How to Create a Complete Bird List

There are probably as many ways to create a bird list as there are birders. You can purchase a variety of checklists, or you can create your own. I find that a spreadsheet with columns for the months allows me to keep track of the birds I've seen, when they are migrating in and out, and where I saw them. You can simply make an X on your list or add the dates observed, if you want to compare first sightings from one year to another. Another thing that may be interesting for some is to keep track of the winter plumage vs the breeding plumage.

I put my list in alphabetical order. Other people like to categorize their birds by family. Still others find a running list most useful, starting with the first bird spotted each year.

For those who are new to birding, but are able to recognize some calls, convention says that you can add a bird to your list (for a day, month, outing, etc.) if you've heard it, but only if you've physically seen it that calendar year. This is another reason why many of us start a new list each year. Most serious birders also have a life-list, that is, a list of all the birds we've seen in our life along with the dates those birds were first seen. For life-lists, most people I know add the date to their favorite field guide or bird identification app rather than keeping a separate slip of paper or spreadsheet.

I'm going to share my spreadsheet for this year, updating it with new observations as they occur, and hope my birding journey encourages you to keep track of your sightings as well!


Species Seen in 2021JanuaryFebruary
American CrowX XX
American RobinX XX
Black VultureX XX
Blue JayX
Boat-Tailed Grackle
X
Brown CreeperX
Canada GooseXX
Carolina ChickadeeX
Carolina WrenX X
Common LoonXX
Dark-Eyed JuncoX X
Double-Crested CormorantXX
Downy WoodpeckerX
Eastern BluebirdXX
Eastern PhoebeXX
European Starling
X
Forster's Tern
X
Golden-Crowned KingletX
Great Black-Backed Gull
X
Great Blue HeronX XX
Laughing Gull
X
Mourning DoveXX
Northern CardinalX XX
Northern MockingbirdXX
Northern FlickerX
Palm WarblerX
Pine WarblerX
Purple FinchX
Red-Shouldered HawkXX
Red-Tailed HawkX
Ring-Billed GullXX
Ruby-Crowned KingletX
Rudy Turnstone
X
SanderlingXX
Song SparrowX
Tufted TitmouseX
White-Breasted NuthatchX
Willet
X

X = Birds seen at home in Central NC
X = Birds of the Carolina Coast
X = Birds observed in parks and on trails in Central NC

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