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Seen any “good birds?”

posted by Jerry Liguori at
on Tuesday, March 1, 2011 

One question I hate when I run across birders is “seen any good birds”? In my opinion, they’re all good. I know people usually mean “have you seen any rare birds”, but still, why is the interest only in rare birds so predominant? I admit, I am biased to look at birds that eat other birds. I can watch Red-tailed Hawks all day and be “giddy” doing it, but that’s just my personal interest. So why does it bug me when others are only interested in looking for rarities? I understand if a rare bird is reported and easy to ‘chase’, why people go to see it…especially if it is a ‘lifer.” I get it, and the fact that I don’t chase rarities doesn’t make me cooler than anyone else. Maybe it bugs me when a person’s main goal is to find rarities in the hopes of boosting their reputation or being recognized. Believe me, I know this is not the agenda of most birders, most birders love all aspects of birding. I just hate the “seen any good birds” question. Ya know what…I gotta get over it!

Just one more thing…I hate the term “warbler neck.” Anyone who has ever spent a 12-hour day looking at high-flying hawks knows it is much more of a strain on your neck than looking at warblers for an hour in the woods….”warbler neck”, seriously? But, the absolute worst question to ask someone, albeit very common, is “are you sure?” Why don’t you just say what you really mean…“I don’t believe you.” And if they are viewing the same bird as you and ask “are you sure?”; it just means they’re not sure. Oh, and don’t tell me ’’I need that” after I mention a particular bird I just saw...spare me. Actually, I don’t mean some of what I say, its just fun to rant…so have fun back and tell me your thoughts. Here's 2 species (above) I've seen in Utah.

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Anonymous Drew said...

Hey Jerry, I think the "seen any good birds" question is legit. I have no problem finding the expected birds, so I am not going to ask for your help there. I don't value the rare birds more than the common ones, I just need help finding the rare ones because they are, well, kinda rare.

Maybe it would help if we change the question to "Seen anything unusual?"

March 1, 2011 at 2:07 PM  
Blogger Jeff Bilsky said...

Hey Jerry - Seen any good birds in your yard? I have terrible warbler neck from trying to tick off all these birds I need for my list. I kid!!

March 1, 2011 at 2:15 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Jerry: Seen any good birds lately? j/k I couldn't help myself. I find myself asking that when I run into people I know. I do enjoy seeing rare birds, and less common birds, and my reason is if I get to a birding location and there are others there they might be able to point me in the direction for something that I really want to see, or is more interesting to me. It really is subjective though, because a good bird to me is different from a good bird to you, or Jeff, or Carl, or David Sibley, or Paul Lehman. Everyone has different "good birds".

It's a lot like someone asking what the ID of a bird is an me replying, it's JUST a... To me it may just be a so-and-so bird, but to them it may be something more exciting, or have more meaning.

Note to self, never say "oh it's just a "red-tailed Hawk" while birding with you. :)

March 1, 2011 at 2:28 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

Oh yeah, love that Myrtle! Here's my fav shot of one:

Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler

I like this one a lot too:

Myrtle Yellow-rumped Warbler

March 1, 2011 at 2:34 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

This post reminds me of a related phenomenon typically expressed as, "What are you looking at?" This question comes from hikers, bikers and even motorists who are suckered in by a couple birders with bins up--who then act pissed when they find out it's "only a bird." The disappointment is indirectly proportional to the size of the bird.

A couple friends of ours only enjoy big birds. Maybe the forum can help. Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street?

March 1, 2011 at 3:22 PM  
Anonymous m is for mike said...

Yo Jerry, what if you reversed the question and asked, "seen any bad birds?"

Re: "warbler neck": I've never heard that term, but think I came down with it last week after looking for early season eagle activity. It's really fun to lock on to a far away bird, hoping it will give you a piece of the nesting puzzle...then a half hour later your bins muscles (also early season) are screaming, but you're in no man's land - too invested to quit, but to spasmed out to keep it up. Then it drops behind a ridge and poof, it's gone. Rats. But, even though the puzzle didn't get solved, at least another piece is in place.

Back to the main topic - if you happen to see a good Gyrfalcon moving through, point me in the right direction so I can check it off my list. (don't actually have a list, but would start one if that bad bird was the lead off hitter)

March 1, 2011 at 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know Jerry, I'd had warbler neck on several occasions, but never hawk neck. The comments remind me of an early memory of birding at Pt. Pelee when everyone was asking me, "Have you seen LeConte's!"
Strange bunch we are.

March 1, 2011 at 5:33 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

Good comments....this is exactly why I posted it. Love hearing what people have to say about birding stuff and situations. And believe me, "seen any good birds" hardly bugs me, but I can think of a few things that really do.


March 1, 2011 at 6:17 PM  
Blogger Tim Avery said...

@Jessica: "What are you looking at?" Perhaps my favorite story of someone asking this was from an Indiana birder names Jeff McCoy I used to lake watch with; one morning he was on the shore of Lake Michigan and a car pulled up and the guy inside asked, "what are you looking at?" With no hesitation, he replied, "We are volunteers, searching for the al-Queda Navy!" The gentleman in the car wasn't amused, but it strikes me to this day as one of the funniest responses to the question! I've always wanted to tell people I am whale watching when they ask me along the causeway. Like the huge flock of shorebirds in front of me isn't a clue :)

March 2, 2011 at 9:06 AM  
Blogger Unknown said...

I'm glad this is such a "safe" place for people to expose their pet peeves to public ridicule. It is very healthy!

March 2, 2011 at 12:34 PM  
Anonymous Jerry Liguori said...

I've refrained from posting some rants out of fear of people getting upset for one reason or another. Part of birding is the stories, attitudes, and the like.

March 2, 2011 at 1:27 PM  
Blogger Jessica said...

@Tim: Love the whale response! Wonder how many folks would believe you...

March 2, 2011 at 3:26 PM  
Blogger Just My Take said...

Last year someone reported an "alligator" in a pond near Lake Ontario (Here in Canada). It turned out to be a log or some debris but the buzz stayed around for a while. We were out lake watching a few weeks later and 2 groups of people asked us - in all seriousness - if we were out to catch the alligator. Good times.

On the "good birds" rant...I almost dislike it more when some random birder at a birding hotspot starts chatting me up about some kickass robin in his yard...and goes on with some elaborate story about feeders and chickadees...when I'm trying to look for migrants. Sometimes I do get sick of the devaluing of common birds by birders and enjoy looking at a robin and chatting about it. But sometimes its painful...

March 6, 2011 at 8:25 PM  

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