Bird Listing Fanatics

By Dave Hanks

I have often been accused of being a bird watcher. Although I spend much time photographing them, along with mammals and other wild life-forms, I don’t even come close to what it entails to be considered a REAL birder. Real birders keep extensive lists. We keep a farm list of all animal forms seen on our place and also document the ones seen on photography excursions – especially those photographed. This helps us to determine whether an area is worth returning to.

But the keeping of lists can get very complicated: life lists, yearly lists, monthly lists, trip lists, geographical lists, birds seen in one’s garden, lists of birds seen out of one’s office window, and I even read of a man who kept a list of birds seen while he was in the nude. Now that is real dedication! The size of one’s list is very important to a real birder – an exercise I gave up a long time ago. We use to go out with groups - more to learn about an area which might provide photo opportunities than to list the birds. Group members strove to list anything they even suspected they had encountered, whether seen or heard. Lists got huge, and I wondered if some of it was imagined.

Bird watching can become a sport. Sporting events adhere to very specific rules. Therefore, keeping a bird list is governed by rules. These rules are set by the American Birding Association and are occasionally modified. Once it was necessary to actually see the species, but that was changed to include those that are also heard. Now that gets a bit “dicey” because if it is a new species to an individual birder, I wonder how he/she can be certain of its identity. Also, competitions are held to see who can list the most in a specific time period.

Bird listing can expand to the listing of mammals, reptiles, insects, flowers, trees – there is no end to what can be listed. I firmly believe that the greatest thing about being interested in birds is what that interest leads to. It leads to opening one’s eyes to everything around you, and a richness, and an increase in knowledge to add to your life.

The bird pictured makes birders excited to add it to their life list, even if they had only briefly glimpsed it or thought they had heard it.

(A GROOVE-BILLED ANI: Casual visitor to the southern USA)