1000 birds to see before you die

by Gunnar Engblom on March 23, 2009

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A reasonable Life List

Who has not heard of the book “1000 places to see before you die“? That is a bucket list for world travellers. Soon there shall be such a bucket list with 1000 birds for birders. I mean let’s face it. Most of us will not be able to see all the 10,000 birds in the world anyway, so we might as well keep the list somewhat realistic.  Even so, 1000 species is still a darn challenge that will be very hard, because some of the most wanted birds are either very rare, very hard to get to with strenuous walks and climbs, or extremely costly to get to.
But that is alright. Most of the people that bought the book “1000 places” book, will not fill their list either. It is living the dream and to always set a new goal that matters.

I cracked the idea, and now I decided I shall write a book! Nobody gets rich on writing birdbooks, so this will be a hobby project in which you can take part by helping selecting the 1000 species. When the book is done, you will be able to download it for free on our web-site.

Choose 100 birds now!

Which are your top 100 birds in the world that you have seen and want to see. Just download this zip excel file – Birds of the World and mark your 100 favorites from the almost 10000 species in the world. Mark them giving your absolute most wanted bird 100 points, your second most wanted bird 99 points, etc.

I shall be doing the same exercise the coming days. To help me there are a couple of books that have been extremely important to me when dreaming about exotic birds that I may one day see. I just took them off the bookshelf and piled them on my desk. They are:

  • BIrds of the World. A survey of the twenty-seven Orders and the one hundred and fifty-five Families by Oliver J. Austin Jr and fantastic illustrations by Arthur Singer. This is a true masterpiece when it comes to bird paintings. The book was first published in 1961. I have had this book since I started birding in 1983 and the a new print was published in Swedish. I am pretty sure that most of my favorites will be coming from this book. Also, I shall make sure that at least one species of each family will be on the final list of 1000 species
  • The Encyclopedia of Birds. A similar  work put together chiefly by Christoffer Perrins and C. J. O. Harrison first published in 1976 and later published by Reader’s Digest. It is beautifully illustrated by Ad Cameron.
  • The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Birds. A publication that again Christoffer Perrins was involved in. This book first published in 1990 was a collective work between Marshall Editions and ICBP (the precursor to BirdLife International). The illustrations again are very good from a number of artists,
  • Threatened Birds of the World. Published by Lynx editions and BirdLife International in 2000. All threatened bird species are illustrated.
  • Rare Birds Yearbook. This book is published by Erik Hirschfeldt, a Swede I know since many years back. Erik’s project has been very inspiring to launch my project. I will think of ways to also be able to get some revenue to BirdLife in spite that the book will be free. In the final list with 1000 birds the majority of the critically threatened birds will be included, except for those that have no recent records. It is a bit pointless to list Ivory-billed Woodpecker and Eskimo Curlew in final list, even if these would be very desirable birds to see.

Additionally, inspiration for participants can be found in David Attenboroughs serie “Life of Birds”. It must be stressed that it is not only the bird it self that is represented in the final lifelist, but also a specific action. It could be a lek or display, a particular behaviour, or a mass-movement of one species. It may even be a particular spot on Earth where birds concentrate – and that the species chosen should be seen there. For instance, who would not want to see a warbler fall-out on High Island? What would be a representative species that could illustrate a fall-out? Please comment below!

Send your checklists to me kolibriexp@gmail.com when you are done. Best if you strip the list to just the 100 birds so the file does not become too bulky. I can help you if you have problems doing this selection. Just let me know. I need around 50 lists to have a good number spreading out the points. All participants in the early stage will be acknowledged in the book.
As I said above, this will be a free e-book. However, once the final product is done, I hope to liase with Birdlife International so that money can be raised – maybe through a Facebook cause – for species in peril. Please comment below – and send me your list!

Finally, a plug for a fine web-site that provides printable checklists – and that provided the world checklist you can download above.

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{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

Larry Sheldon March 24, 2009 at 6:12 pm

I’d like to see:
SandHill Cranes
California Condor.

Neat birds I’ve seen:
African Gray parrots

Others you should see (I’ve seen):

80& of the birds native to where you are.

Charlie Moores March 25, 2009 at 5:21 am

Nice idea Gunnar – can I be the first to blag a signed review copy please?

I can give you ten I really want to see before I finally hang up my bins:

Swallow-tailed Gull
Blue Bird of Paradise
Brazilian Merganser
Great Grey owl
Aztec Thrush
Night Parrot
Cherry-throated Tanager
Philippine Eagle
Shovel-billed Kingfisher
Gurney’s Pitta

And ten I’ve seen that should be on everyone’s must-see list:

Spoon-billed Sandpiper
Siberian Crane
Indian Courser
Ivory Gull
Ground Woodpecker
Chestnut-collared Swift
White-tailed Sabrewing
Pink Pigeon
Sharpe’s Longclaw
Pied Harrier

It’s such a subjective list to make, but that’s mine right now (may have changed by tomorrow of course).



R. Graf March 25, 2009 at 6:18 am

It is necessary to see this birds:
Siberian Crane (Grus leucogeranus)
Waldrapp (Geronticus eremita)
Steller’s Sea Eagle (Haliaeetus pelagicus) and
Masked Shrike (Lanius nubicus)

John T. Burridge, "Terry" March 26, 2009 at 7:18 am

As editor of “Burridge’s Multilingual Dictionary of Birds of the World” (Cambridge Scholars, 2007- ) I find this a fascinating idea.

I’ll get a list up over the weekend, but my top nomination on my personal bucket list is the white-necked picathates (Picathates gymnocephalus).

I will certainly also have on the final list some Cuban endemics to see before I die. Unfortunately I am a US citizen and our foolish governemnt has made that difficult for half a century, and I hope that will change. I wasn’t a birder back in 1957, my last visit to the island.

John T. Burridge, "Terry" March 26, 2009 at 10:04 am

#1 White-necked picathartes. #2 Plains wanderer. #3 Hoopoe. #4 Kiwi (any kind). #5 Greater racket-tailed drongo. #6 Gibberbird. #7 Andean condor. #8 Forty-spotted pardalote. #9 Madagascan grassbird aka grey emu-tail. #10 Kauai o-o (again– spied one in 1976, would like assurance, contrary to the local viewpoint– that this guy is still there).

Finally #11: Any Cuban endemic. I am unfortunately a US citizen and our ridiculous government has been telling us what birds we can see and what stamps we can collect for more than half a century. I had not yet gotten an interest in birds when I last visited the island via the old Key West ferryboat in 1957.

Tara O. March 28, 2009 at 5:18 am

The Attenborough series inspired me. I must see a Shoebill!

California Condor would be great. A Golden Eagle. Spoonbill Sandpiper. Hoopoe. Snowy Owl. Great Grey Owl. Gyrfalcon. I’ll need to spend some time thinking about this to decide my hundred! Great idea!

Pat McKay March 28, 2009 at 9:21 pm

It’s a nice idea – hard to come up with a list on the spur of the moment, but here’s an attempt. I have tried to include birds from all over the world, but I know I am short of African species especially.
Some of the birds are very common, and some are not.

Roseate Spoonbill
Toco Toucan
European Kingfisher
Great Gray Owl
Brown Pelican
Great Potoo
Japanese Crane
Montezuma’s Oropendola
European Curlew
Atlantic Puffin
White-collared Manakin
Great Bustard
Scarlet Ibis
Bald Eagle
Pied Avocet
Black Skimmer
Scarlet Macaw
Guira Cuckoo
Snowy Owl
white-tipped Sicklebill
Laughing Kookaburra
European Roller
Rhinoceros Hornbill
Three-wattled Bellbird
Fasciated Antshrike
Vermilion Flycatcher
Indian Pitta
Superb Lyrebird
Bohemian Waxwing
European Robin
Eastern Bluebird
Splendid Fairy-Wren
Long-tailed Tit
Scarlet-chested Sunbird
Northern Cardinal
Brazilian Tanager
Golden Oriole
Evening Grosbeak
Eurasian Bullfinch
Brown Kiwi
Great Crested Grebe
Emperor Penguin
Laysan Albatross
Red-tailed Tropicbird
Little Egret
Lovely Cotinga
Scissor tailed Flycatcher
Pale billed Woodpecker
Peregrine Falcon
Swallow tailed Kite
Great Curassow
European Bee-eater
Red Kite
Long tailed Duck
Northern Gannet
Great Northern Diver
Green Woodpecker
Bewick’s Swan
Rosy Starling
Narcissus Flycatcher
Golden Pheasant
Common Cuckoo
Ivory Gull
Piping Plover
Grey necked Wood rail
Golden Eagle
White-breasted Kingfisher
Common Myna
Japanese Bush Warbler
Eurasian Skylark
Barn Owl
Northern Shoveler
King Eider
Black-crowned Night Heron
Japanese Green Pigeon
Daurian Redstart
Greater Shearwater
Magnificent Frigatebird
Barnacle Goose
Mandarin Duck
California Condor
Resplendent Quetzal
Speckled Tanager
Wood Stork
Humboldt Penguin
southern Cassowary
Turquoise browed Motmot
Barn Swallow

George Watola March 29, 2009 at 4:28 am

Hi Gunnar

nice idea, but a bit similar to Dominic Couzen’s book “100 birds to see before you die”? I will send you a list, but putting my top 100 birds in order of preference sounds a bit Mission Impossible. Difficult enough picking the best 100!

sandeep March 30, 2009 at 1:09 am

lovely idea regards san

Gunnar Engblom March 30, 2009 at 3:27 am

Hi all. Sorry for the delay in answer. Thanks all for the suggestions. I reckon I shall have a first list by Thursday.
Charlie: It shall first of all be a downloadable pdf version, but I may print up a few as promotion and/or sell at bird fairs. John, I am sure the embargo will be released very soon, so that US birders can bird Cuba again. It is great birding and great people.
George: I was not aware of Dominic’s book when I started this. My inspiration is more from the book “1000 places to see before I die”.

Clare April 2, 2009 at 10:17 am

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve seen two birds on Charlie’s “most wanted” list and one of his “must see” list. What are the chances.


Clare April 2, 2009 at 10:22 am

and I’ll echo Gunnar’s comments on Cuba. Fantastic country. Love the Sierra Maestras

Aaron Sandford April 27, 2009 at 10:44 pm
Gunnar Engblom April 29, 2009 at 1:06 pm


I know of Don Roberson´s site since some time back. I have mentioned it elsewhere on this same discussion. Anyway, it is a great list and I notice that he has knocked off birds such as the Ivory-billed Woodpecker on the basis that it is probably next to impossible to see it if it even exists. For what it is worth, I tweeted his website yesterday on Twitter.

Bob Cates January 19, 2010 at 9:59 pm

The Top Ten I have yet to see in North America that I must see before the bucket it kicked:

Great Gray Owl largest No. Am. species I haven't seen
Steller's Eider haven't seen any eiders.
Broad-billed Hummingbird last regularly occuring hummer I haven't seen
Red tailed Tropicbird haven't seen any tropicbirds
White-headed Woodpecker last woodpecker I haven't seen
Willow Ptarmigan last state bird I haven't seen
Scarlet Tanager Most colorful species I haven't seen
Kirtland's Warbler Rarest breeding No Am species I haven't seen
Elf Owl Somehow has eluded me for 25 years!!!
Montezuma Quail Cause its cool.

Ask me next month and I would probably have a different list, but this one seems to include those who have been just beyond reach for a while now.

Gunnar Engblom January 20, 2010 at 2:42 pm

Ah, hang in there and you shall see them! Thanks for your list.

Gunnar Engblom January 20, 2010 at 7:42 pm

Ah, hang in there and you shall see them! Thanks for your list.

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