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# Counting Birds

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So this is probably a silly question but.....  I was watching the area of my yard where the feeders are this morning, hoping to see the Buntings or Hummers,  and over the course of about an hour, I noted 16 different species.  Here is my question:  Did I see 1 Cardinal 6 times, or did I see 6 Cardinals?  Unless you see multiple birds at the same time, like the half dozen Brown-headed Cowbirds that stopped by together, how would you know you aren't just seeing the same bird repeatedly?  Most info I could find was geared toward estimating flocks, not "stationary" watching.

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The experts I've learned from have taught me that you should assume you saw 1 cardinal 6 times. When doing bird counts we never count repeated sightings as separate individuals unless they can be distinguished by other factors (a male and a female, one immature and one in full breeding plumage, one missing its tail feathers and one with a full tail, etc.) or we have traveled far enough that it's reasonable to assume that we're not seeing the same bird. So if we walk a kilometer and see another hummingbird we can assume it's probably not the same one from a kilometer back; but if we see ten vultures flying overhead and later see six more, we count 10 vultures total (the largest number seen at any one time).

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Most people I know stick with the GBBC / eBird rule.

Count the greatest number of birds you see at one time.  If you saw one cardinal every five minutes, you count one cardinal.  If you see three at one time, then just two an hour later, then one after another hour, you count three.  If you see half a dozen cowbirds all at the same time, you count 6.

With birds where the sexes or immatures don't look alike, it gets easier.  Say those first three cardinals you saw all together were all males, but the pair and single bird you saw later were all females.  That's five - three males and two females (the last female may have been one of the previous pair).

Edited by Charlie Spencer
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Thanks.  That was my expectation, just wanted confirmation.  I tend to overthink things...lol

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41 minutes ago, Jodi Nielson said:

Thanks.  That was my expectation, just wanted confirmation.  I tend to overthink things...lol

This is a great discussion for us to have here and will help a lot of people reading along! Thanks for asking ?

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This time of the year, if I only hear one cardinal singing at 5 different spots after a 3 mile hike, I am assuming it is 5 separate birds on territory.  If it is 1 Yellow-rumped Warbler seen in 5 different spots, I'll more likely count it as 1, assuming they all looked the same.

For my yard it is going to be highest single moment count.

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