Thursday, January 26, 2012

"Tons" of Birds

Like many people, too often I'll use the word "ton" to indicate a large quantity of something. In birding it's not unusual to hear the expression, "There were tons of (insert bird species here) in the park today." Back in the early days of this blog I wrote a mildly humorous piece on the subject reposted here:

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A Ton of Kinglets

I have a bad habit of referring to a large quantity of birds as a "ton" of birds. For example, within the last week large numbers of Ruby-crowned Kinglets have been moving through Prospect Park. These tiny, energetic birds have been eating their way through the park on their way north. When a friend asked me about the recent status of the migration in the park I reported to him that there were suddenly a ton of kinglets around.

I began to think about my use of the specific quantitative evaluation when it probably would have been more accurate if I had used more general terms like "abundant" or "fairly common". Could there have been literally a ton of those four inch long balls of feathers in Prospect Park's 526 acres? I decided to do the math.

The "Sibley Guide to Birds" lists the average weight of a Ruby-crowned Kinglet as 6.5 grams. There is a little over 453 grams to a pound:

453.59237 * 2000 = 907184.74
907184.74 / 6.5 = 139566.8830769231

Number of Ruby-crowned Kinglets it takes to equal a ton = 139,567.

It seems unlikely that there would ever be a ton of kinglets in Prospect Park. Maybe the next time someone asks I'll just say a busload. The results did start me thinking, though. I wonder how many pounds of bugs 139,000 kinglets could eat in a day...

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With that in mind, fast forward to last week. My friend Sean sent me an email about a huge flock of Common Mergansers that he and a neighbor observed at Canoe Brook Reservoir #3 in New Jersey. He followed that up with the following note:

From: Sean Sime
Date: January 21, 2012
Subject: you would appreciate

So after my neighbor Andy and I saw that merganser flock I get a text from him saying that if a merganser is just over 3lbs on average, there must have been about 10 tons of duck out there!

Having tried in vain for years-to see a ton of birds with you, it was sad to finally reach this goal without you.

ss

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