The fine art of Listing

Many birders out there are what are called “Listers”. Most birders keep a “Life List”, that’s a list of all the species of birds that one has seen in a lifetime. There is an estimated 10,000 bird species in the world and I believe the record number of birds on a life list is 8,400. That record is held by a woman from Missouri, who died a few years ago in a van accident in Madagascar while she was pursuing her beloved birds. Phoebe Snetsinger dedicated her life to it, and you can read about her here. One would really have to travel non-stop to achieve a respectable number, and a lot of money wouldn’t hurt either!

But for us normal birders, keeping a State list and a Yard list have to suffice. Believe me, I do have a life list, but the list that I’m really working on right now is my Minnesota State list. I have 288 bird species on my MN list and my goal is 300, and I’ve had to travel to the far reaches of Minnesota for that number. Minnesota as a state has some pretty varied habitat. From the bluffs of the Mississippi River in the southeast to the grass plains of western MN to the boreal forests of the northeast, Minnesota has a list of 312 birds that regularly occur here. There are also 42 species that are considered Casual (Accepted records in 3 to 7 years out of the past ten years), and 76 species that are Accidental (Accepted records in two, one, or no years out of the past ten years), but really the possibility of Accidentals are endless. Compare those statewide numbers to the Superior National Forest list of birds which include 220 regular species, 22 casual, and 21 accidental for a total of 261. Right now Kim Eckert holds the record for most bird species seen in Minnesota at 404.  

Some birders also keep County lists – that is usually reserved for the advanced birder who has already achieved 300 State birds. Lists are also kept that track the number of birds seen in a year – and one MN birder has achieved a record number of 10 years in a row where he has seen at least 300 birds in MN in a calendar year. The MN Ornithologists Union sends out a yearly “Listing and Recording Supplement” in which the names and numbers are noted. Other lists that people keep are County and Statewide Big Days, Birdathons, Species seen in all 12 months, Species seen in all 87 Counties, just to name a few.

Keeping lists may seem arbitrary and a little compulsive, but it aids the memory and also helps keep those recollections alive. Just last week, that was brought home to me as I was cleaning out a closet. I was throwing a bunch of stuff out when I came across an old spiral notebook. It was nothing special and mostly had notes in it about gardening. But there were also lists of birds that I had taken note of when I went on a couple trips to the western United States. Ah Hah!, there were a few birds on those lists that I hadn’t remembered seeing like the Yellow-billed Magpie in California (as opposed to our Black-billed Magpie). Yipee! There were several birds I could add to my Life List! The lists also jogged my memory about specific things that happened on those trips back in 1989, 20 years ago!


Hawk Owl

Hawk Owl

My Crane Lake Yard List just got a little longer last week when the Northern Hawk Owl showed up in my front yard.

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