2019 HARTFORD CHRISTMAS BIRD COUNT SUMMARY
If nothing else, the Christmas Bird Count never fails to offer surprises with respect to bird
species found and others missed. This year’s Count was true to form as we noted
Brant and Brown Thrasher for the first time since 2012, and Northern Pintail and Rough- legged Hawk
last seen in 2014. Alas, we missed Red-breasted Nuthatch for the first time in more than a decade.
Snow Goose and Fox Sparrow were missed for the second consecutive year, with both absent for only the third time in ten years.
Eighty-seven field observers totaled three more than in 2018, while party hours and party miles were
similar to last year’s effort. Weather was quite pleasant and mild with temperatures
reaching fifty degrees, although it was a bit on the breezy side.
The mild weather preceding Count Day melted much of the ice that had accumulated in a
colder than normal first half of December. There was no ice on rivers, and in most
locations, previously frozen still water was again partially open. Concerns that the
severe cold early in the month would eliminate most lingerers proved not to be the case
as Ruby-crowned Kinglet, Hermit Thrush, Gray Catbird, Eastern Towhee and
Chipping Sparrow were all reported within our Count circle.
It is always interesting to note high and low counts for various species. A ten-year high
count was noted for Black Vulture, as the Manchester roost continues to flourish. It was
also a good year for woodpeckers with Hairy Woodpecker and Northern Flicker
reaching ten year highs. Other species reaching ten year high counts included
Bald Eagle, Common Raven, Marsh Wren, Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Yellow-rumped
Warbler although the wren jumped from just one to two. Are the increased numbers
reflective of a better than average food supply for the kinglets and warblers this year?
On the other side of the coin, numerous species were reported in ten-year low numbers.
These included Mute Swan , with but a single individual found in Newington;
Wild Turkey , with but nine birds reported from Farmington as opposed to more than ninety the
previous year; Mourning Dove, Horned Lark, Brown Creeper, American Robin,
White-throated Sparrow and Dark-eyed Junco.
It should be noted that the low of twenty Horned Larks was likely at least partially attributable to our inability to access the Hartford landfill this year.
There were a number of nice surprises this year. The Brant in West Hartford was the
most unusual goose reported, while a lone Greater White-fronted Goose was with
Canada Geese on the flooded playing fields of Hartford’s Riverside Park. This was the
seventh report over the past ten years for this once rare species. Other waterfowl of note
included Gadwall, Northern Pintail and Ring-necked Duck. The Gadwall was from
East Hartford and the Pintail was found in Glastonbury, while Ring-necked Duck came
from across the River in Wethersfield. An American Coot was a bonus in Glastonbury
as was a Wilson’s Snipe in South Windsor. The brown thrasher in Glastonbury was a
great pick-up as was the rough-legged hawk, seen soaring over Hartford’s Cedar Hill
Cemetery The “roughleg,”, observed initially against dark clouds was almost written
off as one of the Red-tailed Hawks that are commonly seen there. A single rusty
blackbird in South Windsor prevented us from missing this declining species for a second
Count Week includes three days prior and three days following Count Day. Birds seen on
these days, but not on Count Day, itself, are designated as Count Week or Count Period
birds. No Count Week birds were reported this year, nor was a single winter finch found
on our Count. It will be interesting to see if other Connecticut Counts report winter
As has become the custom for this summary, let’s end with Crows. This year, what I
assume to be the state’s largest crow roost has moved yet again. The birds are roosting in
trees surrounded by a residential area off Talcott Street in West Hartford and not far from
the commercial area that includes Home Depot and other big box stores. It was very
difficult to count the crows flying toward the roost as they first descended into a linear
park along Trout Brook to the west of the roost. Many did not fly in until after dark. The
crows were spread out over a large area and there may have been other “sub-roosts” that
we did not locate. As such, we have decreased the crow count for this year, but it is quite
possible we are off in our estimation. Fear not, there are still a lot of crows in this roost!
Total species for the Count stands at 89, five more than last year, and close to the ten-year
average of 90.5 species.
I would like to thank all the captains, field observers and feeder watchers for your efforts this year. This was the 120th edition of the Christmas Bird Count, the longest running of all citizen science-based research projects, and we could not do it without a lot of help from our members and friends!
We hope to see many of you next year or perhaps on the Summer Bird Count scheduled the second weekend in June.
A ten-year spreadsheet for Hartford Christmas Bird Count results will be available at
upcoming monthly meetings of the Hartford Audubon Society.
It is also available by sending an email request to firstname.lastname@example.org
Best wishes for the Holiday Season and the New Year!
Jay Kaplan, Compiler
Hartford Christmas Bird Count