Do you have an avian wishlist?

Pileated woodpeckers are a major one! They live in my area but they’re very evasive, despite their large size


It took me forever to find one despite birding every day in a supposedly popular pileated location.


For North American birds, I have a lot of “targets” as eBird might say, but the real highlights for me:

  • Cerulean Warbler
  • Black-throated blue warbler
  • Cape May warbler
  • Green jay
  • Black rail
  • Veery
  • Phainopepla
  • Pyrrhuloxia
  • Barn owl
  • Burrowing owl
  • Greater roadrunner

Just to name a few :) For those outside of North America… anything I might be able to get someday!


I’d like to get a proper photo of a Spotted Owl.
The ONE time I saw one, it was sitting on a low branch only about 30 feet from me, in beautiful autumn afternoon sunlight… and I didn’t have my camera.

  • California condor, of course
  • Black Vulture - there’s one that hangs around about an hour’s drive from me, and I’ve made the trip to try to find it 6 times - every time a different misfortune of some kind has befallen me, from car trouble to small family emergencies. The last time I tried to get there early enough to see it before it left its roost tree, and I arrived just in time to see a tree crew finishing cutting down the tree! I don’t know if it still hangs around the area but I’m pretty sure it’s cursed.
  • All the corvids, but especially Canadian Jay

But really, I’m just happy to see any bird I haven’t seen before.
And the birds I have seen before, too.
What can I say, I like birds.


I was recently lucky enough to watch two adult pileated woodpeckers teaching their fledgling how to drill for insects. They chose a nice soft, rotten log right near the trail, and we were able to stand quietly and observe them for almost half an hour. It was absolutely magical.


yep, that vulture does seem cursed!!

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Realizing how blessed I am, to see that some people’s wish lists are almost entirely birds I have already seen

The irony is, while I have yet to see this in its breeding range, I can easily find it in winter in Dominican shade-grown cacao.

Of North American birds, I have to say: Blue-winged Teal. Having spent so much time in its known range, how have I never seen it?

Of birds I would have to travel to see, there are many. I have been to 48 of the 50 states, but one of the two missing ones is Michigan. Kirtland’s Warbler would be a good excuse to go there.

For exotic, distant travel, my bucket list includes ratites in the wild – Emu, Cassowary, Moa, Elephant-bird, Ostrich, or Rhea. (Of course, a couple of those are extinct.) Also, birds-of-paradise. Lastly, as many species endemic to the Amazon as can be found in a single expedition.


Biggest wishes on a country level:
Pied Harrier
Blue-cheeked Bee-eater
Black-bellied Sandgrouse and Pallas’s Sandgrouse
Crested Auklet and Parakeet Auklet
White-winged Redstart
Azure-winged Magpie
Scaly-sided Merganser
Japanese Waxwing
All the Tetraogallus possible and ptarmigans too
Red-faced Cormorant
Spectacled Eider and King Eider
Red-breasted Goose
Black Lark
Steller’s Sea-Eagle
White Spoonbill
Black-legged Kittiwake
Long-tailed Rosefinch

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I have a short list here; unfortunately a lot of my most wanted taxa live way outside my stomping grounds. Of particular (ly infuriating) note is the orange-collared manakin, a CRI endemic which a guide spotted on a hike but which flew away before I could see it. I have no idea when I´ll next be in Costa Rica, so I´m definitely sad I didn´t spot it.

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I could probably just quit if I ever see a Watkin’s Antpitta , let alone get a photo.

if I had to think of a “list” though some real bangers for me would be:

Andean Condor
King Vulture
Andean Cock-of-the-Rock
Long-wattled Umbrellabird
Blue-throated Hillstar


they’re kind of fun in the water, but they will bite and puncture your wetsuit.

There’s a lone Humbolt Penguin, named Miguelito, living on an islote of the coast here, he’s quite curious and inquisitive to say the least, likely out of the extreme boredom of being the only one of his species, surrounded by bull sea lions, living on a tiny rock a few kilometers off the coast…


@Fahoodie1852 Aren’t Greater Spotted Eagles common in the UAE? I thought they’d also be in Qatar.

While I was in the UAE I’m pretty sure somebody pointed out a European Turtle-Dove to me near the Dubai Desert Conservation Area. The guy didn’t seem surprised, so it might be resident there.

I’d love to go back and twitch Hypocolius, which I haven’t done yet. Oh, and Crab Plover.

If only, during my undergraduate days in the UK, I had twitched a Red-eyed Vireo … I missed them all during the big influx of them in 2019.

My more interesting wishlist is of birds which are not rare and which are easy to observe but hard to observe satisfactorily.

For instance, I have flushed Woodcock before, but to me that doesn’t count! I want a good view, ideally to appreciate how different it is from Asian or American endemic woodcocks.

Here in Hong Kong, where I am, I have seen Oriental Cuckoo once perched (regular scarce migrant), and also a Common Cuckoo once perched (second record for HK). However, neither bird showed its underwing which is the best feature for cleanly separating them. Therefore, since I did not hear the call on either visit (unless I wasn’t paying attention - the latter was confirmed by others who heard the call), I cannot tick either!

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Update on this, I’ve since been able to see four of these! Pacific Baza, Topknot Pigeon, Great Cormorant and Eastern Whipbird.


They are somewhat common in winter. Turtle doves breed in the UAE and Kuwait but not in Qatar, however they can be seen here during passage

Now that’s quite a list!

I just realized: to some extent, some of these wishlists may not be just about the bird species, but also about the habitat where one would have to be in order to see them. Like “Synecdoche and the Trout” by David Quammen.

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