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Do you keep a Life List? Do you know what a Life List is? While many people who love birds aren’t familiar with the term life list, they often, unknowingly, have one. A life list is simply a list of birds (or any particular “thing”) that you have seen or heard before. The list can be as simple or complex as one wants it to be.

One list can’t be that hard to keep up with – right? Which list do you mean? The term life list generally refers to all of the birds you have ever seen – anywhere. For many people this soon turns into a “Yard List”, a “Missouri List”, a “Lower 48 States List” a “North America List” and a “World List”. I have read about people who even have a list for birds they have seen in zoos, on television and even in magazines.

Are there rules for keeping a life list? Yes and no. If you are the type of person who wants to truly compare your list with others, you should abide by a set of listing standards established and kept by the American Birding Association. If your list is purely a personal thing, list as you want. For goodness sakes, I know someone who put a bird on her life list just because the dream she had about it was so real!

I didn’t start keeping a life list when I first got hooked on birding but I sure wish I had. Like many people, I started by placing a simple checkmark beside the picture in my field guide. Soon I realized I should probably write in the date and place. The reality of this flawed system set in when my backpack containing my binoculars, field guide and “life list” was stolen. Once I got “serious” about “the list” I ordered the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Birder’s Life List and Diary. I sifted through all of my scraps of paper, notes from Ornithology class field trips, etc. and started from scratch. Since that day, I have guarded that book carefully. While today I am using The Birder’s Diary life list software program, I still keep that old book up to date and in a fire safe box at home.

On this page is a list of birds that we have been keeping for the shopping center itself. Even this “urban parking lot” has had a Bald Eagle and a Tennessee Warbler. Do yourself a favor, break out a notepad or other medium and start writing down the birds you know you have seen in your yard, then add new birds as they come along. It can be addictive.

By Mark McKellar