Nebraska Ornithologists' Union


Date of this Version



Paseka, "2013 Christmas Bird Counts," from Nebraska Bird Review (March 2014) 82(1).


Copyright 2014 Nebraska Ornithologists’ Union. Used by permission.


Fifteen counts were held during the 2013–2014 season. Following a cold snap in early December, the weather was seasonable and mostly dry, but with very limited open water in most circles. An example of the consequences of this can be seen in the Branched Oak–Seward count tally. Although this count has a history of being very productive for water-related birds in most years, only 3 species were found this year: Canada Goose (16), Mallard (2) and Belted Kingfisher (1). The total species count in all the counts was 135, four less than the past two years and historically ranking sixth highest, while the total of 282,693 individuals ranks as the eighth highest. In all, 12 species tied or set new high counts. While 14 species were found in every circle, 25 were seen in only one circle, and of those 12 were single birds.

Most of the large Anseriformes had an excellent year. The 701 Ross's Geese, all at Lake McConaughy, smashed the previous high count of 33 from 1998. The 97,928 Canada Geese were also a new high count total for the state, as were the 7,689 Cackling Geese, which topped their previous high of 6946 set in 2010. For the fifth straight year Trumpeter Swans set a new high count, with 155 seen this year. After they first appeared as a count week bird in 1991, Trumpeters were seen twice more in the 1990s and have been counted every year since 2000. The single Tundra Swan found at North Platte was only the fourth Christmas Count sighting in the past 50 years, and the first since 1999, when 11 were found on the Omaha count.

Several diurnal raptor species had a good year. The 184 Rough-legged Hawks were a new high count, besting the total of 109 found in 2010. The 15 Golden Eagles beat the old high of 11 set in 1971. Bald Eagles were found in every circle, and the total of 368 is only slightly less than last year's high count (375) for that species, and the total of 28 Cooper's Hawks is second only to the 36 birds found in 2007.

Perhaps as a result of the numerous trees killed by the 2011 Missouri River flooding, woodpecker numbers continue on the upswing. With counts of 484 Red-bellied Woodpeckers, 150 Hairy Woodpeckers, and 9 Pileated Woodpeckers, those three species bested high counts set only last year (459, 131, and 7, respectively). This year's 208 Red-headed Woodpeckers were second only to the 232 found in 1971, and the 622 Downy Woodpeckers also rank as the second highest count behind the 657 found in 2011.

Although Black-billed Magpies have been found every year, this year's count of 32 is the second lowest. The lowest count was in 1967 when only 16 birds were found; highest was 303 in 2001 . . .