clock narrated video about counting birds in flocks.

While aerial surveys during the reproduction season room usually targeting pairs or little groups the waterfowl, surveys during the non-breeding season, such as throughout winter, molt, and also on staging areas, regularly require observers to estimate the variety of birds in flocks. Accurately count the variety of birds in flocks have the right to be challenging - it's a ability that take away practice. The tendency of many observers is to underestimate the number of birds in a flock and usually, the bigger the flock, the less accurate (and low biased) the approximates are.

One method that is regularly used by observers to visually count birds in apricot is to visually rest the flock into units of 10, or 100, or 1000, and also then estimate the variety of "units" in ~ the flock. The very first step is learning exactly how to accurately calculation these smaller units. You want to get a sense of what 10 birds looks like, and also visually pick out another 10, then another, till you've counted the whole flock. Once you've master the 10-count, then shot to get a feeling for what 100 bird looks like, and break bigger flocks right into 100-bird "chunks". However, it's way to originally start v 10-counts due to the fact that flock densities vary and can impact your tardy of numbers of birds.


This takes significant practice to get good at it, and it's ideal practiced prior to you shot to perform it native a aircraft flying low-level in ~ 100 mph. It will be necessary to practice using the features included in this Guide and also the testing features ~ above this internet site until you're may be to do the intuitive estimates relatively quickly when retaining accuracy.

Some duck types are sexually dimorphic (in various other words, males space brightly colored and also females are largely brown). In those flocks, males room far an ext obvious and also there's a tendency to "miss" the darker females, thus underestimating the true variety of birds. For example, below are two photos of apricot - the left photo is of snow geese whereby males and females have similar plumage. The right photograph is the spectacled eiders through whitish males and brownish females. The number of birds in every flock is equal, although the seems favor there are much more snow geese.


When we look closer in ~ the eiders, you deserve to see the there room in fact many brown females in the flock, yet the white plumage of the males swamps the initial visual picture so you don't check out the females together readily, and likely underestimate the total variety of birds.


The magnitude of this prejudice is dependence on the sex proportion within the flock - because that example, flocks written of predominantly males will have reasonably less bias than a flock with a an ext even, or female-skewed, mix of white males and also brown females.

In addition to plumage factors, the tardy of variety of birds can likewise be influenced by the thickness of bird in a flock, contrast with the background setting (land vs sea, sea state, glare), the distributional pattern of the i m crying (clumped versus linear), and the observer's perspective (near-vertical vs varying degrees of obliqueness).

You are watching: How many birds does it take to make a flock

When you encounter large flocks (many hundreds or thousands), it's often far better to paris at higher altitude and estimate native a elevation where friend have an ext time to see the entire flock, and also less likelihood of leading to birds to do the washing up or dive in an answer to the aircraft. For flocks with birds numbering in the thousands or 10s of thousands, aerial photography need to be taken into consideration as a an ext efficient and accurate way of estimating numbers of birds.

In the Test your Counting skills section, you will have actually an possibility to test and hone your ability to accurately and consistently estimate numbers of bird in flocks.

Other Resources

Hodges, J. I. 2014.

See more: How Many Drinks In A Liter Of Vodka, Here'S How Many Shots Are In A Handle

Wildlife Counts: A computerized simulation for learning the ability of wildlife counting estimation.