Ring-billed Gull - Photo USFWS

2011 Columbus CBC Participants Work for Their Winter Birds


On December 18, 64 observers sponsored by CAS spent the day counting birds in different areas of Columbus. The weather was average for the date, being partly cloudy with a temperature between 26-35 ° F. The sky was lightly cloudy in the early morning, with more sun during the later part of the day. The final total was 78 species and 31,034 individual birds, which was an above-average total for our urban circle. The complete breakdown was as follows:


Count Date: December 18; 7:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Temp. 26-35 ºF. Wind SW 0-3 mph Still water partly frozen, moving water open. A.M. Partly cloudy; P.M. clear. Observers: 62 in the field in 16-20 parties, 2 at feeders. Total party hours: 136 (106 on foot, 30 in cars, 5 owling). Total Party miles: 258 (96 on foot, 162 in cars, 10 owling)


Pied-billed Grebe – 13; Double-crested Cormorant –25; Great Blue Heron – 31; Black-crowned Night Heron – 14; Mute Swan – 3; Canada Goose – 2101; Cackling Goose – 1; Black Duck – 299; Mallard – 1059; N. Shoveler – 1; Gadwall – 2; Green-winged Teal – 2; N. Pintail – 2; Redhead – 1; Ring-necked Duck – 110; Bufflehead – 12; Com. Goldeneye – 1; Hooded Merganser – 114; Turkey Vulture – 1; Bald Eagle – 7 (4a,3f); Sharp-shinned Hawk – 6; Cooper’s Hawk – 13; Red-tailed Hawk – 63; Merlin – 5; American Kestrel – 8; Wild Turkey – 12; American Coot – 116; Ring-billed Gull – 4925; Herring Gull – 12; Rock Dove –1231; Mourning Dove – 714; E. Screech Owl – 2; Great Horned Owl – 4; Barred Owl – 6; Belted Kingfisher – 22; Red-bellied Woodpecker – 104; Yellow-bellied Sapsucker – 9; Downy Woodpecker – 194; Hairy Woodpecker – 24; N.Flicker – 52; Pileated Woodpecker – 9; Blue Jay – 201; American Crow – 868; Horned Lark – 12; Carolina Chickadee – 482; Tufted Titmouse – 160; White-breasted Nuthatch – 142; Red-breasted Nuthatch – 2; Brown Creeper – 54; Carolina Wren – 89; Winter Wren – 2; Ruby-crowned Kinglet – 1; Golden-crowned Kinglet – 21; Eastern Bluebird – 54; Hermit Thrush – 2; American Robin – 594; N.Mockingbird – 33; European Starling – 13,090; American Pipit – 1; Yellow-rumped Warbler – 37; American Redstart – 1 (juv.male, DB); Northern Cardinal – 627; Eastern Towhee – 4; American Tree Sparrow – 45; Field Sparrow – 1; Chipping Sparrow – 4; Savannah Sparrow – 3; Song Sparrow – 141; Swamp Sparrow – 5; White-throated Sparrow – 362; White-crowned Sparrow – 3; Dark-eyed Junco – 365; Red-winged Blackbird – 8; Common Grackle – 3; House Finch – 445; American Goldfinch – 362; Pine Siskin – 36; House Sparrow – 1413

Totals: 78 species, 31,034 individuals

Birds seen Count Period, but not Count Day: Ross’ Goose, Red-shouldered Hawk, Kildeer, Brown-headed Cowbird


Bryce Adams, Jenny Bowman, Nancy Bringardner, Don Burton, Stephanie Burton, Alex Champaigne, Larry DeAtley, Brian Ellyson, Brad & Lindsay Deering, Daphne Dodson, Shane Duffey, Sheila Fagan, Diana Fowler, Joan Frederick, Brad & Amanda Gambill, Paul Gardner, Brett Graves, Kay Greisen, Elayna Grody, Katy Hill, Alex Hughes, Laura Jenkins, Mike & Becky Jordan, Lisa Kaufman, Lisa Koerner, Al La Sala, Bruce & Helen Lindsay, Dennis Markham, Neil Marquard, Bernie Master, Carolyn May, Jim McCormac, Bob McNulty, Barbara Merritt, Dick & Kathy Miller, Susan Moore, Rick Oxley, Doug Perkins, Cheri Rida, Kristi Rowland, Sarah Rose, Robert Royse, Andy Sewell, Matt Shumar, Darlene Sillick, Bruce Simpson, Shaun Skinner, Dave Slager, Tom & Jody Slemmer, Doug & Deena Snapp, Rick Stelzer, Charlotte Thiebert, Rob Thorn (compiler), Dick Tuttle, Pam Unger, Bill Whan, Bett Williams


For a change, we had moderate weather, without any extreme temperatures, rain or snow. But as good a day as it was for weather, it wasn’t very birdy. Most teams commented on how dull it was for long stretches of the day. The mild day and lack of snow cover allowed birds to disperse, with the result that there were few large flocks. Mallards & geese were at half of last year’s totals, while Starlings were less than a third. The only real show-stopper was a juvenile American Redstart found in Clintonville by Don Burton’s team. (Interestingly, it was paralleled by an Ovenbird on the Hoover Count, and Count Period Black&White Warbler and N. Waterthrush nearby.) Perhaps we really need unstable weather to drive birds into town and boost count numbers.

Despite the grumbling, most teams seemed to scare up something unusual. Blendon Woods pulled out a Turkey Vulture and a Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Bruce Simpson, Tom & Jody Slemmer, Rick Oxley, et al.), while the neighboring Gahanna team had a Bald Eagle and a Merlin (Bob McNulty, Diana Fowler). The Jefferson Township group scored an owl trifecta (Screech, Barred, Great Horned) and added 12 Mockingbirds, 20 Yellow-rumped warblers, and a Swamp Sparrow (Dick & Kathy Miller, the Gambills, and the Lindsays). The Reynoldsburg-Blacklick team snared a Pine Siskin in Blacklick Woods as well as 4 Barred Owls, a Winter Wren, and a Field Sparrow (Kristi Rowlands, Susan Moore, Rob Thorn). Three Creeks added 3 Bald Eagles and another Barred Owl (Darlene Sillick, Jenny Bowman, Rick Stelzer).

Moving to the west side of the circle, the Green Lawn Cemetery & Quarries group scored an impressive 4 Merlin along with 2 Bald Eagles, 3 sapsuckers, and 35 Pine Siskins (Jim McCormac & Bernie Master), while the nearby Scioto-Berliner team hustled up 16 Cormorants, a Shoveler, 2 Pintail, and another Eagle (Larry DeAtley, Brad Ellyson, Pam Unger). The Dublin Rd quarries and Griggs dam offered up 110 Ring-necked Ducks and a Redhead, along with a flock of 100 American Coots. The sprawling Grandview-OSU West teams found all sorts of goodies, including 1 Great Horned Owl, 11 Horned larks, 3 Chipping Sparrows, and 3 Savannah Sparrows (Dave Slager, Andy Sewell, et al.) The Clintonville-OSU East team countered with the Redstart, a Cackling Goose, 2 Green-winged Teal, another Screech Owl, and a Hermit Thrush (Don Burton, Alex Champaigne, Paul Gardner et al.).

As always, we try to give a synopsis of the trends from this count and place them in the context of past counts. That’s a fancy way of saying population trends of some species were hot while other species were not.

Who’s Hot?

Coots – what’s gotten into these little chicken-like waterfowl? Normally they’re a tough bird for us to find, but this year 4 different teams tallied them, including an eye-popping flock of 100+ on Watermark Lake.

Ring-billed Gulls – these gulls love Columbus. Many of them roost up at Alum Creek Lake, and then commute south into Columbus, some reaching down to the Trash Dump. Several teams had long streams of gulls overhead, presumably on this commute.

Small falcons – the trend has been up for Merlin and it continued so with this year’s 5. They probably came for the cemeteries, then decided to stay for the Starlings. More intriguing was the uptick in American Kestrels. 8 may not seem like much, but recently our numbers have been half that or less. Maybe they’re adapting to our freeway verges.

Small woodpeckers – it was a big year for small woodpeckers. Our Hairy totals set a record, and our Downy totals were a per-party-hour record. In many areas, woodpeckers were the only bright spot. This silver lining has its dark cloud, however; this increase is almost certainly due to the peaking of Emerald Ash Borer infestation in Columbus.

Brown Creepers – they’ve been noticeable since November, and the numbers didn’t disappoint. Almost every team saw some, and a few teams had double digits. Perhaps they’re taking advantage of the flaked bark on dead & dying ash trees.

Mockingbirds – in a down year for fruit-eaters (see below), these mimids were the anomaly. Mockingbirds don’t like to migrate, and the low patchy fruit crop may have made them more noticeable as they searched for and defended berry bushes.

Most Sparrows – the numbers weren’t especially good, but 10 species is very good. Many half-hardies – Field, Chipping, and Savannah – put in appearances. There can’t be any doubt now that Waterman Farms is a winter sparrow trap of the first order.

Who’s Not?

Cooper’s Hawks – where did they go? After being common all Fall, Coops seemed to vanish with the onset of cold. Perhaps they were just lying low, or maybe they really do leave if the numbers of Robins, Starlings, and other prey birds get too low.

Mast-eaters (jays, turkeys, Red-headed woodpeckers) – a bad year for acorns forced these birds away from their forest patches in the eastern half of the circle. Turkeys dropped from 68 to 12, and Red-headed woodpeckers were absent altogether.

Flocking frugivores – fruit-eaters had a tough year, as our fickle Spring weather made for a mediocre Bradford Pear crop and a poor Honeysuckle berry crop. Robins dropped from almost 7000 last year to less than 600 this year, and we missed waxwings altogether.

Field blackbirds – despite tantalizing reports from nearby Grove City and Pickerington, the big flocks of icterids stayed mostly south of town this year. We always manage to scrape up some grackles and Redwings, but missed out on Rusties and cowbirds this year.


2011 Columbus CBC participants work for their winter birds