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Comparing the British list to other countries (1 Viewer)

bonxie2003

Going for the One
Supporter
United Kingdom
On the face of it, the British list sits very well with most of its neighbours. An excellent geographical location, superb reserve network and a well driven observing force. But I wonder if that hides the reality. 620 sounds very good, but according to birdguides, only 223 species are “common” and that includes some quite tricky native birds like ptarmigan, stone-curlew and cirl bunting. This means that only 36% of our list are actually birds we could plan to see. 302 species are “rare”, a large number of which have been seen less than 10 times ever.

When you go on sites like Avibase and download a checklist of a particular country it can therefore be misleading for this exact reason. Before I travel abroad I use eBird as a guide to what I could see and of course it is always way below the total list. I wonder if anyone has attempted to work out a list for every country of the realistic birds that one can see. I would love to discover Colombia’s common to total list percentage or see where we rank in Europe when it comes to non rare birds. I would guess that 36% would put us quite low.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
I can speak only for the Czech Republic. The Czech list has about 400 species (it changes recently a bit due to reviews of old reports and new findings), out of which only a little over 200 are breeders. Some of those are very restricted, but the locations are generally known and at least somehow accessible. Then there are more birds that are commonly wintering. The reported personal year-list record is 293, the same guy also leads life-list at 306, which shows you that a lot of birds are observable almost every year, while almost a quarter of the overall list are extreme rarities.

Now looking at this, I realize that this may be an easy answer, if you can find out the local year-list results for the residents of the country, this should give you a pretty clear picture.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
UK is low down the list because we're on an island at the fringe of a continent - that means (a) a lot of more central continental diversity doesn't occur commonly, and (b) it picks up more than its 'fair share' of waifs and strays. So a much higher proportion of the UK list is made up of vagrants.

This island effect becomes even more marked the smaller and more remote the island is; Fair Isle has a huge list, but it is almost entirely made up of casual non-breeding rarities, with hardly any common nesting species.
 

bonxie2003

Going for the One
Supporter
United Kingdom
Thanks for your responses. I am sure many of the uk year list records are comprised of many non common birds. My best year was 276 in 1996. That means a minimum of 53 birds that weren’t “common” and I know that I didn’t see all the common ones.
 
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
These days you can see 300 species in Britain without ever troubling BBRC. There is nothing complicated about seeing Cirl Bunting, Stone-curlew or Ptarmigan, all of which can be done from within 50 yards of your parked car by driving it to the right place: each place having a car park. In addition the information services now provide such instantaneous updates that the level of dip risk involved in even short-distance twitches when I began is long gone.

Its some years since I bothered doing a 300 but so many species have been knocked off the rarities list that in a typical year (for me a typical year will involve 200 - 250 species without really trying) I will probably see 10-15 that would have been rarities when I started but are no longer, the three egret spp being a case in point.

John
 

FredrikJerner

New member
Where ever we are the grass is a bit greener in the neighbours garden....
I live in southeast of Sweden and sometimes long for birding at the atlantic coasts where it is possible to meet birds which ”never” occurs in the baltic sea. Would also enjoy the birds from south and southeast in continental Europe, rarely seen here. On the other hand, I more and more enjoy the taigabirds of Scandinavia instead of searching for rare birds from far away. Especially owls, raptors , capercaillie ( other grouse spec) and species in the scandinavian mountains are interesting. Nice that the great grey owl ( Strix nebulosa) has spread to the south and now breed regularly in southeast Sweden. Still rare but increasing. It’s important to enjoy the surroundings of our own place on earth.
 

kb57

Well-known member
Europe
I think Nutty's point about geographic location leading to lower species diversity and a higher proportion of rarities is spot on, and is well illustrated by opisska's comparison with the Czech republic.

One other point is observer effort - there are so many birders in UK that a higher proportion of rarities are going to be detected. Most other countries have relatively fewer observers per unit area, even if absolute numbers (like USA) are large.
 

opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Where ever we are the grass is a bit greener in the neighbours garden....
I live in southeast of Sweden and sometimes long for birding at the atlantic coasts where it is possible to meet birds which ”never” occurs in the baltic sea. Would also enjoy the birds from south and southeast in continental Europe, rarely seen here. On the other hand, I more and more enjoy the taigabirds of Scandinavia instead of searching for rare birds from far away. Especially owls, raptors , capercaillie ( other grouse spec) and species in the scandinavian mountains are interesting. Nice that the great grey owl ( Strix nebulosa) has spread to the south and now breed regularly in southeast Sweden. Still rare but increasing. It’s important to enjoy the surroundings of our own place on earth.

Honestly, I moved a few years ago to the proverbial other side of the fence (Czech Rep. to NE Poland) and it is actually much greener, actually even more than I ever thought.

The point about "watchedness" here is really strong. Birding is on a huge rise in Poland apparently and the amount of rarities found is increasing fast - interestingly though, a large contribution is still from a very small group of really dedicated people (some of which I am lucky enough to know).
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Most neotropical country lists are very high on resident and expected migrant species and low on vagrants. Given the lack of people who twitch rarities in these countries, just looking at where the top listers are gives you a good idea of how many birds you can "readily/easily" see in a country. In almost all countries even the top listers still have some lowish hanging migratory / pelagic fruit and some difficult residents to still track down. Here are some estimates for the major countries. These are just my off the top of the head estimates of "How many species you can readily see" in some of the countries I have a bit of familiarity with. Apologies for omissions, and I welcome discussion / abuse :)

Mexico - 950-ish
Costa Rica - 775-ish
Panama - 825-ish
Colombia - 1700-ish?
Ecuador - 1525-ish?
Peru - 1675-ish?
Brazil - 1675-ish?
Bolivia - 1200-1250-ish?
Argentina - 900-ish

It's hard to estimate Colombia/Ecuador/Peru/Brazil/Bolivia without spending more time looking in more detail at the lists. I get the feeling, for instance, that Roger Ahlman has twitched and chased a good bit more in Ecuador than Pablo Florez and Barry Walker have in Colombia and Peru, respectively. Brazil involves so much more logistically difficult travel to exhaust the resident species. Bolivia I just don't know as well as other countries.

In all of these countries the "species you can reliably go see at the right time of the year in the right place" comprise 85-90% or perhaps even more in some cases so of the total lists.
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Josh, where do those listers of these countries keep the lists? (So: what data do you use?) Because wherever that is, I am sure if you tried for example Czech Republic, you would get nonsense results (as top listers here all keep lists probably only at the local services) - so is it something global (what we just ignore), or south American?

Then, I would really love to know a realistic estimate of time and money needed to see 1675 species in Peru, or even 85-90 % thereof - you seem to have a rather optimistic idea of "readily" :) Thinking about it, for me it would be particularly interesting to see an expansion of the OP's idea in a table with columns:
- total birds in a country
- birds that are present in a country on a typical year
- birds that can be "seen readily" in a pbjosh metric
- birds that can be seen without going to one specific place, which is usually an overpriced lodge ...

I mean I know that it is in principle super easy to see Jocotoco Antpitta in Ecuador, it just requires more money than my two-week trip to the same country :)
 

Paul Chapman

Well-known member
Mexico example:-

Overall - 1,097 species - https://ebird.org/region/MX?yr=all

A list of top listers in ebird - 1,097 species with 1,024 highest - https://ebird.org/top100?region=Mexico&locInfo.regionCode=MX&year=AAAA&rankedBy=spp

A list of top listers in 2019 - 1,007 species with 824 highest - https://ebird.org/top100?region=Mexico&locInfo.regionCode=MX&year=2019&rankedBy=spp

A list of top listers in 2020 - 920 species with 577 highest - https://ebird.org/top100?region=Mexico&locInfo.regionCode=MX&year=2020&rankedBy=spp

All the best
 
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Paul Chapman

Well-known member
I think Nutty's point about geographic location leading to lower species diversity and a higher proportion of rarities is spot on, and is well illustrated by opisska's comparison with the Czech republic.

One other point is observer effort - there are so many birders in UK that a higher proportion of rarities are going to be detected. Most other countries have relatively fewer observers per unit area, even if absolute numbers (like USA) are large.

Does the distance from the equator have an effect? For instance a far higher proportion of Mexico's birds recorded this year have already been recorded than Britain's?

All the best
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I've seen more of the regularly occurring birds in Britain than those of Mexico this year. I've also seen fewer Mexican birds in Britain.
 

KenM

Well-known member
Listing is something I dabbled in and out of over the years, whilst at the same time never losing sight of my holy grail which is “finding”, and it is as strong now (still a primal hunter) as it’s ever been (less time ahead than before :-C). During my “listing” days most Sundays would be spent driving to and from Norfolk a c6 hour round trip which time wise could have been better employed birding locally.

I acquired a dog in 1990 and thereafter rarely looked back, with the ownership came responsibility “walkies” every day, which weaned me off of twitching/listing. Allowing me to patch work on a daily basis, this taught me the value of applying patience in the field and with it “the just rewards.”

So reduce your carbon footprint and “on yer bike”, each to their own but, I’d rather find a few “local and beyond rares” than a 000+list of somebody else’s!....What’s that a Wallcreeper at Dover?....Sod the bike!...and fire up the Quattro. :-O
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
Many, though I'm sure not all, of the top listers in Latin countries keep their lists on Surfbirds.

My estimates are along these lines - "If you go to stakeouts or to good habitat and give yourself a reasonable amount of time, you should see the majority of the species." For instance, Barred Tinamou and Elusive Antpitta undoubtedly are resident in Peru, but even given huge amounts of time, you would need great luck to see them. On the other hand, the majority of the species just require driving, hiking, visiting sites in the Amazon, getting up early, etc. Doing that and logging a few hundred birding days, you could see the vast majority of Peru's birds. Seeing the last 2-3% of non vagrant ticks would take you many times longer than the first ~90%.

As an exercise I just skimmed Argentina's list - this is the list I'm most familiar with at the moment. I think if you drove yourself around the country for 6-8 months camping and birding, or say you live here and log a few trips/year, accumulating, say, 200 birding days, with a focus on tracking down the localized birds (Short-tailed Finch, Chestnut-throated Huet-Huet, Bolivian Warbling-Finch, etc, which are all there for the ticking just in places that few people get to) and spending a lot of time in Salta, Jujuy, and Misiones provinces, hitting wader migration at Punta Rasa, and including some time on the ocean (say two affordable cruises from Buenos Aires to Valparaiso), you could expect to for sure get about 880-890 and could probably pick up 10-15 of the difficult species along the way. I'm guessing you could do this for well under $20,000, perhaps $10,000-12,000 or so. A really dedicated birder with good knowledge of Argentina and its birds could probably do a 910-915 species big year I would estimate. This would require adding a lot more time in Salta, Jujuy, and Misiones, and more effort going for waders and pelagics.

A really dedicated big year in Peru or Colombia would be very interesting. US, EU, UK, Western Pal - all of these big years are focused on travel and twitching. In Argentina at least you're not twitching much but it's a ton of travel. In Colombia or Peru it would be more about logistics, perseverance, field skills, and vocalization mastery. Much more a test of skill than bank account!
 
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Farnboro John

Well-known member
US, EU, UK, Western Pal - all of these big years are focused on travel and twitching. In Argentina at least you're not twitching much but it's a ton of travel. In Colombia or Peru it would be more about logistics, perseverance, field skills, and vocalization mastery. Much more a test of skill than bank account!

I'm not sure WP would be focused on twitching, would it? To get round all the WP regulars would surely take most of the year? Yes one might plan to hit the Azores in Autumn but how much more time could be afforded from the daily grind of native species across the area?

In Britain to get a good score (350+ lets say) you obviously have to twitch and you can plan to some extent to do so while taking in special localised birds. But only to an extent... its no good trying to rack up rares one at a time while missing spring passage, autumn passage and the seabird bonanza of late summer. That basic 300 spp of residents, summer visitors, winter visitors and the spring and autumn passage birds - which aren't necessarily the same - are key, and you have to be where they are, when they are there, and hit all of them. Its about "logistics, perseverance, field skills" - maybe not so much vocalisations - not following the pack.

As a working person with limited holiday and budget I felt the 326 I got one year was about the limit for me. Nowadays I spend more time and effort on getting what I hope are decent pictures of fewer birds and doing less long-range travel, but I don't deny the fun of year listing.

John
 

Kratter

Well-known member
San Diego County (in southern California), at 32 degrees latitude, has recorded 505 species. Not bad for outside the tropics. It is only 5% the size of Great Britain. California (32-42 degrees latitude) has 675 species on its list; it is 65% the size of Great Britain.

Andy
 
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opisska

Jan Ebr
Poland
Big year WP by the Swedish guys has shown that if you really wanna score a competitive number in WP, you have to twitch quite a lot.

@Josh: I can't really selectively quote on mobile :) But I am not sure about your last sentence. In Argentina, maybe, but in Tropics, I don't know. Getting to rainforest and even many mountain forest habitats is not easy unless you shell incredible amounts of money for the lodges, transports and in many places compulsory guides. When a night in a lodge in Amazon costs more than a flight in Europe, is it really an advantage that the birds are resident?
 

pbjosh

missing the neotropics
Switzerland
@Farnboro John - I don't disagree with you. But I suspect if you had a competitive big year in Britain or in the US, money would be a bigger determining factor than field skill assuming all the competitors were generally knowledgeable enough to undertake a big year. In Peru or Colombia, I think raw field skill / experience would be a bigger factor and money a lesser factor once you get over the hump of "have a car and can afford to take a year off work and can afford petrol and food"

@Opisska - I've seen most of the birds in the neotropics and have paid (relatively) very little in lodging and transport to do so. If I were going to do a big year in Peru or Colombia I don't think it would be based around the same destinations chosen by visiting birders who have limited time, limited local knowledge, usually limited Spanish, and certainly no local vehicle. Of course there are a few birds that are very hard away from high priced lodges but the number of those birds is actually quite small. The global big day record was all done along public roads...
 

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