by Marilyn and Keith Davis

"How High Can You Count?"


blackbirds in flight         Blackbird numbers have always been kept in balance by the lack of a winter food supply - until man and modern farming techniques made huge one crop fields possible. These huge fields of crops made wintering successful, even for extraordinarily large flocks of birds.

How high can you count? The other day my Honey read an article about the size of Blackbird flocks that winter in the southern United States. The article mentioned that one flock consisted of eight million birds. This peeked his interest. He then found the largest flock ever seen was a flock of fifteen million
Blackbirds in the vicinity of the Great Dismal Swamp, located on the border of North Carolina. Wow! What would a farmer do if he saw a humongous flock of birds descending on his land for a little ‘R&R’ (rest and re-cooperation)?

The question is, . . . is it possible to count that many birds anyway . . . in one place? Expert Birders have their own way of counting. Maybe they would sort out a number of birds and then take that unit and duplicate it across the flock. With new uses of photography and computer programs even more accurate counts are possible. ‘Guesstiments’ by great birders with a lifetime of birding experience also works well. Whatever it takes, it is important to see what is happening in the bird world. Birds are still the number one best method of insect control.

Blackbirds that you see in our area of the US come in a variety of Red-winged, Brewers, Yellow-headed, and Tricolored. There are always a few Brown-headed Cowbirds in the mix where they are disguised as good birds. I love their songs and their enterprising ways for survival. They do a great job keeping the summer insect populations down. I am thankful I am not a farmer hosting a stopover place for some of the huge migrating flocks in eastern United States.

If you have an interest in birds or bird behavior, attend one of our monthly Red Cliffs Audubon General Meetings or Field Trips, every second Wednesday of the month, and the following Saturday. For more information call 435 673-0996 or go to . Let us teach you about birds so you can participate in one of the upcoming Christmas Bird Counts in December. See if you can count how many birds are in the picture.

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