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Warmer Winter Leads to Lower Christmas Bird Count

HASTINGS-ON-HUDSON, N.Y. – Noticeably warmer weather and little snow accumulating this winter have led to a lower number of birds recorded in this year’s Christmas Bird Count , according to local birder Michael Bochnik.

“We usually get about 45,000 birds on average and this year was only about 38,000,” he said.  “Again because the weather is so nice, birds that would have normally come here are still north because there’s no snow to drive them down.”

The Bronx-Westchester count spotted 115 different species and 39,320 birds total in the area. The count also set a new record with 93 participating counters.  There were nine new high counts, but there were also 12 low numbers in some common species.

“Generally speaking, a lot of the common bird numbers were low, which is not surprising because of the extremely warm weather,” Bochnik said.  “Those birds, which normally concentrate at feeders and places we tend to look most, they were more spread out because there’s plenty of food on the ground.”

There have been some birds spotted in the area that are unusual at this time of year because of the temperatures.

“We had an Orange-crowned Warbler and a Palm Warbler, which are usually much further south and also the Chipping Sparrow,” Bochnik said.  “Those birds are usually in the southern United States and due to the warm weather we've had a lot of them up here.”

Many could assume that warmer weather would mean less migrating for the birds leading to larger counts, but National Audubon Society President David Yarnold has previously said the majority of birds he typically counts migrate from colder areas up north. These birds will often flock to feeders in the winter for food, which makes counting them easier, so an unusually warm winter has noticeably affected the count.

“When there’s not a lot of snow and not a lot of cold, birds can find food from more natural sources and don’t need to come to feeders,” he said.

Though the national list is not yet compiled, Bochnik said all the information needs to be submitted by Feb. 15 so a finished bird count should be in sooner rather than later.

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