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6.9K Birds Spotted During Christmas Bird Count

January 5, 2024
royal terns

SCCF volunteers and staff recorded 6,891 birds belonging to 93 species on Sanibel and Captiva as part of a local effort to contribute to the National Audubon Society’s 124th Christmas Bird Count.

Every year, birders across much of the Western Hemisphere participate in the Christmas Bird Count, which was started in 1900 when a group of birders proposed to count birds on Christmas Day rather than shoot them, as was past tradition. It’s one of the longest-running citizen science efforts in the world and has contributed to substantial data on bird populations in the western hemisphere.

SCCF and island conservation partners, including the Sanibel Captiva Audubon Society and J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge, have collaborated on the Sanibel-Captiva Christmas Bird Count for over 60 years.

“Last year, many members of the public were unable to participate due to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian, so we’re happy to report that this year we had volunteers from on and off the island come out and participate,” said SCCF shorebird technician Aaron White. “We were worried about what the rainy weather had in store for us, but we were still able to hold a great count event! Our 80 dedicated volunteers covered 150 miles over the islands by foot, car, and golf cart.”

This year’s count total (6,891 birds) is higher than last year, but lower from prior years, White said.

Top 5 Species Recorded on Islands:

  1. White ibis, Eudocimus albus (565 individuals)
  2. Brown pelican, Pelecanus occidentalis (515 individuals)
  3. Sanderling, Calidris alba (463 individuals)
  4. Royal tern, Thalasseus maximus (459 individuals)
  5. Mourning dove, Zenaida macroura (364 individuals)

Count numbers are likely lower due to the cold and windy weather conditions during the count, and one area was unable to be reached by boat due to the unfavorable marine forecast. Several inland areas were still inaccessible due to damage from Hurricane Ian.

“We would like to thank all of our wonderful volunteers for their efforts in this year’s count, we couldn’t have done it without you!” White said. “We’d also like to thank San-Cap Audubon, and J.N. ‘Ding’ Darling for their continued participation and support.”

The 124th Christmas Bird Count window spanned from Dec. 14, 2023, and Jan. 5, 2024. SCCF’s event was held Saturday, Dec. 16.


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