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How to Prepare a List of Birds for a Birding Trip to the USA

Download it!!

At first, I tried to come up with my own list using eBird. Certainly a good place to start, but also very confusing! I tried generating an eBird report and converting into an excel file so I could sort out the birds from most likely to occur to least likely to occur. I wasn’t that happy with my data though. My list looked wrong. The eBird reports list sample sizes and species counts per week. One thing I noticed right away was that simply adding and dividing the counts by the sample sizes didn’t work for the species that weren’t counted in every week.

Thankfully, I soon realized that I could just download bird checklists for the areas I was interested in with all the info I was looking for!

I downloaded the bird checklist from Prospect Park & Regional Bird Sightings.

  • The list notes the occurrences for Spring, Summer, Early Fall, Late Fall and Winter.
  • It also indicates whether the bird breeds there.
  • And it includes 7 levels relative abundance: abundant, common, fairly common, uncommon, scarce, rare, very rare.

I downloaded the bird checklist from Bird Cape May.

  • The list notes the occurrences for Spring, Summer, Early Fall, Late Fall and Winter.
  • It indicates whether the bird is a regular breeder or irregular,  presumed, or recent former breeder
  • I has 8 levels of relative abundance and/or status: common, fairly common, uncommon, scarce, rare, very rare, pelagic, introduced

I downloaded a free iPhone app Audubon Central Park Birds

Source: via Sylvia on pinterest




If you click on Browse Birds, then Browse by Month you get a list of birds categorized according to 4 levels of abundance: abundant, likely possible, and rare or absent. Plus, it has the Birding Hot Spots that’s integrated with the data from eBird. This feature uses gps to show you the birds near your area! It also describes the various bird hotspots of Central Park.





How to Memorize A Lot of New Birds Using Your iPad and Birding Apps

I read Phoebe Snetsinger’s book “Birding on Borrowed Time. Phoebe Snetsinger was one of the most famous birdwatchers in the world. At one point, she held the record for seeing the most birds in the world. One of the things that struck me was how thoroughly she prepared for each and every birding trip. She wasn’t just a tourist being led around by a tour guide. She was known in the birding circles for her ability to find and identify birds. She had serious bird skills! One of the things she said was that she would study a bird until she could instantly conjure up an image of the bird upon hearing it’s name.  So if you said, “White-cheecked Bullfinch” to her, the image of a White-cheeked Bullfinch and complete with diagnostic field marks would immediately come to her mind!

I don’t expect to be able to memorize ALL the birds of the United States before my trip. Instead, I’m giving myself a very achievable goal of memorizing the birds I am most likely to see in Central Park, Prospect Park, Jamaica Bay, and Cape May in the month of May. And I want to memorize them Phoebe-level — I should be able to picture a the bird in my mind when I hear the name or name the bird when I it or at the very least a picture of it. I’ve figured that the best way for me to memorize the birds is to draw them since that will make me spend at least 15 minutes on each bird (probably more!). Plus, I enjoy looking at my sketches and they’re more memorable to me than some stranger’s photos.

Now, here’s where the iPad apps come in! The iPad is a great tool for looking at reference materials for drawing! I’ve already tried drawing birds from pictures in my iPad and I love it. I even scanned the pages of a book I wanted to copy because I find it easier to draw from the iPad than from a book.

Drawing from a Book vs Drawing From an iPad

  • the ipad lies flat!
  • you can zoom into the ipad!
  • the ipad can store a LOT of photos and take up very little space!
  • iPad wins!!

And so, obviously, I need a few iPad birding apps! I bought THREE:

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

This is the iBird app logo, it’s a Eurasian Hobby

iBird Pro HD . This app is on sale now! It selling now for $9.99, down from $29.99! I bought this app because I have been lusting after it since it first came out, but stopped myself from buying it because of the price and because I didn’t really have a use for it .. until NOW! This is my #1 reference tool for drawing US birds. This app is not arranged like a typical field guide with plates showing one family of birds. In this app, you can search for for a bird by one of the 15 “basic attributes” (things like shape, size,  or common location) or by keyword. For the keyword search you can search by common name, Latin name or band code.

When you click on the bird’s name there are several pages on the bird: overview, photos, Flickr, Identify, portrait, and  birdpedia. The “overview” includes a brief description of the bird and a field guide style painting. The “identify” section  has more detailed information plus a section called “Interesting Facts”, which really is interesting! There are also calls and descriptions of the calls. In the “Photos” are actual photographs of the birds.

So far, this is my favorite iPad app birding app for drawing because it’s easy to search, it has a lot of photographs, and it has the really interesting “Interesting Facts” section.  I get great but sometimes disturbing tidbits like, “Double Crested Cormorant: Captive birds will perch to dry their wings after eating, even if they have not gotten wet”.

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

This is the logo of the Peterson app. I now know that it’s an American Robin!

I also bought Peterson Birds of North America. This app is arranged like a traditional field guide, with families of birds grouped together in a single plate. This is very useful for looking at the differences among closely related birds. It doesn’t have photos. It was useful for drawing a Foster’s Tern because I couldn’t see the field marks in the photos that were in the iBird app. I bought this app because I’m a huge Roger Tory Peterson fan!

Source: via Sylvia on Pinterest

Audubon Birds – A Field Guide to North American Birds. I bought this app because it has a feature called “Find Birds with eBird”. Basically, you put in your location either manually or with the gps and it will tell you what birds have been reported in your area! You can also search for recent sightings in your area of a particular bird! Amazing!! The app integrates the data from eBird your iPad gps! I am sure this will be extremely useful when I am in the States. Right now though, not that useful. But, I’m excited to try it when I get to the USA! It’s also searchable and has descriptions, calls, and photos — just like iBird. It may have even more features that I have yet to discover. I haven’t used this one very much yet.

Next .. how I made my list of most likely birds and also the FREE iPad birding apps I downloaded!

Getting to Know North American Birds

This is what I do for fun. I want to familiarize  myself with American birds for an upcoming trip to the US East Coast. I also want to practice my bird drawing. So, I’m drawing the birds I’m most likely to encounter in the the top New York, Brooklyn, and New Jersey birding areas in May.

It’s possible to get the list of likely birds and the reference materials for drawing online. But having such lofty and commendable self-improvement goals has given me a great excuse to indulge in another hobby (of sorts) — perusing and buying iPad apps! So far I have 3 purchased apps and 2 free apps. More on the apps later!

Herring Gull

Laughing Gull

Semipalmated Plover