Date of this Version
"2005-06 Christmas Bird Counts in Nebraska," from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2006) 74(1).
For the first time this year, two additional counts, Ames and Harrison Sioux Counties, were reported, bringing our total to 14 counts. The all-time high numbers reached for several species this year need to be regarded in light of that fact. We tend now to have more counts, more counters, and more hours spent counting than ever before. While this is a good thing, it is useful to remember that counting more birds does not in this case mean that there are necessarily more birds present. A look at the effort data, such as number of birds per party hour, on the Audubon Christmas Bird Count web pages (www.audubon.orglbirdlcbc/hr) can be instructive.
Only 19 Snow Geese were counted this year, the fewest since 1983, when none at all were found. Numbers for this species vary dramatically from year to year: 129,415 were counted in 2002. This was the second year Cackling Geese were reported, a total of 1361 compared to 70 last year. Canada Goose numbers were the highest since 1996. The 96 Northern Pintails are the highest since 157 in 1966. Wild Turkeys saw their first decline since 1998, although they are still doing well with 1075 counted.
The Bald Eagle total (350) was the highest ever, but last year's total was 341 from fewer counts. Sharp-shinned Hawks were recorded in the highest numbers ever: 40 in all. The Rough-legged Hawk count of 83 was the highest since 1996. The Red-tailed Hawk total of 472 is the second highest ever; there were 518 in 1994. Of this year's total, 98 were seen at DeSoto and 84 were from Omaha, prompting one observer to comment both on the proximity of those counts to the Loess Hills migration flyway and on the high percentage of participants on those two counts who are also counters at the hawk watch at the Hitchcock Nature Center north of Crescent, Iowa.
The American Coot total of 11, 10 of which were at Scottsbluff, was the lowest in 10 years. Eight gull species were found, all from Lake McConaughy and Calamus-Loup.