Archbold Biological Station, Biennial Report 1997-1998

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The 15-mile diameter circle for the Lake Placid, Florida, Christmas Bird Count includes the northern half of Archbold Biological Station; map by Roberta Pickert.

The Lake Placid Christmas Bird Count

Compiler: Glen E. Woolfenden           [Biennial Contents]


For the last 12 years, on one day during the Christmas holidays, expert birders have assembled at Archbold to assist Bird Lab and Highlands County Audubon Society birders conduct the Lake Placid Christmas Bird Count (CBC). Some of our readers might like to know answers to the following questions. What is a CBC? What is the history of CBCs? What are the objectives of CBC?s What are some results of the Lake Placid CBC?

     The basic rules for a Christmas Bird Count are simple. On one day during a designated time in late December-early January any number of participants count all birds within a 15-mile diameter circle. Relevant data, in addition to the tally of bird species and their estimated numbers, include a list of participants, the number of participating parties, details regarding sightings of rare birds, and information on the weather. The National Audubon Society publishes the results. Realizing the conservation value of this mass of data, the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (CLO) has joined Audubon, and all of the Christmas Bird Count data are now at BirdSource on the CLO Web site [since this was written the CBC is now accessed directly at National Audubon Society's Web site.]   [Click here for access to the CBC data search page. The code for the LPCBC is FLLP. Lake Placid count data exists since 1988.]

     History. Let’s join the fun of a ‘side hunt was an all too common call to the wild in the United States about a century ago. A side hunt was a brutal tradition of the holiday season in which gangs of "humans" competed to see which could shoot the most birds and other animals. Christmas Birds Counts probably have helped ban this tradition. On Christmas Day 1900 Frank M. Chapman, renowned ornithologist and conservationist, organized 27 birders in 25 locations to count all birds they could find as a protest to the side hunt. In 1998, over 45,000 participants conducted almost 1800 different counts, which were distributed throughout all 50 states, all Canadian provinces, and numerous points beyond.

     Objectives. Clearly Christmas Bird Counts have served the original purpose of focusing attention on the plight of wildlife populations. CBCs also provide extremely useful information for conservation. A far more detailed picture of the early-winter status of birds throughout North America exists because of CBCs. No other practical method of censusing would have produced similar results. Most important CBC data reveal long-term tends in populations (e.g., certain hawks, eagles, and introduced species). Changes in numbers for the bird hawks (accipiters), peregrine falcons, and the bald eagle show tight correlations with the use and later ban of certain pesticides.

     The Lake Placid CBC, which averages about 145 species a year, often has had the largest number of species recorded on any CBC away from marine environments east of the Rocky Mountains. In all, 200 species have been reported on the 12 Lake Placid CBCs. Some birds are easy to locate because of their abundance (e.g., cardinal) or obvious behavior (e.g., pileated woodpecker). Other species, although no doubt always present within the count circle, are difficult to find (e.g., king rail). Experienced birders know how to find the hard-to-find-species. As a result over half of the cumulative list of 200 species (108/200, 54%) have been reported on all 12 years of the existence of the Lake Placid CBC.

[Editor’s Note: Glen Woolfenden has participated on one or more CBCs since 1945. These 53 consecutive years may be some sort of record.]

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Archbold Biological Station, 12 April 2000
blkball.gif (842 bytes) Webmaster: Fred E. Lohrer.

blkball.gif (842 bytes) Archbold Biological Station, P.O. Box 2057, Lake Placid, Florida 33862 USA
Phone: 863-465-2571, FAX: 863-699-1927, email