Bradenton Herald


Have you ever wondered how many birds make Southwest Florida home, or visit for a winter pit stop?

The bird lovers of Manatee County Audubon Society did their best to answer that question on Dec. 16, when they took part in the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count.

The results: The Bradenton Circle birder team documented 149 species and 31,398 individual birds in a 15-mile radius around Bradenton, a count summary said.

Appearances included owls, songbirds, wading birds and shorebirds.

Numbers were down from the 159 species spotted in 2022, which the birding group attributes to foul weather. But a few special sightings made their excitement take flight.

Rare birds included the group’s first recorded sightings of the American flamingo, its second sighting of the crested caracara and its third sighting of the Carolina chickadee, a black-and-white, puffball-shaped songbird.

Other rarities: the marbled godwit, long-billed dowitcher and the tree swallow.

Distinctive birds seen in high numbers were wood ducks, red-breasted mergansers (a kind of duck with a perpetual bad hair day), black skimmers, American robins and brown-headed cowbirds (a sneaky blackbird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds).

Count helps bird and climate change research

The bird-spotting exercise is not just for fun. According to the National Audubon Society, the census helps researchers track how birds are adapting to climate change and “where species might turn up in the future.”

“The Christmas Bird Count tells us how birds are doing during this early winter period,” National Audubon Society Christmas Bird Count director Geoff LeBaron said in a news release. “We can track where birds are and how they have changed their ranges during climate change over the last 60 to 70 years.”

Some southern species are being sighted farther north as temperatures rise, LeBaron said.

What about the flamingos? They were dispersed outside of their usual range by Hurricane Idalia in August, according to national bird experts. Some Audubon members are hoping they might resettle in Florida, where they once roamed in the thousands before they were hunted to near regional extinction.

The Bradenton Circle group has participated in the Audubon Christmas Count for over a decade.

Find out how to join next year’s count at manateeaudubon.org, and check out some of the colorful birds they spotted below.

An American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.An American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

An American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A Savannah sparrow, a common winter visitor to Florida, was spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.A Savannah sparrow, a common winter visitor to Florida, was spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A Savannah sparrow, a common winter visitor to Florida, was spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

This great-horned owl was spotted perching on a pine branch in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.This great-horned owl was spotted perching on a pine branch in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

This great-horned owl was spotted perching on a pine branch in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A Carolina chickadee perches on a tree. The bird was a rare sighting in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.A Carolina chickadee perches on a tree. The bird was a rare sighting in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A Carolina chickadee perches on a tree. The bird was a rare sighting in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A trio of painted buntings was snapped visiting a feeder in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.A trio of painted buntings was snapped visiting a feeder in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A trio of painted buntings was snapped visiting a feeder in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

American robins were among the songbirds spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.American robins were among the songbirds spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

American robins were among the songbirds spotted in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A juvenile American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.A juvenile American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.

A juvenile American flamingo wades in Southwest Florida waters. Flamingos were among the rare sightings in the Bradenton area during the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count in December 2023.



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