Subject: Re: bird identification
Date: Apr 4 07:50:39 1995
From: Stuart MacKay - stuart.mackay at

Karen wrote:

> I asked about the great tit because it is listed in
> Peterson's Guide to Western Birds. Based on the replies I
> have received, I now feel that it was a foolish suggestion

Au contraire, just because a species would be really, really unlikely to show
up doesn't mean that it won't. The painful lesson "no experience - no
credibility" (of which I have been on both sides of the fence) is applied all
too often. Most birders should know better ;-)

In Caithness in 1982, a farmer had a strange bird hanging around his garden
for a couple of days. The guide books he had suggested Rufous Bush Robin -
would have been the first record for Scotland. He thought it pretty unlikely,
and at the risk of feeling foolish kept quiet. The only problem with this it
WAS a Rufous Bush Robin - based on a description and its feeding behaviour. I
only found out 3 weeks later - AAAAAAGGGGGGHHHHH !!!!!!!!!!!!

The discussion on bird identification brings up an interesting point. How do
birders identify birds ? In my experience non-birders, describing a species
concentrate on a completely different set of criteria which makes it hard for
birders to picture the species and try to make an assessment of what it might
be. In my experience its only after "intensive interrogation" that the
expected characterisitics can be discovered. The only species I have no
trouble in identifying from third parties (mainly farmers) have been Avocet
(black and white with curved beak) , Red-backed Shrike (black face mask) and
Hoopoe (black and white and pink !!!!). Any thoughts or anecdotes ??

Stuart MacKay