Saturday, August 16, 2014

United States of Birds - All-time High Counts

Have you ever witnessed a mega-flock of birds?  Perhaps it was thousands of Red-winged Blackbirds undulating above a field, or Snow Geese congregating before a long migration.  eBird has a feature where users can observe the all-time high counts of all species within a given state.  We used this feature to find what species had been seen in the highest numbers in that state at one point in time.  For example, the report of 500,000 Sooty Shearwaters from Oregon was the largest flock of any species ever seen there (according to eBird data, which ranges from 1823-2014).  We did this for each state and plotted the species on a map using our revolutionary Birder's Conundrum mapmaking software:

Clearly, a few states have had vast flocks of some awesome birds.  Crested Auklets in Alaska, Sooty Shearwaters in the Northwest, and Red-necked Phalaropes in Maine.  Other, more unfortunate states have shitty birds like Starlings (sorry Massachusetts and Kentucky, but really?) or the Brown-headed Cowbirds in Lousiana.  In fact, the all-time high count of any species in the entire country belongs to those that Cajun flock of cowbirds.  It's probably no surprise that many of the more southerly states are represented by the rather ubiquitous Red-winged Blackbird, as many birders in the Southeast probably come across a sizable flock of these icterids at some point each year.  Snow Geese, with their habit to conglomerate en masse, also made quite a showing, filling 6 of the states.

Note: We are not saying that these counts are necessarily accurate, we are just reporting what is out there.

The full run-down:

Red-winged Blackbird (12 states)
Arkansas- 1,000,000
California- 1,001,000
Colorado- 75,000
Delaware- 900,000
Georgia- 2,000,000
Illinois- 1,080,000
Kansas- 1,600,000
Mississippi- 1,000,000
Missouri- 7,200,000
North Carolina- 1,000,000
Pennsylvania- 1,000,000
Texas- 1,000,000

Snow Goose (6 states)
Montana- 300,000
Nebraska- 900,000
New Mexico- 50,000
New York- 1,000,000
South Dakota- 400,000
Vermont- 44,000

Common Grackle (4 states)
Indiana- 750,000
Maryland- 502,000
New Hampshire- 343,000
Virginia- 1,500,000

Purple Martin (3 states)
South Carolina- 800,000
Tennessee- 1,000,000
West Virginia- 40,000

American Coot (3 states)
Alabama- 111,750
Nevada- 75,000
Wyoming- 8,000

American Robin (3 states)
Florida- 5,000,075
New Jersey- 250,000
Oklahoma- 460,000

European Starling (2 states)
Kentucky- 2,500,000
Massachusetts- 2,000,000

Tree Swallow (2 states)
Arizona- 1,200,000
Connecticut- 1,000,000

Sooty Shearwater (2 states)
Oregon- 500,000
Washington- 500,000

Canvasback (2 states)
Iowa- 330,055
Minnesota- 93,505

Franklin's Gull (1 state)
North Dakota- 340,000

Eared Grebe (1 state)
Utah- 500,000

Mallard (1 state)
Idaho- 100,000

Crested Auklet (1 state)
Alaska- 2,000,000

Wedge-tailed Shearwater (1 state)
Hawaii- 50,000

Red-necked Phalarope (1 state)
Maine- 200,000

Brown-headed Cowbird (1 state)
Louisiana- 76,000,000 (<--What?!)

Canada Goose (1 state)
Rhode Island- 12,000

Double-crested Cormorant (1 state)
Wisconsin- 300,000

Broad-winged Hawk (1 state)
Michigan- 255,641

American Crow (1 state)
Ohio- 500,000


  1. So glad you didn't claim accuracy of these counts.

    1. Yeah, a few seemed a bit sketchy. I trust eBird in general, but some of these counts may be off by a lot.

  2. You prompted me to check data for my country (we have only one state these days). Black-headed Gull 28500, Common Pochard 19480, Starling 13200, Common Goldeneye 6009, Common Crane 4000, Pygmy Cormorant 3189.
    The ducks were at Iron Gate at Danube, gulls and cormorants are everywhere on riverbanks in the city (city is an IBA partly because of wintering Pygmy Cormorants), and flocks of starlings and cranes were photographed for evidence. My own state records are those of rooks and jackdaws seen flying past my window (2500 and 1361). 38 species were only seen as single birds in our state (by ebirders).

  3. Huh,

    AZ rocking the Tree Swallows? Not the first one I would've guessed. Very interesting.