What are your personal bird list rules?

I’m at 243 (all in the US). I’m a student, and I haven’t gotten the chance to go birding outside the US. I don’t count audio unless it’s a nocturnal species, which is challenging to photograph. It may not be a lot, but I’ve photographed 3 lifers already this year! My list would be much larger if I didn’t care so much about recording plants, insects, mollusks, etc. :man_shrugging:

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I consider myself a hardcore, possibility militant birder, and I absolutely love that term.

It’s indicative of the reality faced by these lone migrants, as “cool” as it is to see a bird hundreds or thousands of miles off range, they’re probably not living their “best life”

The lone humbolt penguin living on Islote Pelado, off the southern continental coast of Ecuador that I have probably mentioned here a few times, is MIA as of late…

I can’t believe no one has posted (even from my team) an observation, I will try to complete one soon for proof he was actually there :]

I had a blast swimming with him though, his choice not mine, he was more curious than a sea lion whenever I was around the islote.

I bet his life was rough out there, living without a mate, on an tiny islote populated mostly by south american sea lions.

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You can’t help but feel some sadness for these lone vagrant birds even while enjoying the sighting as a rare event.

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Well, it’s true that bird guides do not have checkboxes for them; but my Peterson Guide does have a set of blank lines at the end of the checklist, under the heading “Accidentals, Strays, and Others.” So they count “in my book” (pardon the pun).

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Heard, seen, identified later by me or confirmed by others all count. The important part is the bird was there, and it is part of the data now. I know looking at my list the ones that were less than ideal. The Northern Goshawk that took confirmation from Jerry Ligouri, stands out.

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Well I went against my own advice and bought a second hand scope. I’ve added another two lifers already that I wouldn’t have seen with the binoculars. The only problem now is that people keep asking me “Seen anything interesting?” and I’m never sure how to answer. I don’t want to disparage common birds by saying no but I’m guessing the more serious birders have a cut-off point where birds become interesting and I’ve no idea where that is yet. 91 species so far this year with spring arrivals due to turn up very soon. After heavy snow and rain this week I’m ready for some fair weather birding now. :cold_face:


Yes. Birds.

If you think robins are intersting, then you can say, “Yes, a robin.” If they disagree, well, then that’s a data point as to where their cutoff point is.

I usually respond with something like “just the usual suspects.” If the person asking is a birder, they’ll know what you mean. If they’re not a birder, they can ask for details if interested, or continue on if they aren’t.

What about a cryptic bird you never saw at the time, but you photographed it by shooting in the direction that another birder indicated? I did that earlier this year when I photo’d an American Bittern I couldn’t see at the time, lurking in reeds, but I found it later in my photos.


I have thought about this one for a while, but I think I would not count it for my lifelist. I would count it as a “photo tick”, but not for lifelist as I did not actually see the bird. Such birds would be put on an eBird list however, as it was confirmed to be present at the location

I’m not a purist so I don’t worry about such a non-observation observation as official/legitimate or not. Besides, I’d seen that bird species in the past.

I did something similar last year when I took a photo of a Cirl Bunting for an iNat observation. I’d taken photos of four of them in different locations that day and wasn’t really paying enough attention. It was only after I uploaded it that I realised it was actually a Yellowhammer and had to change the ID. I rarely see Yellowhammers, maybe once every few years, so I was a bit gutted that I’d overlooked it.

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I have had similar experiences looking at large flocks of waterfowl. It’s only when you look closely at photos and zoom in that you sometimes find a rare bird. I always count new species as life birds. I took the photo in the field but required more time to analyze all I was seeing.

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It’s up to you. Your list, your rules. Just apply them consistently. If you compare lists with others (I don’t recommend it) talk about what rules you each use, so you compare equivalent lists.