If you hang out with birders for any length of time, you’ll eventually come upon the term, “lifer.” In a sentence, you’ll hear it used like “That bird was a lifer for me.”
Simply put, a lifer is a bird you observe for the first time. Most birders keep lists (life lists) and every time they encounter a new bird, it’s added to the list. Upon first sighting, birders claim a “lifer.”
Technically, for a bird to be considered a lifer it needs to be observed in the wild – and while alive. Birds in zoos don’t count.
“Life birds” are very important to serious birders. Dedicated birders have been known to save up their vacations to go bird watching to acquire new lifers.
A life bird can be any bird species at all that the birder sees for the first time. Some birders have specific lists they’re working on with species that are rare or difficult to spot in the wild. Each person’s list is an individual creation. For me, a bird makes my life list if I can take a full-frame picture of it. While I have probably seen three to four times more birds than occupy my list, I only count the birds I’ve successfully made publishable photographs of.
I’ll mention this beautiful scaled quail (Callipepla squamata) as an example of a lifer for me. I encountered this bird near the Mexican border, in southern Texas. I was sitting in a blind photographing warblers and song birds. The blind was position next to a pond which helped my cause because the birds would come for the water. While I was sitting there – up walked this incredible quail, in perfect light, to pose for me for all of ten seconds. I have never seen one since, but he’s on my list.
How about you? Do you have a favorite lifer you’d like to talk about? Leave a comment and know that next week, I’ll talk about
I hope you’ve enjoyed this episode of Avian Beauty. Thanks for listening. Be sure to visit avianbeauty.com for more bird inspiration and information and please consider subscribing (for free) to our blog and podcast. I’m Scott Bourne. Happy birding.
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Scott Bourne is an Olympus Visionary, a professional bird/wildlife photographer, author and lecturer who specializes in birds. He is a pioneer in digital photography and was named one of the “30 most influential photographers on the Web” by Huffington Post. His photographic experience spans four decades and his bird/wildlife images have been published in more than 200 magazines and periodicals. He is also a Signed Master at Studio of Masters in China.
Scott has been a founder, co-founder, advisor or early stage investor in several technology companies such as NetRadio, Photofocus, and ViewBug.