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Winter = OWLS in NYC (+ Historical Long Island Christmas Bird Counts - 1922)

Updated: Dec 23, 2022

Eastern Screech-owl in the Bronx on 31 December 2020

22 December 2022

Bird Notes: Expect Cold Weather this weekend, 25 December! We will be there on Sunday at 9:30am (Dock on Turtle Pond) no matter how cold...You can always find all our bird walks here: SCHEDULE and Meeting Locations HERE.

There are OWLS in Central Park right now...but no one is sure how many. There are at least two Great Horned Owls (one for 10+ months), + another that might have just arrived (see this post [click]) via the wonderful Manhattan Bird Alert via Twitter); one Northern Saw-whet Owl (see this video: click here: thank you Edmund Berry); and a Barred Owl that had been in the same tree everyday for a month near the Pinetum - that seems to have shifted to an unknown location. However, don't fear there are other wintering Barred Owls in NYC (at Van Cortlandt Park in the Bronx, thanks Pam Chasek), and this one (click) just reported from a park in upper Manhattan. A fairly typical winter for owls in NYC, perhaps on the low side so far. The impending severe winter storm will likely bring a few more south into our area. Overall owls do quite well in NYC parks: we estimate 15-20 pairs of breeding/nesting Great Horned Owls in the five boroughs. However, numbers of wintering owls have changed significantly since the mid-1990s. Back then it was not unusual to get 3-5 Long-eared Owls in Central Park (they would roost by day on Cedar Hill at approx. 79th street and the East Drive). And it was fairly common to count 10-20 Northern Saw-whet Owls roosting by day in Pelham Bay Park in the Bronx (Hunter Island and the nearby Bartow-Pell Mansion). Barred Owls were uncommon/rare winter visitors...These days the most common winter owls in NYC Parks are Barred Owls and Great Horned Owls (the latter include visitors from Dec-March, and the year-round residents).

In our Historical Notes we send all results of the 1922 LONG ISLAND Christmas Bird Count (CBC) for that December. One of the great historical observations comes from Ludlow Griscom regarding ducks on the Montauk CBC on 24 December 1922: "A flock of Scoters [Surf Scoters and White-winged Scoters], 1.5 miles long and often 400 yards wide, off Montauk Point, is the greatest flock of Ducks I ever saw in the northeast. The estimate of 50,000 birds is ridiculously inadequate, and cannot convey an impression of the densely packed multitudes observed." Otherwise, it is interesting what observers saw, and did not see. Note the number of Eastern Meadowlarks reported (24 on the Hempstead count), as well as American Tree Sparrows (250 on the Orient count). On the other hand, very few woodpeckers of any species were seen on Long Island that year. (By comparison, we just had 34 [estimated] Yellow-bellied Sapsuckers on the Central Park count on 18 December 2022.) Note also the general absence of raptors (both owls and hawks), and even Mallard ducks on Long Island in December 1922.

(above) Great Horned Owl in the Bronx 31 December 2020 Deborah Allen

Pair Great Horned Owls at Pelham Bay Park, the Bronx, 14 January 2021 Deborah Allen

Bird Walks for December/January 2022-2023

All Walks @ $10/person

Directions to All Meeting Locations can be found: (Click) here

1. Sunday, 25 December at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.


2. Sunday, 1 January 2023 at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.


3. Sunday, 8 January at 9:30am. Bird Walk. Meet at the Dock on Turtle Pond $10. The Dock on Turtle Pond is located mid-park at 79th street opposite Belvedere Castle.

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


The fine print: Our walks on weekends meet at 7:30/9:30am at the Boathouse Restaurant (approx. 74th street and the East Drive) until and including 30 October. Starting Sunday 6 November, we have 9:30am walks only meeting at the Dock on Turtle Pond. Check the Meeting Locations (CLICK HERE) page of our web site for detailed directions.

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 the morning of the walk: check the main landing page of this web site as well as the "Schedule" page - 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 2.5 hrs (less if hot or rainy), and you can leave at anytime - we won't be offended. If you need directions or help to your next destination, just ask someone on the walk - we aim to please. We end all our Central Park walks (except Fridays) near the Boathouse at about noon; Please note: the Boathouse Restaurant/Cafe (and even the outdoor Bathrooms) are CLOSED until March 2023.

Barred Owl at the Pinetum (Central Park) 19 December 2012 Deborah Allen

(below) Northern Saw-whet Owl at Pelham Bay Park (the Bronx) Winter 1990

Here is what we saw last week - some brief highlights:

18 December 2022 (Sunday): It is nice when owls are around - everyone is happy...everyone takes photos with whatever camera or cell phone they have...and we get to linger for many minutes at a stationary bird. Today it was our group that found the Great Horned Owl by the Belvedere Castle. Otherwise, we had a couple Red-breasted Nuthatches at the Pinetum...a Grey Catbird...three Eastern Towhees (including this wonderful male from Caren Jahre); a few Fox Sparrows (we induced them to sing and David Barrett was the first to hear them); Cooper's Hawk...lots of Northern Shovelers. Overall for a winter walk we had mucho birds.

Deborah's List of Birds for Sunday, 18 December: Click Here

Townsend's Warbler (first autumn male) at Ft. Greene (Brooklyn) on 17 December 2022

(below) Common Yellowthroat (female) at NYBG (the Bx) 21 Dec. 2022 Deborah Allen


Long Island CBCs in December 1922

Bird-Lore's Twenty-third Christmas Census [December 1922]

Edited by J. T. NICHOLS

THE highest number of species recorded in this census in Canada, is 33 at London, Ont., a combined list by eight parties working independently.

In the Northern and Middle Atlantic States, Orient, Long Island, leads with 45 (one observer); comparable, in the northern Mississippi Valley with 36 at Youngstown, Ohio (or a combined total of 37 by the Wheaton Club, Columbus, Ohio). Nashville, Tennessee has 54; Barachias, Alabama, 53 (one observer); San Diego, Calif., leads on the Pacific Coast with 112.

Abundance of the Pine Siskin in Quebec and Ontario, and its frequency to the Virginias, Ohio, Michigan and Wisconsin is notable. In 94 lists from New England and Middle Atlantic States it is mentioned in 35 (that is well over one third) with a total of some 1,000 individuals; whereas in 83 such lists for the previous year it occurred in only 5 (less than 1\16) with a total of only 100. Stragglers of several species are met with north of their normal winter range, particularly the Towhee; Ontario, once (two individuals); Massachusetts, twice (2); Connecticut, once (1); Southern N.Y., three times (7); New Jersey, twice (7); Pennsylvania, once (4); Ohio, four times (12); Indiana, twice (4). This year over 40 reports were received too late for publication. Some were mailed too late, others were wrongly addressed. There were doubtless a number, however, delayed by some unavoidable contingency, and to the authors of these, especially, we express our regret.

All Long Island Christmas Bird Counts:

East Marion, L. I., N.Y. 26 December 1922; 8A.M. to 3.30P.M. Ground bare; slightly foggy in A.M. clearing to sunny in P.M. Wind south at start, west at return, very light; temp. 37F at start, 40F at return. About 4 miles on foot along bay shore, through woods and fields. Mrs. French alone in A.M., observers together in P.M. Horned Grebe, 17; Loon, 3; Black-backed Gull, 2; Ring-billed Gull, 2; Herring Gull, 150+; Red-breasted Merganser, 3; Scaup, 400+; American [Common] Golden-eye, 7; Old-squaw, 50+; White-winged Scoter, 150+; Surf Scoter, 12; Duck, 100+ (unidentified on account of fog); Downy Woodpecker, 2; Flicker, 1; Blue Jay, 8; Crow, 25; Starling, 10; Goldfinch, 21; White-throated Sparrow, 1; [American] Tree Sparrow, 18; Song Sparrow, 23; Cedar Waxwing, 1; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 1; Brown Thrasher, 1 (seen with field-glasses several times as close as 15 feet); Chickadee, 14; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5. Total, 25 (identified) species, 1,030+ individuals.

Mr. and Mrs. Harold P. French.

Chickadee at NYBG (the Bronx) 21 Dec. 2022 D. Allen

Garden City, L.I., N.Y. 24 December 1922; at intervals all day. Fair, foggy in early morning; ground bare; wind light; temp. about 40F. Village of Garden City and adjoining fields. Marsh Hawk, 1; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; American Crow, 3; Starling, 100; White-throated Sparrow, 5; [American] Tree Sparrow, 8; Chipping Sparrow, 1; Junco, 25; Song Sparrow, 9; Brown Creeper, 1; Brown Thrasher, 1. Total, 12 species, 157 individuals. Also House Sparrow, 100. The Thrasher has been repeatedly found in one spot for a month. The Chipping Sparrow was observed through binoculars as well as could be desired in a mixed flock of the four other Sparrows. Small size, brownish bill, black line back of eye, etc., well seen. Fish Crows and a Herring Gull flying over, both on Dec. 23 and 25. One Golden-crowned Kinglet and 3 [Eastern] Meadowlarks on 25 December. A Pine Siskin on 26 December.

L.V. Morris and J.T. Nichols.


Hempstead Reservoir, L.I., N.Y. (and vicinity). 26 December 1922; 8A.M. to 1.30P.M. Partly cloudy with heavy mist, clear by afternoon, ground bare; wind southwest, medium; temp. 38F at 8 A.M. Distance walked, 4 to 5 miles. Observers together. Great Black-backed Gull, 10; Herring Gull, 5,000+; Killdeer, 3; Marsh Hawk, 1; Red-shouldered Hawk, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; Horned Lark, 10; Blue Jay, 6; American Crow, 38; Starling, 31; [Eastern] Meadowlark, 24; American Goldfinch, 5; White-throated Sparrow, 4; Tree Sparrow, 16; Song Sparrow, 20; Swamp Sparrow, 2; Eastern Towhee, 1 (female); Brown Creeper, 2; Black-capped Chickadee, 3; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 5; Hermit Thrush, 1; [American] Robin, 3. Total, 22 species, 5,187 individuals.

Charles R. Weinberger and Stanely McKinney.


Long Beach, L.I., N.Y. 23 December 1922; 9A.M. to 3P.M. Cloudy to light rain; wind brisk, southwest; temp. 38F. Holboell's [Red-necked] Grebe, 3; Horned Grebe, 9; Common Loon, 2; Great Black-backed Gull, 42; Herring Gull, 600 (est.); Ring-billed Gull, 12; Bonaparte's Gull, 16; Black Duck, 2,000 (est.); Scaup Duck, 32; Old-squaw [Long-tailed Duck], 4; American [Black] Scoter, 2; White-winged Scoter, 52; Surf Scoter, 6; Rough-legged Hawk, 1; Crow, 26; Horned Lark, 21; Starling, 150; [Eastern] Meadowlark, 3; Snow Bunting, 26; Lapland Longspur, 4; Ipswich [Savannah] Sparrow, 1; Song Sparrow, 1. Also flock of about 2,000 Ducks too far out for certain identification, but apparently largely Scoters. Total, 22 species, about 5,013 individuals. On the following day in Bronx Park I saw a Catbird, and 16 other species not seen at Long Beach, making a total of 39 species in the New York region in two days.

Clifford Pangburn.

Tufted Titmouse at NYBG (the Bronx) 21 Dec. 2022 D. Allen

Long Beach, L.I., N.Y. 25 December 1922. 10A.M. to 5P.M. Clear to hazy; ground bare; light east wind; temp. 35F to 40F. Thirteen miles on foot. Observers together. Holboell's [Red-necked] Grebe, 2; Horned Grebe, 9; [Common] Loon, 1; Red-throated Loon, 1; Great Black-backed Gull, 9; Herring Gull, 1,000; Black Duck, 7; Bufflehead, 1; Old-squaw [Long-tailed Duck], 22; American [Black] Scoter, 1 (seen in inland salt creek); Horned Lark, 18; Crow, 7; Starling, 200 (2 flocks); [Eastern] Meadowlark, 7; Ipswich [Savannah] Sparrow, 1; Sharp-tailed Sparrow, 1. Total, 16 species, 1,287 individuals.

Frank and Robert Mathews.


Orient, L.I., N.Y. 23 December 1922; 6A.M. to 6P.M. Partly cloudy; ground bare; thawing; wind fresh northwest, becoming light; temp. 29F at start, 36F at midday, 30F at return. On foot all day and thoroughly covering station. Horned Grebe, 16; [Common] Loon, 22; Red-throated Loon, 1; Great Black-backed Gull, 4; Herring Gull, 175; Red-breasted Merganser, 4; Mallard, 3; Black Duck, 60; Greater Scaup Duck, 250; [Common] Golden-eye, 20; Bufflehead, 35 ; Old-squaw [Long-tailed Duck], 300; White-winged Scoter, 400; Surf Scoter, 500; Canada Goose, 125; Clapper Rail, 1; Marsh Hawk, 1; Sharp-shinned Hawk, 1; Cooper's Hawk, 1; Red-tailed Hawk, 2; Sparrow Hawk [American Kestrel], 2; [Eastern] Screech Owl, 3; [Belted] Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; [Northern] Flicker, 7; Horned Lark, 500; Crow, 65; Starling, 300; Red-winged Blackbird, 1; [Eastern] Meadowlark, 11; Pine Siskin, 5; Goldfinch, 2; Snow Bunting, 2; White-throated Sparrow, 2; Tree Sparrow, 250; Field Sparrow, 2; [Dark-eyed] Junco, 1; Song Sparrow, 65; Swamp Sparrow, 8; Fox Sparrow, 2; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 3; Winter Wren, 2; Chickadee, 6; Golden-crowned Kinglet, 3; Robin, 3. Total, 45 species, 3,168 individuals. English Sparrow, 200.

Roy Latham.


Mastic, L.I., N.Y. 23 December 1922; 11.15A.M. to 4P.M. Cloudy; wind west, moderate, variable; ground bare, a little ice in lower courses of creeks; temp. about 36F. About IImiles along Long Island Railroad (Blue Point to Mastic, from train); about 3 miles on foot through pitch pine and oak woodland to farm buildings and open cultivated !and, skirting creeks but stopping short of marsh and bay. Observers together. Herring Gull, 15; Ring-necked Duck, 1; Golden-eye Duck, 2; Great Blue Heron, 3; Great Horned Owl, 1 (calling at mid-day); Kingfisher, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 2; Blue Jay, 5; American Crow, 25 ; Starling, 20; [Eastern] Meadowlark, 2; Pine Siskin, 3; [Dark-eyed] Junco, 30; Song Sparrow, 2; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 20; Brown Creeper, 3; Chickadee, 20; Golden-crownd Kinglet, 18; Hermit Thrush, 1. Total, 19 species, 174 individuals. Also House Sparrow, 10. The Ring-necked Duck was a bright drake on the water with two female (plumaged) Golden-eyes. Its bill was tipped with blackish, basal half slate-blue, with a broad, contrasted pale band behind the tip; flanks slate-grey becoming whiter near the dark breast.

W. F. and J. T. Nichols.


Montauk to Montauk Point, L.I., N.Y. 24 December 1922; daylight until dark. Fair, foggy in early A.M., a little hazy most of the day, but visibility excellent; all ponds partially open; wind southwest, very light; temp. 32F-40F-35F. Observers together, except for half an hour at daylight. Horned Grebe, 15; [Common] Loon, 100; Dovekie 1 (in the surf, stained with oil and helpless); Iceland Gull, 1; Great Black-backed Gull, 10; Herring Gull, 500; Bonaparte's Gull, 8 (flock); Double-crested Cormorant, 1 imm. (very tame bird sitting on a rock just off-shore and positively identified); American Merganser, 6; Red-breasted Merganser, 25; Black Duck, 6; Scaup sp., 1; Golden-eye, 75; Old-squaw [Long-tailed Duck], 500; American [Black] Scoter, 15; White-winged Scoter, 25,000 (est.); Surf Scoter, 25,000 (est.); Ruddy Duck, 2; Canada Goose, 400; Coot, 3; Wilson's Snipe, 1; Killdeer, 1; Marsh Hawk, 1; Downy Woodpecker, 1; [Northern] Flicker, 5; Horned Lark, 15; [American] Crow, 20; Starling, 13; [Eastern] Meadowlark, 9; Purple Finch, 2; [American] Goldfinch, 1; Pine Siskin, 35 (2 flocks); Snowflake [Snow Bunting], 4; Ipswich [Savannah] Sparrow, 1; [American] Tree Sparrow, 20; Song Sparrow, 4; Fox Sparrow, 2; Northern Shrike, 1; Cedar Waxwing, 6; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 50; Chickadee, 10. Total, 41 species, 51,886 individuals. A flock of Scoters, 1.5 miles long and often 400 yards wide, off Montauk Point, is the greatest flock of Ducks I ever saw in the northeast. The estimate of 50,000 birds is ridiculously inadequate, and cannot convey an impression of the densely packed multitudes observed.

Rudyerd Bolton and Ludlow Griscom.


St. James, L.I., N.Y. 23 December 1922; 10A.M. to 1.30P.M. Clear to overcast, with slight fog on water; ground bare; no wind; temp. 35F at start, 42F at return. Observations from horseback, and then, for Ducks, from cliffs, with telescope. Horned Grebe, 2; Great Black-backed Gull, 1; Herring Gull, 500; Mallard, 25; Black Duck, 700; Scaup, 100; American [Common] Golden-eye, 30; Old-squaw [Long-tailed Duck], 15; White-winged Scoter, 400; Red-tailed Hawk, 2; Downy Woodpecker, 1; [Northern] Flicker, 2; Eastern Phoebe 1(?), 1; Blue Jay, 2; Crow, 300; Goldfinch, 5; [American] Tree Sparrow. 2 ; Song Sparrow, 1; [Dark-eyed] Junco, 20; Myrtle [Yellow-rumped] Warbler, 4; Chickadee, 3; American Robin, 20. Total, 22 species, 2,136 individuals. Six (6) Red-breasted Mergansers, a covey of 12 Bob-white [Quail], 1 [Yellow-bellied] Sapsucker, and 8 Eastern Bluebirds seen 10 days ago.

James W. Lane, Jr.


Deborah Allen and Robert DeCandido PhD

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

Yellow-bellied Sapsucker (male) at NYBG (the Bronx) 21 December 2022 Deborah Allen


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