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Christmas Bird Count Season Begins: Central Park/NYC in 1923 and 2023

Updated: Dec 17, 2023

Ring-billed Gull Pelham Bay Park (Bx) on 20 December 2017 Deborah Allen

13 December 2023

Bird Notes: We're back! Besides the Sunday walks at 9:30am (Central Park), we are adding some Wednesday morning (10am) walks at the New York Botanical Garden in the Bronx ($10) - admission to NYBG is free for everyone on Wednesdays 10-11am. First one is 20 December (Wednesday/10am). All our walks with meeting locations and times are on our web site: Schedule Page (click), as well as in this Newsletter (CLICK)

It is the Christmas birding season so we devote this Newsletter to historical reports of December birds in NYC in the distant past (1923), and more recent encounters in December 2001 with two Calliope Hummingbirds (upper Manhattan), and a Rufous Hummingbird in Central Park winter 2007. The Black-chinned Hummingbird currently on Randall's Island (Manhattan) is not the first western hummingbird here in late autumn/winter! We will post photos of Tanzanian birds from our recent trip in an early January Newsletter - for now one video example below:

Lesser Flamingos near Arusha, Tanzania 5 December 2023. Lesser Flamingos have a magenta-black beak, and are more pink (+ significantly smaller) than Greater Flamingos that have light pink beaks. The white birds (with dark beaks) are young Lesser Flamigos. If you look closely you can find at least one Greater Flamingo (as the camera is panned all the way to the right), and one Ruff shorebird running among the flamingos.

In our HISTORICAL NOTES we send the results of the late December 1923 Christmas Bird Count that was published in Bird-Lore...lots of reports from the Bronx, and single counts from Queens and Staten Island. See Historical Note (A). Some notable birds are highligted in bold on the counts. In 1923, Bobwhite Quail still bred in parts of NYC (including Van Cortlandt Park and Pelham Bay Park, and parts of Staten Island and Queens), as well as Eastern Meadowlarks (17 on the Staten Island count that year). It is amazing to see how common and widespread certain species were (eg., American Tree Sparrows) that today if we get 2-3 that is considered amazing...And the 75 or so Black-crowned Night Herons that for many years (including winter) were observed on the grounds of the Bronx Zoo - the herons were "wild" and nested in a colony on a small (man-made ) island just off Fordham Road, opposite NYBG. Also noteworthy are what is not reported that we take as common today. For example, reports of Red-shouldered Hawks tie Red-tails (3 each) - today it is not unusual to get 7-12 Red-tailed Hawks just in Central Park on the Christmas Count, with Red-shoulders being uncommon to rare. The low numbers of White-throated Sparrows, Black-capped Chickadees and Tufted Titmice...the complete absence of Great Horned Owls, Greater Scaup, Black-backed Gulls (Herring Gulls were the common gull w/ more than 1000 counted...but only two Ring-billed Gulls). Where were American Robins, American Goldfinches (only reported on two counts), Canada Geese...House Finches (introduced into Brooklyn in the 1930s)? Yes there were fewer people counting...and fewer bird reports than today. But we routinely get 60 species or so on the Manhattan Bird Count (once all locales are combined)...and probably 50 on the Central Park bird count! By comparison, the high count for the NYC bird counts reported for December 1923 was...28! Finally, no one bothered to report the results of the 1923 CBC in Central Park, or Prospect Park in Brooklyn.

Historical Note (B) is a New York Times article from 16 December 2001 about two (yes two) Calliope Hummingbirds found at Fort Tryon Park (upper Manhattan just south of Inwood Hill Park). These hummers should have gone south through the Rocky Mountains to overwinter in Mexico - instead they headed east! That autumn was quite mild...Bob remembers standing in shorts and a t-shirt on 5 December (it was 81F)...and coming on the heels of the 11 September tragedy (and the Yankees losing the World Series in 7 games), the hummingbirds were a most welcome happy ending to the year. These Calliope Hummingbirds are not the only western hummers found in Manhattan in the last 25 years. From November 2007 through early March 2008, a Rufous Hummingbird (see photo below) fed on ornamental shrubs (Mahonia spp.) planted outside the Museum of Natural History (AMNH), as well as making forays into Central Park. And today (13 December) a Black-chinned Hummingbird continues on Randall's Island in upper Manhattan. Indeed there have been at least 12 species of western hummers that have been banded in the east (in Louisiana) - see info HERE (click).

Rufous Hummingbird outside AMNH (Manhattan) on 1 January 2012  Deborah Allen

Bird Walks: 15 December to 31 December (2023)

All Walks @ $10/person - all in Central Park

*For all our walks: no need to book ahead or pay in advance - just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Binoculars can be rented for $10 - let us know in advance if possible (one day's notice is fine). *****Please: Payment at the End of the Bird Walk as we exit the park, and not in the park as we begin*****

1. Sunday, 17 December at 9:30am [ONLY!]. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE. This walk led by DEBORAH and BOB (just back from Tanzania)


2. Wednesday, 20 December at 10:00. The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx. Meet at the CLOCKTOWER which is 50 yards past the main entrance (the main entrance is NOT the Mosholu Gate). $10. Directions to NYBG: CLICK HERE. NYBG is open free to everyone on Wednesdays 10-11am. Contact Bob/Deb via email ( for info/directions/help etc.


3. Sunday, 24 December at 9:30am [ONLY!]. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE. This walk led by DEBORAH and BOB


4. Wednesday, 27 December at 10:00. The New York Botanical Garden (NYBG) in the Bronx. Meet at the CLOCKTOWER which is 50 yards past the main entrance (the main entrance is NOT the Mosholu Gate). $10. Directions to NYBG: CLICK HERE. NYBG is open free to everyone on Wednesdays 10-11am. Contact Bob/Deb via email ( for info/directions/help etc.


5. Sunday, 31 December at 9:30am [ONLY!]. Meet at the the BOATHOUSE Restaurant/Cafe at approx. 74th st. and the East Drive. $10. Directions to the Boathouse: CLICK HERE. This walk led by DEBORAH and BOB


Call (718-828-8262) or Email us with questions:

Keep an eye on the Schedule as we might be adding a few walks here and there such as the New York Botanical Garden (Bronx - free admission on Wednesdays), and perhaps an Owl walk at night. Any questions send them our way: or call: 718-828-8262 (home)

American Tree Sparrow Central Park 25 February 2015 Deborah Allen

(below) Black-capped Chickadee New York Botanical Garden (NYBG - Bronx) 11 January 2014 Deborah Allen

The fine print: No need to reserve or pay in advance for our bird walks. Just show up at the right time and place and away you go with us. Please pay us at the end of the walk when we reach either Fifth Avenue or Central Park West, and not in the park as we begin.

Our walks on weekends meet on Saturdays and Sundays at 7:30am/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe. The meeting location is NOT nearby Conservatory Water with its small buildings and Boathouse for model boats...people make this mistake all the time! Here are directions to the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site. Bathrooms open at about 7:15am at the Boathouse. The outdoor restaurant opens by about 8:00am, but do note that the prices have been raised considerably (think $6 for a cup of coffee), and the quality of the food has declined, but is still edible.

Friday morning walks meet at Conservatory Garden: we meet at 105th street and 5th Avenue: right at the large (tall) black gates. Deborah Allen leads the Friday walks - she knows more about birds than Bob...Her email is: and phone: 347-703-5554. If you want to rent binoculars ($10) please (please) let her know the night before! If you are lost (or god forbid, arrive late) and need to find the group, feel free to call her but do note that 2-3 other people are calling her at the same time...Monday walks at 8:30am meet at Strawberry Fields (at the Imagine Mosaic) which is about 75 meters in from Central Park West. And on Thursdays, we meet at 8:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe).

Our home phone is 718-828-8262...and Deborah's cell is: 347-703-5554. Email is ( If you are lost and trying to get to the bird walk, call Deborah's cell phone...but remember on weekends there will be 2-3 other people calling who are also lost - please be patient. If in doubt about whether a walk will take place or not on the morning of the walk: check the "Schedule" page of our web site - if the walk is cancelled, information will be posted there by 6am the day of the walk, and usually by 11pm the night before. If still confused and as a last resort, call us at home - if no one answers it means we left for the bird walk. Walks last about 3 hrs (a bit less if cold or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions/help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please. We usually end our M/Th/Sat/Sun Central Park walks at about noon at the Boathouse where we started.

Ash-throated Flycatcher (western USA species) on Bleecker Street (Manhattan) 12 December 2023 Dan Bright

Here is what we saw recently (brief highlights)

Sunday, 10 December 2023:

It rained! So what else is new...everyone stayed home. Our lists of birds seen on our walks will return again next week.

Tufted Titmouse Central Park 11 January 2009 Deborah Allen

(below) Lesser Scaup (male) Central Park 22 March 2012 Deborah Allen


Bird-Lore’s Twenty-fourth Christmas Census December 1923

Edited by J. T. NICHOLS


The highest number of species recorded in this Census in Canada is 22 at London, Ont., a combined list of six parties working separately. In the Northern and Middle Atlantic States, Cape May, N. J., leads with 48 (several observers); comparable in the northern Mississippi Valley with 32 at Norwood, Ohio (or a combined total of 39 by the Wheaton Club, Columbus, Ohio). Nashville, Tenn., has 51, Anniston, Ala., 41 (one observer), and Back Bay, Va. (three observers, one working independently) 90, which is exceeded only by Santa Barbara with 93 and San Diego, Calif., with 106 (two and three observers, together). We would call attention to the value of the Census for statistical study of local fluctuations in the numbers of winter birds, which may come to the attention of observers. In all reports from Long Island and New York City the White-throated Sparrow averaged 2.86 individuals and was present on 57% of the reports; as against 8.47 and 60% in 1922. Was the supply of White-throats (ordinarily present here) to the north, to the south, or absent? For Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, the same figures in 1923 were 48% and 15%; and in 1922, 80% and 20%. In the states from Maryland to Georgia, however, we find 18.78 and 67%; 6.15 and 69% for 1922, an increase in numbers with almost the same frequency. Carrying the study westward, compared with last year, the numbers have fallen to 4.33 from 8.39 in Pennsylvania, and have risen to 231 from 130.5 in Kentucky and Tennessee (only two reports).


New York City (Bronx: Van Cortlandt Parks and Clason Point). 23 December 1923; 10 A.M. to 4 P.M. Weather, thick clouds to light rain; wind, none; ground bare; temp. 48F. The most notable feature of the day was the extreme scarcity of even the commonest land birds. Herring Gull, 200; Black Duck, 41; Scaup Duck, 2; Common Golden-eye, 200; Black-crowned Night Heron, 75; Red-tailed Hawk, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 6; Northern Flicker, 1; Blue Jay, 4; Crow, 4; Starling, c. 700; Eastern Meadowlark, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 2; American Tree Sparrow, 20; Song Sparrow, 7; Brown Creeper, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 3; Black-capped Chickadee, 14; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 6. Total, 20 species, 1,291 individuals.




New York City. Bronx: Clason Point, Pelham Bay Park, Baychester, Allerton Ave., and Bronx Park. Subway used between Clason Point and Pelham Bay, rest of route on foot. Observers together all day. 26 December 1923; 8.15 A.M. to 5 p.m. Clear; wind brisk, northwest; temp. 36F at start. Herring Gull, 25; Ring-billed Gull, 2 (immature birds); Red-breasted Merganser, 3; Black Duck, 2 (Clason Point); Scaup Duck, 15; American Golden-eye, 12; Black-crowned Night Heron (Bronx Park colony); Ring-necked Pheasant, 1 (cock flushed at Pelham Bay); Red-tailed Hawk, 3; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Short-eared Owl, 1 (mouth of the Bronx River); Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; American Crow, 8; Starling, abundant; Purple Finch, 1; White-throated Sparrow, 8; American Tree Sparrow, 5; Field Sparrow, 3; Dark-eyed Junco, 6; Song Sparrow, 4; Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 1 (one of this species, probably the same individual, seen in exactly the same locality the preceding Saturday, 22 December 1923); Black-capped Chickadee, 12; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 1. Total, 26 species, about 186 individuals. Seen recently—Hermit Thrush and Ruby-crowned Kinglet (Moravian Cemetery, S. I.) on 25 December; Belted Kingfisher, 1 (Princess Bay, S. I.) on 26 December



New York City. Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park, north along Tibbet Brook to about 4 miles from Dunwoodie. 22 December 1923; Observers together except for a short time near Dunwoodie. 9.45 A.M. to 4.15 P.M. Rainy; no snow on ground; wind north, light; temp. at start 46F, at return 50F. Herring Gull, 55; Mallard, 4; Bob-white, 12 (1 covey); Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Barred Owl, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 10; Blue Jay, 6; American Crow, 13; Starling, 80; Goldfinch, 3; White-throated Sparrow, 1; American Tree Sparrow, 19; Slate-colored Junco, 10; Song Sparrow, 12; Fox Sparrow, 3; White-breasted Nuthatch, 8; Red-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 15. Total, 18 species, 255 individuals. Saw Barred Owl twice. First time it flew over our heads and we got a good view of its underparts; second time we saw it perched in a tree and got another view of it, besides observing the actions of a Blue Jay. Flushed Quail from a marsh north of Van Cortlandt Park. We were very close to them at the time.




New York City. Bronx: Van Cortlandt Park, Bronx Park, Baychester Marshes, and Pelham Bay. 24 December 1923; 9 A.M. to 4.30 P.M. Light snowstorm in morning, first of the season; clear and sunshine in P.M., and snow disappears; wind northwest, sometimes strong; temp. 30F to 35F to 30F. Herring Gull, 97; American Merganser, 20 (on Eastchester Bay); Black Duck, 9 (in Van Cortlandt swamp); Golden-eye, 8 (on Pelham Bay); Black-crowned Night Heron, 64 (Bronx Park colony); Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Long-eared Owl, 1; Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 5; Crow, 21; Starling, 515; Eastern Meadowlark, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 17; American Tree Sparrow, 9; Field Sparrow, 8; Junco, 20; Song Sparrow, 12; Swamp Sparrow, 1; Fox Sparrow, 7; Brown Creeper, 5; White-breasted Nuthatch, 8; Black-capped Chickadee, 16. Total, 23 species, 848 individuals.




New York City. Bronx: Bronx and Van Cortlandt Parks. 29 December 1923. 10.30 A.M. to 4.30 P.M. Clear; ground bare; wind west, brisk; temp. not taken. Observers together. Herring Gull, 30; Black-crowned Night Heron, 75 (Bronx Park colony); Red-shouldered Hawk, 1 (adult); Hairy Woodpecker, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 4; Crow, 11; American Tree Sparrow, 20 (flock); Junco, 20 (flock); Brown Creeper, 2; White-breasted Nuthatch, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 4. Total, 11 species, 170 individuals. The absence of Starlings and Song Sparrows is remarkable.




Staten Island, N.Y. Tottenville, Princess Bay, West New Brighton, Moravian Cemetery, Great Kills. 23 December 1923; 7.15 A.M. to 5.30 P.M. Cloudy and hazy, showers in late afternoon; ground bare and unfrozen; practically no wind; temp. 44F at start, rising. Between 15 and 20 miles on foot, observers working separately. Horned Grebe, 6; Loon, 2; Herring Gull, 1,062; Bonaparte’s Gull, 7; American [LESSER] Scaup Duck, 54; American Golden-eye, 30; Bufflehead, 14 (13 females, 1 male); Marsh Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 2; Long-eared Owl, 4; Eastern Screech Owl, 1 (in hole in tree with dead meadow mouse); Downy Woodpecker, 7; Blue Jay, 4; Crow, 31; Fish Crow, 2 (Stryker); Starling, 379; Eastern Meadowlark, 17; Goldfinch, 8; White-throated Sparrow, 2; American Tree Sparrow, 26; Dark-eyed Junco, 11; Song Sparrow, 23; Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 4; Tufted Titmouse, 3; Black-capped Chickadee, 24; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 2; American Robin, 1. Total, 28 species, approximately 1,728 individuals




Douglaston [Queens], L.I., N.Y. 25 December 1923. 10 A.M. to 1 P.M., and 2.30 to 4 P.M. Cloudy; ground bare; wind southwest, light; temp. 34F at start, 38F at return. Herring Gull, 55; Black-crowned Night Heron, 12; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 7; Northern Flicker, 6; Blue Jay, 2; Crow, 18; Fish Crow, 4; Starling, 36; Eastern Meadowlark, 7; Goldfinch, 24; White-throated Sparrow, 7; American Tree Sparrow, 32; Junco, 2; Song Sparrow, 16; Brown Creeper, 1; White-breasted Nuthatch, 5; Black-capped Chickadee, 9. Total, 18 species, 244 individuals. On 28 December, a male Yellow-bellied Sapsucker drilling holes in bark and apparently drinking sap of an apple tree. Close range at intervals for more than an hour.


FARIDA A. WILEY (below) and Mr. and Mrs. G. CLYDE FISHER

Farida Wiley (center; pointing) leading a bird walk for the American Museum in Central Park in 1946.


A Tempest Over a Teaspoon of a Bird

The New York Times

Barbara Stewart

December 16, 2001

Two calliope hummingbirds, each one-tenth of an ounce and 2,000 miles off course, are attracting hundreds of people to Fort Tryon Park at the northern tip of Manhattan. The tiny birds are also inspiring debates over the virtues of compassionate interference with nature versus steely hearted but scientifically correct Darwinism.

The birds ought to be sipping nectar in the Mexican sun by now. Ordinarily, they summer in British Columbia and migrate through the Rockies into Mexico. Instead, these calliopes flew east and wound up in upper Manhattan, where they were spotted about a month ago.

Calliope Hummingbird at Fort Tryon Park (Manhattan) on 5 December 2001 Deborah Allen

At first, the calliopes were thought to be ruby-throated hummingbirds, the only hummingbird native to the Northeast. Even that would have been remarkable, since ruby-throats should be in Cuba by this time of year.

The first to identify them correctly was the president of the Hudson River Audubon Society, Michael Bochnik, who, coincidentally, found a Western rufous hummingbird in a park in Yonkers this fall. ''Pretty miraculous,'' he said of the calliopes.

The calliope hummingbird, said Dr. Stuart Pimm, professor of conservation biology at Columbia University, ''is very, very small -- a teaspoonful of a bird'' that weighs no more than ''the salt on the heavily salted dinner.''

It resembles a metal-green fluff ball with a white throat, a few purple or red stripes and a black needle of a beak. Like all hummingbirds, it darts, hovers and whirs like a helicopter, dipping constantly into blossoms, eating half its weight every day. ''A wonder,'' Dr. Pimm said, ''to watch.''

These calliopes were the first seen in New York State and, along with a calliope sighted in New Jersey last year, the second reported in the Northeast. They are among an increasing, though still tiny, number of Western hummingbirds showing up along the East Coast.

''Rare birds,'' Dr. Pimm said, ''turn up in the most extraordinary places. Rarity is common, if you know what I mean.''

Rufous Hummingbird Central Park (Conservatory Garden) on 18 November 2012  Deborah Allen

One immediate concern is what to do with the calliopes, which will probably die in the first cold snap. Last week, five bird feeders were set up in the park. If the birds are fed well, they may survive the cold, birding experts said. In addition, the Wildlife Conservation Society has offered to house them in the Bronx Zoo for the winter.

But Alexander Brash, chief of the Urban Park Rangers, for one, thinks that feeding or housing the calliopes is meddling with the course of God or Darwin. ''They're two teenagers hitchhiking across the country,'' he said. If left alone, he said, they might start a new colony here.

To keep the birds alive outdoors, the feeders must be checked each day at dawn to make sure the liquid feed has not frozen. Even a few hours without food could leave these hummingbirds, which are constantly seeking to eat, frozen as well.

''They're so undeniably cute and wonderful and marvelous,'' Dr. Pimm said of the calliopes. ''You hate to think, when the first freeze comes, they'll die. But from a more sanguine scientist's point of view -- these are not the smartest hummingbirds, because if they were, they'd be in Mexico by now.''

Either way, he is pleased that New Yorkers care enough to argue over their fate. ''New York is a remarkable place for wildlife,'' Dr. Pimm said. ''I've looked from my office at Columbia and have seen peregrine falcons on Riverside Church. This big, bustling, incredibly ethnic city has wonderfully diverse wildlife.''

Calliope Hummer info in Eastern USA: Click Here

Rufous Hummingbird info in the Eastern USA: Click Here

Black-chinned Hummingbird info in the Eastern USA: Click Here

Banding Hummingbirds in Winter in Louisiana (13+ species!): Click Here


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

Follow our Bird Sightings on Twitter: @DAllenNYC and/or @BirdingBobNYC

Black-chinned Hummingbird (first winter female) on Randall's Island (Manhattan) 12 Dec. 2023 Deborah Allen

This hummingbird was first seen in mid-November 2023 and is doing fine...


[below] Golden Taveta Weaver (male) near Arusha (Tanzania) 12 November 2023 Deborah Allen

We'll send more of our bird photos from Tanzania taken in Nov-Dec in a January Newsletter


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