan, and throughout Hudson and Bergen Counties (New Jersey). See full data from all of these counts by downloading this PDF.

Preliminary reports indicate four Nashville Warblers were seen on counts in upper Manhattan, which alone would be a record for the circle, but the New Jersey team had one as well, bringing the Nashville Warbler total to five. On Randall’s Island, a species new to the NJ-LH circle was counted: the team spotted a juvenile Yellow-crowned Night-Heron in the saltmarsh.
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New Jersey also added Surf Scoter, Long-billed Dowitcher, Tree Swallow, and Tundra Swan to the circle’s species list this year. Surf Scoter and Tree Swallow are new species for the Count, while Tundra Swan was counted once in 1995 and Long-billed Dowitcher once in 2007. The New Jersey team also counted the single Black-capped Chickadee for the circle, saving it from being missed for the first time in circle history.

Audubon Christmas Bird Counts took place in four other count circles that cover New York City. It was reported to us that Staten Island counted a Grasshopper Sparrow in both Freshkills Park and Mount Loretto Unique Area, while a thousand Northern Gannets were counted throughout this entire circle. Brooklyn counted a Northern Goshawk over Jamaica Bay’s West Pond. (Technically in Queens, the West Pond was officially ceded to the Brooklyn Count Circle in 1955.) Participants in Queens were treated to high counts in 10 species, including Razorbill (12 counted in total). They also found an Eastern Screech-Owl. The Bronx/Weschester teams counted two Great Horned Owls.

Thank you to all who participated in a New York City count this year, especially those who led and organized counts. If you are curious about how your favorite bird is doing, you can visit National Audubon’s new Christmas Bird Count Trend Viewer Tool.

The final results for the NJ-LH Count Circle are available to download as a PDF here. The final count tallies for the Central Park Count are listed below:   

| Canada Goose  | 247
| Wood Duck  | 1
| Gadwall  | 3
| American Black Duck  | 2
| Mallard  | 256
| Green-winged Teal  | 1
| Northern Shoveler  | 608
| Bufflehead  | 17
| Hooded Merganser  | 10
| Ruddy Duck  | 77
| Pied-billed Grebe  | 1
| Great Blue Heron  | 3
| Turkey Vulture  | 1
| Cooper's Hawk  | 9
| Red-shouldered Hawk  | 1
| Red-tailed Hawk  | 14
| American Kestrel  | 1
| Peregrine Falcon  | 1
| American Coot  | 2
| Ring-billed Gull  | 142
| Herring Gull  | 245
| Great Black-backed Gull  | 61
| Rock Pigeon  | 609
| Mourning Dove  | 87
| Red-headed Woodpecker  | 1
| Red-bellied Woodpecker  | 46
| Yellow-bellied Sapsucker  | 16
| Downy Woodpecker  | 21
| Northern Flicker  | 11
| Blue Jay  | 176
| Common Raven  | 1
| American Crow  | 53
| Fish Crow  | 3
| Tufted Titmouse  | 1
| White-breasted Nuthatch  | 4
| Brown Creeper  | 3
| Carolina Wren  | 4
| Winter Wren  | 1
| Ruby-crowned Kinglet  | 5
| Hermit Thrush  | 9
| American Robin  | 247
| Gray Catbird  | 1
| Northern Mockingbird  | 8
| European Starling  | 216
| Chipping Sparrow  | 2
| Fox Sparrow  | 15
| Dark-eyed Junco  | 34
| White-throated Sparrow  | 924
| Song Sparrow  | 14
| Swamp Sparrow  | 1
| Eastern Towhee  | 5
| Northern Cardinal  | 93
| Rusty Blackbird  | 1
| Common Grackle  | 41
| House Finch  | 27
| American Goldfinch  | 18
| House Sparrow  | 747