How To Create A Bird Names List

Many bird watchers and backyard birders enjoy keeping a bird names list. The list might be of the wild birds they have seen in their own backyard or they may keep a life list, which are all the birds they have seen since they started bird watching.

Keeping a bird names list is a wonderful way to enhance both the educational and the pleasurable aspects of bird watching. It is also fun to look back in your notes and remember where you were when you had a special sighting, for example, your first bald eagle. Keeping records of bird sightings can also reveal patterns of occurrence and activity.

There are three ways to keep track of your encounters with birds:

The one you choose is up to you. There are no rules here, the way you organize your bird list is personal choice.


A checklist can be as simple as you like. You may just want to write down the names of the birds you see. You can add a few details to include time, date and location. You can use a sheet of lined paper, kept in a notebook or a bird list that is prepared specifically for your geographic location.

Most bird field guides will include a bird names list, which could be used as a checklist. You can also obtain checklists from popular birding locations, local bird watching clubs or nature stores. If you decide to use the checklist provided in a field guide, leave that guide at home and take along a small notebook or a different field guide to keep track of what you see. It would be a shame to discover it lost after returning home from a productive day of birding.

Bird List:

As a birder you may want to go beyond a simple checklist. Keeping multiple lists to track your sightings will give you the ability to add more detail to your records.

Here are a few examples of lists that you may want to keep:

  • Yard List: Include birds that you have seen in your yard and at your bird feeders.
  • Location List: Include bird sightings in your town, county or state.
  • Trip List: Include birds seen on vacation or a special bird watching trip.
  • Time List: Bird species seen within a month (Month List), a year (Year List) or a lifetime (Life List).

Birding Journal:

You can take your bird names list to an even greater level of detail by starting a birding journal. There are many pre-made birding journals available, but for more creative freedom you can make your own. You can include as much or as little detail as you like. There are no rules for what should be written in your birding journal.

Here are a few suggestions of topics you can include:

  • Date and time
  • Gender
  • Location of sighting
  • Number of birds seen
  • Behavior observations
  • Habitat description
  • General weather conditions
  • Bird sounds
  • Sketches of things you see

One last option is bird-listing software.

Programs have improved in recent years. You can electronically record many of the same things that you can manually record, but the real advantage is organization and report generation.

Most birding software is already fully equipped with a number of predefined reports. Some will even allow you to add digital photographs to your journal pages. Try to choose software that is easy to use with enough flexibility to allow you to be creative with your bird list.

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