What is a lifer?

What is a lifer? Plumbeous Kite in Belize

What is a lifer?

If you’ve been around birders, you’ve likely heard them talk about getting a lifer AKA life bird. Well, what is a life bird? A lifer is a life bird and the first time seeing one. For example, if you saw an American Robin for the first time on Monday, August 23, 2021, you could say that you saw your lifer American Robin on Monday, August 23, 2021. Pretty cool, right?

Most birders and bird watchers keep a life list of some sort. In the old days, they would be handwritten in notebooks or in field guides. Now, most birders keep their lists electronically and on platforms like eBird.

There are many kinds of life lists. The main one holds the first time you’ve ever encountered the species. But, it doesn’t stop there. You can have World, Country, State, County, and Patch life lists. You can even have a “birds on a wire” life list or maybe a feeder life list. So, if you see a bird you’ve never seen sitting on a wire or visiting your feeder, you can add it to the respective life list.

You don’t have to run all across the country on a Big Year, trying to find as many species as possible. You can try to build your local patch or yard life list. I’m a huge fan of patch birding and my favorite patch is less than a 1/4 mile down the road. With a full-time job and two kids, it’s hard to even build a quality county list. So, I focus on the patch.

Just last week, I added a new bird to my patch list, Purple Martin. Here’s a picture a snapped with my iPhone 11, Kowa Prominar TSN-99A Spotting Scope, and Phone Skope Adapter.

What is a lifer? Purple Martin at the DuBois Reservoir

I used to chase birds all over the state to build my overall life list and when I travel to new areas, I look forward to adding new species I’ve never seen. But for the most part, I just enjoy getting out and enjoying the local birds without spending too much time traveling. The more time you spend looking in an area, the higher your chances are at finding something cool and unusual.

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