Checklist S63472603

Sharing links
Location
18650 North Barnes Road, Centralia, Missouri, US (39.174, -92.247)

Owner Joanna Reuter

Other participating eBirders
Traveling
  • 2
  • 0.16 mi
Checklist Comments

Massive blackbird roost in a miscanthus field. This viewing site is along a gravel road with safe places to pull off.

Account of observations leading up to this list: Drove by at approximately 4:45 p.m. and saw a hawk near the miscanthus field but no blackbirds. Continued north on Barnes Rd. Shortly after leaving the hilly/wooded terrain of the Silver Fork valley and entering the flat upland with its expansive views, we started to see a stream of blackbirds well to the east headed in a southerly direction. We drove that direction (east on Hwy CC). Some murmurations broke off from the stream. Saw a group that had settled into trees but then flew again. Did a driving loop from CC to Drew Rd, Ball Rd, Adams Rd, McLane-Dailing Rd and back to Barnes Rd. Road pattern did not let us follow streams of birds, but at least two discrete and substantial streams were heading in the general direction of the miscanthus field, though it seemed that they might be roughly following the drainage network (not taking the most direct route) to get there.

At the miscanthus field: By the time we returned to the area of the miscanthus field, there was no doubt about this being the site of a major roost. Upon our arrival, the peak activity seemed to be just north of Silver Fork, where trees were so full of birds they appeared to be covered in black leaves. Birds were constantly streaming in overhead. See video. As dusk continued to progress, birds from the trees started to rise up and head for the miscanthus. (Each time a flock flew up from the trees, there was an audible "rain" as they emptied excess contents from their digestive systems.) Mind-boggling numbers of birds were flowing in for the entire duration. We eventually proceeded over to the miscanthus field proper; high densities of birds were already settled in the miscanthus with massive numbers still in flight.

Species: Although we saw starlings in the vicinity prior to this list, we were not able to pick out any starlings within the massive group of blackbirds. Common Grackles and Red-winged Blackbirds were certainly both present, but we do not feel confident in estimating ratios.

Numbers:
Approach #1: I'm hoping to do some analysis of photos/videos to get some estimate of the number we observed.

Approach #2: The miscanthus is clearly the main attractant for overnight roosting. I used the Boone County Parcel Viewer to estimate total field area. We observed from the east end of a ~52 acre field; a non-contiguous zone (northwest of Silver Fork Creek and just east of Hwy V) is approximately 33 acres. Our impression was that both areas were being used heavily (based on flight trajectory and previous observations). The total miscanthus area was thus ~85 acres (~3.7 million square feet). It was impossible to get a three-dimensional perspective on the roosting perches, but the birds were packed in very tightly through much of the visible area. Areas visible from the perimeter easily averaged at least one bird per square foot; some field edges were lower but the density seemed far higher in the central part where birds were impossible to distinguish given the sheer volume of the flock and the density of the crop. This would extrapolate to a minimum of 3.7 million birds, assuming uniform density by averaging the edges and center. (Note that this is an attempt to estimate total birds in the roost, not necessarily the number observed for this list.)

After stopping this list, we drove the end of Dunbar Ln, a county-maintained dead-end road. This had a more distant but broader view of the miscanthus field. We watched for perhaps 10 more minutes as birds continued to swirl over the field. We left before activity subsided.

Submitted from eBird Android, version 2.0.6

Observations

  1. diurnal raptor sp.

    Number observed: 1

    Details: unidentified hawk

  2. Number observed: X
  3. Number observed: X
  4. blackbird sp.

    Number observed: X

    Details: Video starting at 5:11 p.m.:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GLsslMAc9sg
    Video at the edge of the miscanthus field starting at 5:22 p.m.:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6rWLAHY_GKY