Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Top 10 Birds of 2013

This new year finds me in the tropical bird paradise of Colombia.  

The birding has been nothing short of spectacular and I’ll be sure to cover some of the highlights shortly.  

My travel schedule has put me in a bit of a quandary for my top 10 list.  How many of the 56 lifers I’ve seen in the last few days should I try to cram in?  And which of the US birds I’ve carefully accumulated during 98 percent of the year get displaced?

Ultimately I decided to just include the one Colombian species I got to hold, which brings us to…

#10 Orinoco Goose

What Natalia and I did with Orinoco Geese is a tale unto itself, but yes we did catch some (for scientific purposes of course!). Post coming soon...

Orinoco Geese, Casanare, Colombia

#9 Snowy Owl

I normally don’t like to include “chased” birds in these kinds of lists, but for this stunning bird I’ll make an exception!  It has been a phenomenal winter for Snowy Owls in NC and the reports keep coming in, but I think we’re somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 documented occurrences as of Dec. 31. See the original post...

Snowy Owl, Cape Hatteras, NC

#8 Williamson's Sapsucker

I don't know Southern California birds well enough to appreciate the significance of seeing a Williamson's Sapsucker in Los Angeles, but it was an unexpected lifer that contributed to a Sapsucker Sweep. See the original post...

Williamson's Sapsucker, Veterans Memorial Park, Sylmar, California

#7 Island Scrub-Jay

It was well worth the trip out to Santa Cruz Island to see this beautiful endemic jay even though it looks a lot like its mainland cousin. This is the only passerine to make this year's list.  See original post...

Island Scrub-Jay

#6 Atlantic Puffin

The alcids that show up occasionally off the outer banks in winter aren't exceptionally pretty, but Atlantic Puffin is still an excellent bird to see in North Carolina.  I guess I'll have to visit a breeding colony some day to see them in their garish finery. See original post...

Atlantic Puffin, Hatteras pelagic trip, NC

#5 Northern Saw-whet Owl

The last North Carolina breeding species I had yet to see.  This one took some work to track down, but it was definitely worth the effort!  Thanks to Mark K. for sharing the photo.  See original post...

Northern Saw-whet Owl, Roan Mountain, NC (photo by Mark K.)

#4 Magnificent Frigatebird

An invasion of frigatebirds made for an excellent consolation for a weathered-out pelagic.  Two of these in  the same frame in North Carolina is pretty absurd!  See original post...

Magnificent Frigatebirds, Frisco, NC

#3 Trindade Petrel

It's always a good pelagic trip when you see a gadfly petrel that isn't a Black-capped Petrel and this was the first for me!  See original post...

Trindade Petrel, Hatteras pelagic trip, NC

#2 Blue-footed Booby

I'm not much of an ABA area birder, but Blue-footed Booby is a code 12 or something (see, I'm really pretty oblivious to ABA minutiae), which means it's very rare to find one anywhere in the US.  There was some sort of irruption of boobies into Southern California this fall.  See original post...

Blue-footed Booby, Playa del Rey, California

#1 White-faced Ibis

While this bird isn't as pretty as the Scarlet or Buff-necked Ibises I just saw for the first time, it is significant for being the third record for this species in North Carolina and is possibly the "best" bird I've ever self-found.  See original post...

White-faced Ibis, Mattamuskeet National Wildlife Refuge
What a year! 

I should end this post with some bird targets for 2014.  I usually come up with five, but for now I've just got 3 in mind:

1. Harpy Eagle
2. Pompadour Cotinga
3. Agami Heron

I'll sort out #4 and #5 when I get back stateside. 

Happy 2014 to all!


  1. A delightful post Scott. I have been to Ecuador and Peru, but Columbia makes me jealous. I hope that you do some extensive reporting on your trip.
    On my blog I will try to post my top ten new birds of 2013 this Saturday. All of them were seen in Alaska. They are in no particular order,
    Siberian Accentor
    Rock Sandpiper
    Pacific Wren
    Snow Bunting
    Hoary Redpoll
    Northern Fulmar
    Least Auklet
    Crested Auklet
    King Eider
    Red Phalarope
    Short-tailed Shearwater
    Slaty-backed Gull
    Red-legged Kittiwake
    I never could count well. How many of those have you seen? Congratulations on your sightings.

    1. Thanks, John!
      That's quite a list. Since I haven't birded the northwest or Alaska, I'm missing quite a few from your list, but looks like I have 5/14:

      Brambling - Scotland
      Snow Bunting - Rhode Island and NC
      Fulmar - California and NC
      Red Phalarope - NC
      Short-tailed Shearwater - Australia

      Happy birding in 2014!

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