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    Much of what has been written on this topic makes sense.    We all =
try to do the best we can. =20
    There was an article in one of the birding magazines about ten years =
ago which described an interesting experiment.  Using a large enclosed =
aviary, experienced birders were told to go inside for a measured amount =
of time and produce an estimate of the number of each species present.  =
This was an aviary which had a large bird population - 25 birds of some =
species, 50 of others, etc.  If we remember rightly, species counts were =
consistently low (circa 60% - to 70%), and longer time periods did not =
improve count accuracy appreciably.
    You can improve your flock size estimation skills with practice.  =
Try the Finnish/Danish bird counting game at

            http://personal.inet.fi/cool/live/birds/index.html.


    With all of this said, we are always amused at the apparent =
precision of some reported counts.  During Christmas Bird Counts for =
instance, a group of observers will see a large flock of starlings in a =
farmyard and agree on a count of 120 individual birds.  Later the same =
group will see a flock of starlings flying overhead and agree that it =
contains 45 birds.  Still later they'll see 4 starlings at a feeder and =
3 more on the ground somewhere else.  At the end of the day, they will =
report that they have seen 172  (120+45+4+3) starlings.  This count will =
be added to that of several other teams to come up with a very precise =
sounding total.  We don't know what the answer to this is; perhaps one =
of our more professional ornithologists would like to weigh in.
    Larry and Mona