Life Lists

Bird watching is like collecting stamps or toy cars. Lists of birds that have been spotted and identified are called 'life lists'. Smaller or more specialized lists can be maintained as well, such as backyard lists or state lists. A life list is usually a list of all the birds you have seen in your lifetime, and such lists can be quite extensive. It's good to keep records, so you can remember that momentous day when you saw a wild parrot or flamingo in your own yard.

A life list can be a simple list of names on a piece of paper, which is usually how such a list starts out for a beginning birder. But as you become more knowledgeable about local birds, and spot more and more species, these lists can turn into substantial documents. Information like species name, date, time and location are recorded in these lists. Other details like habitat or weather might also be observed. Notes don't have to be complicated. A simple mention of "June 15, 2005: backyard bird feeder" would suffice.

There are published books available that are a combination of bird identification reference and life list journal. Illustrations and details of bird species are included along with space for your notes and sighting details. Books like this are very attractive and practical ways to catalog your bird watching, but you are limited to the species included in any one volume. If you travel, you might find that a more free-form method of recording is necessary since books usually cover only one limited region. 

In the age of computers, life lists can now be stored electronically. There are many software packages on the market today that can be used to record and store a bird watcher's sightings. Some are simple diaries for you to record your data, and some are like the books mentioned above that combine bird identification material along with your records.

More experienced bird watchers view their lists with great pride, much like any other kind of collector. Travel plans are made with life lists in mind, in the never-ending search for new entries. Some bird watchers even publish their lists on the Internet web pages, in order to share them with others. Use a search engine to find these online bird watching lists. Even bird magazines sometimes publish life lists.


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