How Many Birds Make a Birder?

I am currently reading Of a Feather, a great book about the history of birding, that has inspired me to start actively birding again after not really doing so for almost a year and a half. In it the author discusses statistics that claim over 60 million folks are birders. He goes on to say this is a very liberal number. In its place he looks for a definition of birder that looks at how many birds folks can identify as to whether they are a birder or not.

“If you look at just those who can identify more that twenty sepcies of birds, however–itself a pretty generous definition of a birder–that figure drops to just 6 million, and those able to ID one hundred species number a few hundred thousand at best.”

This got me thinking. How many species do I think I–as a rusty birder at best–think I could identify sans guide. Here is my list:

  1. Northern Cardinal
  2. Northern Mockingbird (As a Texan, I better be able to identify these.)
  3. Rock Dove
  4. Blue Jay
  5. Mourning Dove (As a child, I wanted one as a pet.)
  6. Canada Goose
  7. Mallard (I remember my Dad and I trying to catch one at Inks Lake to free it from fishing line that had gotten caught in its cracked bill and wrapped it shut; we didn’t succeed.)
  8. Common Loon
  9. Common Coot
  10. Brown Pelican (Thanks to years of visits to Galveston and the TX coast.)
  11. White Pelican
  12. White Ibis
  13. Great Blue Heron (I was obsessed with these guys as a kid; I even wrote a story about “Sam the Great Blue Heron.)
  14. Little Blue Heron (The green legs are a dead giveaway.)
  15. Roseate Spoonbill
  16. American Bittern (My favorite bird when actively birding a few years back.)
  17. Bald Eagle
  18. Black Vulture
  19. Turkey Vulture
  20. Wild Turkey
  21. Common Moorhen
  22. Killdeer
  23. Greater Roadrunner (Another one I saw a lot as a child…particularly on trips to Big Bend and the area.)
  24. Great Horned Owl (My owl knowledge is thanks to Jonah.)
  25. Snowy Owl
  26. Barn Owl
  27. Red-Bellied Woodpecker (There are a lot of these in my neighborhood.)
  28. Pileated Woodpecker (Used to see one frequently at the park down the street.)
  29. Carolina Chickadee (At least when in TX, elsewhere I get it confused with the Black-Capped.)
  30. Tufted Titmouse
  31. European Starling
  32. Eastern Bluebird
  33. American Robin
  34. Cedar Waxwing
  35. Dark-Eyed Junco
  36. Red-Winged Blackbird

So, that’s it. Better than I thought. I went through the Smithsonian Handbook: Birds of North America, a field guide I never really used, and covered names and tested myself. There are many others I got right but I honestly thought they were more guesses. I only counted those I was 100% certain of. There are many more where I can get to between one or the other and can only positively ID with a little help from my Sibley. I am not sure I will ever be good at IDing all those warblers and sparrows. Maybe, that is why I am such a fan of shorebirds and the fertile birding grounds near the Galveston/Bolivar area. Undoubtedly, this list clearly indicates where I have spent the majority of my time/life.

One Response to “How Many Birds Make a Birder?”

  1. Hmmm. Maybe I’ll do a list of birds I can identify, not sure if I should do US or European birds. I haven’t been doing a lot of birding lately. I even missed the Birdwatch the other weekend.

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