Nebraska Ornithologists' Union



Don Paseka

Date of this Version



Paseka, “2012–2013 Christmas Bird Counts,” from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2013) 81(1).


Copyright 2013 Nebraska Ornithologists' Union. Used by permission.


Fifteen counts were held during the 2012–2013 season. The weather was seasonable and mostly dry with some open water. The total species count of 139 was the same as last year, but less than the record total of 149 counted in 2010–2011. In all, 23 species set new or tied previous high counts, including a new species for Nebraska counts, a single Bewick's Wren at Scottsbluff. The incredible number of European Starlings (250,444) found in the North Platte circle was largely responsible for the new high count (268,232) of that species and pushed the overall number of individuals for all counts to 510,790, second only to the record number of 587,400 individual birds found in 1977 due largely to 502,286 Red-winged Blackbirds counted. Among the 11 species counted in all circles, Wild Turkey (2088), Bald Eagle (375), and Eurasian Collared-Dove (1370) set new high counts. Nineteen species were seen in only one circle and of those 7 were single birds.

While no scoters were found, many counts for individual species of Anseriformes ranked among the top years. Mallards had the highest count (84,837) since 1988 when 118,150 were found, and the Blue-winged Teal number (13) was second only to the 30 found in 1971. Trumpeter Swans (69), Wood Ducks (all 46 of which were at Grand Island), Ring-necked Ducks (342), and Hooded Mergansers (90) all recorded new high counts.

Five of six possible grebe species were found, and new high counts were tallied for Pied-billed Grebe (17) and Red-necked Grebe (3), while the Homed Grebe count (4) tied the previous high. Great Blue Heron (52) and Belted Kingfisher (59) numbers were surpassed only in the previous CBC season. No unexpected shorebird species were found but 43 Killdeer found in 5 circles easily beat the old high of 28 found in 1994, and the 39 Wilson's Snipe beat the old high count 33 from two years ago.

Woodpeckers also made a good showing. The 7 Pileated Woodpeckers (5 at Omaha and 2 at DeSoto) eclipsed the old record of 3 in 2008 and 2010). This is the first time pileated woodpeckers have been recorded on more than one count. Red-bellied Woodpeckers also set a new high (459), while the Yellow-bellied Sapsucker count (16) was only surpassed by the 17 found in 1981. Carolina Wrens have rebounded nicely from the die-off following the harsh 2009–2010 winter and were found on 7 counts, setting a new high (65). Eastern Bluebirds continue to do well: a record 587 birds were found in 9 circles.

Birds of the open country and weed patches had an exceptional year. Total counts of Fox Sparrow (44) and Swamp Sparrow (25) were new highs. The number of Song Sparrows (200) was exceeded only by the 209 found in 1994. The Snow Bunting (74), Common Redpoll (541), and Pine Siskin (1273) counts also were new highs.