Your target birds, which are hard to see but not rare?

There are many birds which are not exactly rare, but of which I simply haven’t had tickable views, i.e. views that are adequate enough for me to put them on my list. It sometimes bewilders me.

For my current hometown of Hong Kong:

  • Siberian Blue Robin (So many of my peers have photographed this regular passage migrant successfully this autumn, yet I have only had the briefest of views: not good enough!)

  • Eurasian Eagle Owl (Resident, but almost impossible to find. I did once see the silhouette of a big bird at twilight, flying slowly and heavily. It happened to be a suitable habitat for Eagle Owl, but because of the possibility of Brown Fish Owl I couldn’t confirm what it was I saw.)

  • Spoon-billed Sandpiper (There are at least a couple of records every year, out in the northern mudflats. The trick is to receive the notification, and then to drop everything and rush there. I haven’t managed that so far. A photographer to whom I spoke said that in a certain week in spring he went to the mudflats every day from Monday to Saturday, hoping but failing to find a Spoon-billed Sandpiper. On Sunday he decided to give himself a break, and it was on that day that one appeared.)

  • Indian Cuckoo (For a bird that calls so insistently in spring, it is extraordinary how unlikely you are to see one perched in clear view. Indeed, until this year, I had not had a proper view of Large Hawk Cuckoo, another bird that has a familiar call to all Hong Kong birders.)

Let me know what your list would be!

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Watkins Antpitta
it’s distinctive call is impossible to miss, but they’re rarely seen.


Each and every owl I haven’t seen or heard, no matter how much I look at the trees they’re just not there.
Azure Tit – need to visit specific places where they’re found, but had no opportunity to do that.
Wood Lark – lives in forests and sits somewhere on top of trees, no matter how much I try I don’t see or hear it.
Siberian Rubythroat – some vagrants are found regularly in Europe and as I remember last year it was seen in Moscow, also looked for it in its native range, found most muscicapids I aimed for, but not this little guy.

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New Englander here -
Great Horned Owl
Barred Owl
Screech Owl (any)
Glossy Ibis
Wood Duck (not too rare but a nice find)
Hermit Thrush
Northern Parula
any Vireo species


I’m doing my darndest to get a photo of the Magnolia Warbler. I saw some flitting around in the tops of pines this morning but they were so high up that it was impossible to get a photo or even get a good look at them. I only know they were Magnolia because of the tail pattern.
They’re here but it’s impossible to get a good look at them!

My checklist of secretive camo birds that are common where I live (not including songbirds)
:x: Least Bittern
:x: American Bittern
:x: King Rail
:heavy_check_mark: Clapper Rail
:heavy_check_mark: Yellow Rail
:heavy_check_mark: Virginia Rail
:heavy_check_mark: Sora
:heavy_check_mark: American Woodcock
:heavy_check_mark: Wilson’s Snipe
:heavy_check_mark: Chuck-Will’s-Widow
:heavy_check_mark: Great Horned Owl
:heavy_check_mark: Barred Owl
:heavy_check_mark: Eastern Screech-Owl
:heavy_check_mark: Northern Bobwhite


Oh yeah, Bobwhites! I’d love to see one of those.

I still have yet to actually see a Veery, despite hearing them rather often.


I’ve seen most of the bird species that occur in my area. However there are a few migrants that are somewhat rare for my area, but for which my home county usually has at least one sighting per year. The ones I haven’t yet seen (in order of freqency in my home county):

  • Vesper Sparrow
  • Connecticut Warbler
  • Nashville Warbler
  • Wilson's Warbler: We just had a sighting last week, but I was unable to relocate it. UPDATE: finally found one!
  • Least Flycatcher: I undoubtedly have seen one of these, but unless they vocalize I record them as Empid sp.
  • Bank Swallow
  • Black-billed Cuckoo: I make sure to double check every Yellow-billed Cuckoo during migration in the hopes of finding my first.
  • Warbling Vireo
  • Clay-colored Sparrow

I still haven’t seen a Northern Saw-whet Owl.


Pallas’ gull
Eurasian oystercatcher
Northern lapwing
Turtle dove

I just don’t live near where they come and though my area used to attract migratory species the urbanisation has really begun to discourage them


Colorado here (Denver / Boulder Metro). Downy Woodpecker and all three varities of nuthatches (White-breasted, Red-breasted, and Pygmy.) I have a frustrating fascinaton with trying to photograph things that don’t particularly like to hold still.

On the other hand, I probably have one of the top collections of birdie butt photos in the Western Hemisphere. :woman_shrugging:


“Target birds” would imply that I go out looking for them, and I don’t, but there are some birds I am always excited to find, although they’re not rare. They include Williamson’s Sapsucker, White-headed Woodpecker, Lewis’ Woodpecker, and Pygmy Nuthatch (which I did see recently: ).

And then there’s the Black Rail, which I’ve never seen and probably never will, but it would be SO cool if I did.


Good news for myself: I have managed to photograph a Siberian Blue Robin.


Apparently there are red-headed woodpeckers in my county and community, and one of my friends even saw one, but I’ve never once spotted even a glimpse of one. Also, all owl species other than the barred owl. Also-- keel-billed toucans. Not local, but while I’ve been in their native range for about 4-5 weeks combined in the past few years I’ve never seen once.


We refer to birds we are targeting, which are reasonable to see, but that elude us as “nemesis birds.” We allow only one at a time, though it’s all in fun.

We found the last two of our Nemesis birds. One decided to winter at our local park!
Northern Goshawk:

The other was Bohemian Waxwing last winter, which decided to fly over us as we were looking for them. We got neither photo nor audio recording because our birding partner and we were stuck up to our waists in a snow drift!

Current nemesis: We have gone looking for Boreal Owls in their boreal habitats at least eight times, one of which was following reports of one posing for hours at some bird feeders. No luck. Once we were headed to a remote spot to look/listen for them but were dissuaded by a local guide we ran across who talked us into pursuing reports of a Great Gray Owl instead (not a lifer). While we did find the Great Gray, the guide went to the spot he talked us out of—and found a Boreal Owl. Suspicious? You betcha! We have to drive more than 3 hours to get to the southern tip of their range. The pursuit will hopefully continue this winter!

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This is no longer true, I got to see one recently!

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Not a target bird now as I’ve since seen one, but the Eastern Whipbird. They’re ludicrously common in suitable habitat, just enter any rainforest and you’re bound to hear several of them calling, but they’re very difficult to spot, being very secretive and tend to stay in dense vegetation. I ended up seeing two on the same day at Mabi Forest in Atherton, but no pics as I could not get the camera to focus through the vegetation. They’re cool little birds, they way they run around reminds me of a miniature velociraptor!


As far as I’m concerned, they’re all hard to see. I’m not a birder, but the birding I do, I do by ear. :-)

Brown creepers. To be fair I see them fairly regularly but they are almost impossible to get a good photo of. A little brown bird that creeps up and down the the bark of fir trees in a dimly lit forest is almost as hard to photograph as a ghost.

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