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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 22:54   #1
birdmeister
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Does Anyone Count Dead Birds As "Lifers"?

Hello all,

I was wondering if a lot of people will count a dead bird as a "lifer".

I have only one example that I can remember right now. During my stay in Greece this past May, I watched as a dead Squacco Heron drifted in to shore from a small gulf. I only had binoculars with me, so until it washed ashore it only looked like a white object on the water with gulls investigating it from time to time. When it did wash ashore, I finally saw its plumage details and even its bright blue bill! Within the next couple days it was eaten.

I am counting that Squacco Heron as a "lifer" because it was presumably a wild bird and there was no question as to its ID (though I really wish I had seen it alive, as I think a Squacco Heron would be stunning in breeding plumage!).

Of course, it is ultimately up to the list keeper what to add to his/her list, but are there any official listing rules concerning dead birds?

Last edited by birdmeister : Saturday 12th August 2017 at 22:56.
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:11   #2
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Counting dead birds on a check list feels a bit strange to me. But maybe it's philosophical question.
Is a dead bird still a bird? Does a skeleton count? Of course it's a finding of that species, if you can make the ID. Even a just a singel feather might be.
But for me, checking a bird, is about the experience of a new bird species, then you need to see it while it's still alive.
Good points, and I definitely see where you're coming from.

Thanks for posting!
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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:27   #3
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No, no and no. The essential reference is Bill Oddie's Little Black Bird Book, and his assessment is smack on the button.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:28   #4
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My post mysteriously was deleted in editing...:-)
but what I wanted to add was that the "RULES" around here is that we check birds that are ALIVE.
But for research reasons etc., you can report birds found dead. But it's another question and system...

Counting dead birds on a check list feels a bit strange to me. But maybe it's philosophical question.
Is a dead bird still a bird? Does a skeleton count? Of course it's a finding of that species, if you can make the ID. Even a single feather might be.
But for me, checking a bird, is about the experience of a new bird species, then you need to see it while it's still alive.
And the health of the bird always go first.

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Old Saturday 12th August 2017, 23:32   #5
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Originally Posted by birdmeister View Post
Hello all,

I was wondering if a lot of people will count a dead bird as a "lifer".

I have only one example that I can remember right now. During my stay in Greece this past May, I watched as a dead Squacco Heron drifted in to shore from a small gulf. I only had binoculars with me, so until it washed ashore it only looked like a white object on the water with gulls investigating it from time to time. When it did wash ashore, I finally saw its plumage details and even its bright blue bill! Within the next couple days it was eaten.

I am counting that Squacco Heron as a "lifer" because it was presumably a wild bird and there was no question as to its ID (though I really wish I had seen it alive, as I think a Squacco Heron would be stunning in breeding plumage!).

Of course, it is ultimately up to the list keeper what to add to his/her list, but are there any official listing rules concerning dead birds?
I think very few "serious" birders do. Regarding your heron (and your rationale for counting it), what about a long-extinct paleontological specimen eroding out of a cliff face, would that pass muster? Archaeopteryx lithographica, now that would be an ornament to anyone's list.


With regard to "official" (ha ha) counting rules, I imagine the ABA must have some (or at least guidelines); you might visit the ABA website and see what you can find.
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 00:17   #6
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I think very few "serious" birders do. Regarding your Heron (and your rationale for counting it), what about a long-extinct paleontological specimen eroding out of a cliff face, would that make it onto your list?

With regard to "official" (ha ha) counting rules, I imagine the ABA must have some (or at least guidelines); you might visit the APA website and see what you can find.
An excellent point! I would not count such an example as a "lifer", as it has been long-extinct and would not be on anyone else's life list.

Thanks to all for replying. I will have to count my Squacco Heron as a "deader", as it is certainly not a "lifer"!

(I will still count it as a "lifer", FYI)
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 00:19   #7
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I was wondering if a lot of people will count a dead bird as a "lifer".
No, but you can count it as a "deader"
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 08:01   #8
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Right - I'm off to the Natural History Museum to do a big day...
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 13:16   #9
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ABA does indeed require a bird to be alive when seen for it to be counted.

I would never count a dead bird for a life bird, although I would probably make a record of it if it was something interesting (There really is not that much of a shortage of ABA first records that basically found moribund).

That said you can count what you want. I know folks in the herp community will often count dead on road specimens, and some mammal folks will still count things found dead in a trap they set. So clearly there other naturalist communities don't feel as strongly about this as birders.
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 13:51   #10
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and some mammal folks will still count things found dead in a trap they set.
That sounds reasonably irresponsible!


Birds - there's a difference between recording something that you've come across for your own listing purposes, and for the ornithological record.
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 14:09   #11
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ABA does indeed require a bird to be alive when seen for it to be counted.

I would never count a dead bird for a life bird, although I would probably make a record of it if it was something interesting (There really is not that much of a shortage of ABA first records that basically found moribund).

That said you can count what you want. I know folks in the herp community will often count dead on road specimens, and some mammal folks will still count things found dead in a trap they set. So clearly there other naturalist communities don't feel as strongly about this as birders.
And again.....count what you want unless you want to wave it about to see whose is the biggest.

Moribund isn't dead, a few Brits have seen things in a sorry state and driven a long way to see them before they croaked. I saw the Courser and Ovenbird on the Scillies on the same day, both seemed ok but both were dead the next day or at least close to the same day!


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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 16:16   #12
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I think Dantheman sums it up in that it makes an interesting or noteworthy record (for scientific purposes) but it makes no sense to count it as a personal 'tick'...
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 16:35   #13
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And again.....count what you want unless you want to wave it about to see whose is the biggest.
I agree that's the key. There is no wrong way to keep a list. But if you are going to diverge from customary methods, you need to disclose that when you publish or compare your totals. Otherwise, you are being deceptive.
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 17:24   #14
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Regarding including a dead bird on a checklist (but not as a lifer): I think ebird allows you to do that in some very specific circumstances. The problem is regarding when the bird was alive and was it at the same place when it was alive. If you can confidently say this bird was here and alive within the period your list is for, then it can be included. The only good example I can come up with right now is from banding: a bird flies into a net, another bird comes around and kills it, but when the remains are taken out of the net it is still identifiable to species.

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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 18:06   #15
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Regarding including a dead bird on a checklist (but not as a lifer): I think ebird allows you to do that in some very specific circumstances. The problem is regarding when the bird was alive and was it at the same place when it was alive. If you can confidently say this bird was here and alive within the period your list is for, then it can be included. The only good example I can come up with right now is from banding: a bird flies into a net, another bird comes around and kills it, but when the remains are taken out of the net it is still identifiable to species.

Niels
We found a dead Cory's Shearwater in Trinidad which was a very good local bird and so the record was passed to the relevant people, nobody 'ticked' it AFAIK.

We wouldn't have recorded e.g a dead Bananaquit.


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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 19:13   #16
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Surely ticking a dead bird makes the list more relevant than the sighting?....I mean, living creatures are exciting and dead ones are rather sad. Isn't it just best to try and see one alive, or wait till one does....or even never!

Now seeing a dying bird.......? (Oh my, what a subject!)

What was that rarity that was watched on a rock in Cornwall, then a wave washed it off...an Ovenbird?

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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 19:19   #17
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Surely ticking a dead bird makes the list more relevant than the sighting?....I mean, living creatures are exciting and dead ones are rather sad. Isn't it just best to try and see one alive, or wait till one does....or even never!

Now seeing a dying bird.......? (Oh my, what a subject!)

What was that rarity that was watched on a rock in Cornwall, then a wave washed it off...an Ovenbird?
No, a Gray-cheeked Thrush on Scilly, in an autumn when a crowd also watched a cat take one! (1986 FWIW)

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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 19:25   #18
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No, a Gray-cheeked Thrush on Scilly, in an autumn when a crowd also watched a cat take one! (1986 FWIW)

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Thanks John....I wonder if anybody was at both birds
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 20:53   #19
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Thanks John....I wonder if anybody was at both birds
Probably, Gray-cheeked Thrushes were about the only game in town in October 1986!

I saw the cat incident, which was on the Garrison in a cottage back garden. When the cat leapt out and grabbed the bird (incidentally Barry Wright did a fair and sadly amusing impression of the bird flapping limply in the cat's mouth) the crowd growled and went over the wall: but the moggy made off into the bushes with it.

I think the drowning incident was below Green Farm but I might be wrong. I think Tringbirder may have seen that one.

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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 20:59   #20
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At the other end of the scale; I can't really see how this could happen, but, what would the ethics be of ticking an Egg?

It's alive, and assume you are confident of the species, what does the panel think?

(By the way, do mothers/butterfliers count Caterpillars?, if not why not?)
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 21:09   #21
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At the other end of the scale; I can't really see how this could happen, but, what would the ethics be of ticking an Egg?

It's alive, and assume you are confident of the species, what does the panel think?

(By the way, do mothers/butterfliers count Caterpillars?, if not why not?)
True Lepidopterists do perhaps? - there's whole books on larvae finding/collecting and many invert species/leafminers etc are most easily id'ed on the larval foodplant ...

Eggs - hmmm. I presume that just ticking the egg would be a) extreme laziness (ie can't wait around for the adult) b) an abandoned egg is the same as a dead egg ie no longer viable, whether or not it is still actually 'alive' at the time...

?
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 21:18   #22
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(By the way, do mothers/butterfliers count Caterpillars?, if not why not?)
For personal list I do count caterpillars on my list (with asterisk though so I remember which species I have to 'upgrade' with adult specimen observations) - of course if the ID can be made with 100% certainty. Not all species can be identified in earlier stages. Interesting that in contrast in my country the butterfly/moth species will be added to official list only when the adult is collected (very rarely photographs can do too) - even if the caterpillar/leaf mine/etc is 100% sure to belong to new species. Not sure how it's in UK?

As for birds - of course I'll not count a dead bird on my list, but if the bird is some sort of rarity and for sure had perished locally (e.g. not washed ashore already in late stage of decay - so who knows when and where it had died) than it will be counted in the total number of observations for that species in Latvia.
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 21:22   #23
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Probably, Gray-cheeked Thrushes were about the only game in town in October 1986!

I saw the cat incident, which was on the Garrison in a cottage back garden. When the cat leapt out and grabbed the bird (incidentally Barry Wright did a fair and sadly amusing impression of the bird flapping limply in the cat's mouth) the crowd growled and went over the wall: but the moggy made off into the bushes with it.

I think the drowning incident was below Green Farm but I might be wrong. I think Tringbirder may have seen that one.

John
Thanks again - (I wonder if anyone tried to see the cat later on)
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 21:38   #24
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Eggs - hmmm. I presume that just ticking the egg would be. . .extreme laziness (ie can't wait around for the adult)
Or for the egg to hatch. . ..
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Old Sunday 13th August 2017, 22:22   #25
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Eggs - hmmm. I presume that just ticking the egg would be a) extreme laziness (ie can't wait around for the adult) b) an abandoned egg is the same as a dead egg ie no longer viable, whether or not it is still actually 'alive' at the time...
But how about the egg of a scrubfowl, which may be left alone for quite a while (even if the parents tend to hang around)? Still sounds like a plan for some Papuan species.
I wouldn't count an egg, but it is less ridiculous than counting dead birds!
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