Listing & Listers

Not all listers are twitchers…

Many (but by no means all) birders are inveterate list keepers. Some settle for a world life list… a list of all the species of birds they have seen at home and abroad, others will also keep a list of their home country (see the UK 400 club website) and separate lists for each country they have visited. Still others will keep a list of every state or county and one just for their patch. Others keep year lists; a list of all the species seen in any one year — usually in the home country.

Some indulge their need for lists in almost bizarre ways keeping lists of birds seen in non-birding TV programmes; birds seen from toilet windows or even birds seen whilst caught short!

Perhaps it is all about competing with other birders – wanting to be champion birder of the world or your own backyard. Maybe, and I think this is more likely the case, it is a form of collecting. From my point of view it is far better to collect records of sightings than follow the collectors of the Victorian era by collecting specimens of the birds themselves or, and some evil morons still do this, collecting their unborn young!

For some this is not sufficient record and they must take photographs of every species they see… I am glad someone does as it adds to my enjoyment greatly to see portraits of my favourite birds (well any birds really). It is still only done by a minority of birders… something non-birders find hard to believe. I have lost count of the number of times when I have revealed my obsession to a non-birder that I have been asked if I take pictures of them. It seems that people who don’t bird-watch assume that there must be some sort of end product or the pursuit cannot be rationally explained. I usually counter by asking them if they take pictures of whatever pastime they indulge in… such as do you take pictures of the little ball falling down the hole after you have hit it with that stick when talking to golfers.

In the UK 400 species seen is regarded as the goal [the Fat Birder is stuck at 375) and less than this figure means you will not even make the league tables. In most English counties a target of 250 is set for the ambitious (Fatbirder’s Home County (Kent) list is 301]. We would love to hear from other countries what the target is.

I do not know what the target is for a world list. I believe that there are now considered to be around 10,500 species and that at least three birders have notched up 9500+ ticks. Currently, (July 2019) the list is headed by the Swede Claes-Göran Cederlund on 9,622! [iGoTerra includes 57 heard only] The two others (Brits) are Philip Rostron (9607) [Seen\ and the late John Hornbuckle (9600) [Seen IOC]. At least ten people are past 9000 and 24 passed 8500.

Phoebe Snetsinger had seen 85% of the world’s birds. Phoebe had a working list of about 10270. It didn’t matter whether she worked on this list, Clements 9800 or the 1976 Gruson list of 8600, the percentage still came out as 85%. It was of course an incredible achievement and one, which looked unlikely to be exceeded as she continues to collect ticks post mortem as various sub-species are elevated.  Unsurprisingly a number of the world listers in the top twenty are full time bird tour guides.

Surfbirds have put up a league table of the top World listers that anyone can add oneself to and wikipedia has a list too. For anyone new to our pastime (obsession) please bear in mind that a long list of species seen is only one motivation for taking up birding, and this is only the case for some birders. Many leading ornithologists do not keep lists of any sort!


Dutch Listers …feedback from Pim A. Wolf submitted the following on Friday, February 4, 2000

Holland has it’s listers too, birders lists with less than 350 species in NL are seen as unremarkable despite the small size of the country and shorter national list than the UK. The ranking is sorted out by Leo Heemskerk and regularly updated on the Dutch Birding Association Website. Some more statistics, highest scoring woman is Anja Nusse at 417 (45 in the total ranking). There are 104 Dutch Birders with over 400 species in the Netherlands. Remember the Netherlands are roughly the size of southeast England. This is almost as large as the chunk from Norwich via Northampton through Reading south to Portsmouth. The only serious competition for the British are the French but I have no idea what number their top listers are at. – Pim Wolf (no 109 at a rather low 398 in 23 years of birding). Our top listers at the time of writing were:

1: Klaas Eigenhuis 436; 2: Gerard Steinhaus 435; 3: Aart Vink 434; 4: Hans ter Haar 433; Jan van der Laan 433; Alexander Buhr 433; 7: Cock Reijnders 432; *: Wim Wiegant 431; 9: Enno Ebels 430; 10: Edward van IJzendoorn 429

This page is sponsored by iGoTerra - Listing Software that does it all!

Useful Reading
  • Birding on Borrowed Time

    | by Phoebe Snetsinger | American Birding Association (ABA) | 2003 | Paperback | | 307 pages (including 45 illustrations | ISBN: 9781878788412 Buy this book from
  • Birds New to Britain and Ireland

    | Edited By: JTR Sharrock and PJ Grant | T & AD Poyser Ltd (A & C Black) | 2010 | Hardback | 277 pages, b/w plates, b/w illustrations, b/w distribution maps | ISBN: 9781408138465 Buy this book from
  • Chasing Birds Across Texas

    | (A Birding Big Year) | By Mark T Adams | Texas A & M University Press | 2006 | Paperback | 254 pages, 15 colour photos, b/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9781585442966 Buy this book from
  • Kingbird Highway

    | (The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder) | by Kenn Kaufman | Houghton Mifflin | 2006 | Edition 2 | Paperback | 318 pages, b/w illustrations, maps | ISBN: 9780618709403 Buy this book from
  • The Big Twitch

    | by Sean Dooley | Allen & Unwin [Australia] | 2006 | Paperback | 322 pages, no illustrations | ISBN: 9781741145281 Buy this book from
  • The Big Year

    | by Mark Obmascik | Profile Books | 2011 | Paperback | 320 Pages | ISBN: 9780857500694 Buy this book from
  • The Biggest Twitch

    | (Around the World in 4,000 Birds) | By Alan Davies & Ruth Miller | Christopher Helm | 2014 | paperback | 301 pages, 32 pages colour photography | ISBN: 9781472918604 Buy this book from
  • The Jewel Hunter

    | By Chris Gooddie | WILDGuides| 2010 | Paperback | 424 pages | 136 photos & 20 maps | ISBN: 9781903657164 Buy this book from
  • To See Every Bird on Earth

    | (A Father, a Son, and a Lifelong Obsession) | by Dan Koeppel | Penguin | 2005 | Paperback | 278 pages, illustrations | ISBN: 9780141019260 Buy this book from
Birding Aps
  • Bird Journal

    Apple iOS | Android
    | Bluebird Technology Limited | 58.4 MB | Requires iOS 7.0 or later. |

    Bird Journal is the best way to record, explore and share your bird & wildlife observations and experiences. It has thousands of users across the world and works on a variety of devices.
  • Bird Tick List

    Apple iOS |
    | Klee Media | 14.9 MB | Requires iOS 8.0 or later |

    The Bird Tick List. Always in your pocket.
  • eBird

    Apple iOS | Android
    | by Cornell Lab | 58.6 MB | Requires iOS 9.0 or later |

    eBird Mobile makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly link these observations with eBird--a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation. eBird Mobile is the only app that passes information directly from the Android device to your eBird account on the web. Features - Track your bird sightings from anywhere in the world. - View your Life, Year, and Month lists for any region or nearby location. - Full global taxonomy based on The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World. - Common names available in 41 languages and regional versions (e.g., Portuguese names in Brazil or in Portugal). - Checklists customized for your location and time of year, showing most likely species based on eBird data. - Real-time feedback on whether a sighting is rare in the area. - Quick entry tools to make note-taking faster than ever before. - GPS enabled location plotting and tracking options. - Map tools that show you hundreds of thousands of eBird Hotspots. - Full offline functionality, enabling use in places with limited or no Internet connection. - Entire app translated to Bulgarian, Czech, Danish, German, Spanish, Finnish, French, Hebrew, Croatian, Khmer, Norwegian, Dutch, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Serbian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish, Ukrainian, Chinese (Simplified), and Chinese (Traditional).
  • Pan-species Listing

    Welcome to pan-species listing.
Other Links
  • British Birds Rarities Committee

    The BBRC is the official adjudicator of rare bird records in Britain. It publishes its annual report in the monthly journal British Birds.…
  • Bubo Listing

    BUBO Listing is a new approach to an old activity; comparing birding lists. Whilst frowned upon by the more serious-minded, bird listing in Britain is as vibrant, active and exciting as ever. Put two birders in a room together and before too long they'll know if the other saw the Long-billed Murrelet! There have been a number of attempts to enable comparison of lists on the internet, some local and others at the national level or wider. Whilst all have positive sides, they all have disadvantages too. BUBO Listing is an attempt to provide a free, flexible and widely used site for the comparison of birding lists, initially in Britain but later abroad too. The more people that use BUBO Listing, the better it will become for all users
  • Changes to the ABAs Recording Rules

    A few days ago the ABA quietly announced updates from its revived Recording Standards & Ethics Committee to the ABA Recording Rules - the guidelines for when a birder can and can't "count" a bird on his or her lists. The updates are the first since 2004, and several important changes were made along with many minor ones....
  • Club 4500

    World Class Twitchers (website in Dutch)
  • EcoRegistros - Community Ecological Records

    Community wildlife watchers, reports, species sheets and maps…..
  • List Reports

    This is the ABA official lists - list world birders as well as by all regions and US etc… here is where you can see how your rivals are faring…
  • Patchwork Challenge

    The Hub of the Patchwork Challenge Competition - British & Irish Patch birding competition
  • Spotter Jotter

    Facebook Page is the only site you need to record, search for, and upload pictures of your UK wildlife sightings. If you are visiting a Wildlife Trust, RSPB, or any other natural location, then you can use Spotterjotter to record your sightings and search for everything that has been seen there already.
  • The Life List

    Most serious birders compile a Life List. It's a list of all the bird species they've identified with absolute certainty during their whole lifetime of serious birding. Being "serious" implies knowing about look-alike species and subspecies, the various plumage states, and having a systematic-enough mind to not be sloppy and haphazard when it comes to making the lists
  • UK 400 Club Rare Bird Alert

    This is the UK400 Club Rare Bird Alert highlighting all records of avian interest and published in association with Rare Bird Alert Pagers and utilising additional information gleaned from the Regional Birdlines, BirdGuides, local email groups and individual observers
  • Year and Life List Rankings

    Welcome to a new and fun program on Surfbirds. Enter yourself into any or all of the Year and Life List Rankings below and share your milestones with others and maybe even enjoy some friendly competition. As we add more and more regions, this will become the largest database of its kind and a great way to share your milestones with the rest of the birding world. Even if you`re a casual birder who isn`t that list obsessive, this is still a great way to share, with others, some of the more exciting new birds you`ve just seen. If you`re a keen lister, get the worldwide recognition you deserve for your achievements. It only takes a minute, updating is instant, so enter yourself today and keep updating your entry as often as you want!
  • Zest for Birds

    Twitching is increasing in popularity in Southern Africa and there is now a dedicated group of people who try to see as many birds as they can within the sub-region. It is not uncommon these days to hear of a group that travel from one end of the country to the other to chase after a rare bird and with the advent of cell phones and the SA Rare Bird Alert list server, this is becoming reasonably commonplace. Southern Africa currently has a list of just over 930 species recorded within its boundaries and the group of people listed below have all seen at least 700 of these.
  • eBird

    eBird, a project developed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, provides a simple way for you to keep track of the birds you see anywhere in North America. You can retrieve information on your bird observations, from your backyard to your neighborhood to your favorite bird-watching locations, at any time for your personal use. You can also access the entire historical database to find out what other eBirders are reporting from across North America. In addition, the cumulative eBird database is used by birdwatchers, scientists, and conservationists who want to know more about the distributions and movement patterns of birds across the continent
  • iGoTerra

    iGoTerra is simply the most powerful tool in the world to manage all the lists you want to keep track of: Birds, mammals, plants, butterflies; we have them all and you can keep lists for each and every country, state and even your backyard!

Fatbirder - linking birders worldwide... Wildlife Travellers see our sister site: WAND

Skip to content