Checklist Changes

Yellow-rumped Warbler- Myrtle's_Patagonia-AZ_LAH_3751Many serious birders keep a life list of the bird species they’ve seen. We can tell you exactly how many birds are on that list, and there’s great excitement when we can add a new “lifer.” We may also have a list of “target birds,” those not yet seen, and we often spend considerable effort tracking them down. But once a year, we have an opportunity to add a new bird or two without lifting a finger.

All year, ornithologists are busy debating bird taxonomy. They present evidence—behavioral, morphological, a new DNA analysis, etc.—to support their opinions as to which species need to be split into two, which need to be lumped together as one (perhaps as subspecies), which need to be moved to a different genus, and other taxonomic changes. Every July, the AOS (American Ornithological Society) publishes the agreed-upon changes, and we all scramble to update our life lists.

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Making a List

LAH_0464I recently helped two long-time friends become birders. It was a thrill introducing two of my favorite people to a pastime I enjoy so much. We went birding and I offered ID tips. We discussed how to use binoculars, which field guides they might want to purchase, and some of the best places to look for birds. And inevitably, the topic of listing came up.

One friend really wasn’t all that interested in compiling a personal “life list,” but was eager to know what species were on her five acre property. The other friend has a small city lot, unlikely to attract much diversity, but was keen to keep track of the birds seen on our outings. That got me to thinking about all the different ways birders keep lists.

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