Birding Lingo

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Every hobby has its own slang and unique terms.  Birding has more than most.  I thought it would be fun to share some I use or like:

Terms I commonly use:
  • BINS (or Binos): Binoculars.
  • Butter Butt: Yellow-rumped Warbler
  • CBC: Christmas Bird Count
  • LBJ: Little Brown Job – Any small, brownish bird that you have not been able to identify is often referred to as a LBJ. Many LBJ’s are sparrows, as the female or immature sparrows can be difficult to identify, even for the experts.
  • LIFER (or Life Bird): A bird species you have never seen before in your life. A lifer allows a birdwatcher to add a tick to their life list.
  • Patch: A local area often frequented by birdwatchers.  eBird allows you to define a patch and track what birds you have seen in that patch.  I have defined Seabrook Island (any address inside the traffic circle) as an area I track.
  • Peeps: A term which refers to any of the small, almost identical-looking sandpipers.
  • Pish (v) (pronounced Fish): A noise made with the lips for the purpose of attracting birds and having them come closer to you so they can be identified.
  • Snag: a standing dead or dying tree
  • Snowy: Snowy Egret, identified by its yellow feet.  Don’t eat the yellow snow.
  • Spuh: birds that are only identifiable to genus level (on a day list) (from “sp.”, abbreviated form of species).
  • Warbler Neck: a painful crick in the neck from looking at birds high in the treetops.
  • Yard list: a feature within eBird that allows you to track what birds you’ve seen in your address.  You define it in eBird so for me it is simply my address as noted in eBird.
Some terms I learned from David Gardner but can never remember:
  • Dip (or dip out): to miss seeing a bird which you were looking for
  • Nemesis (or nemesis bird): a bird that has eluded a birder despite multiple attempts to see it
  • Twitch: the act of traveling a long distance to see a rare bird.
Some fun definitions I found in links mentioned below:
  • Birder: A person whose birdwatching status hovers somewhere between an obvious twitcher and an obvious dude. Birders are keen but not too obsessive, have well-honed bird identification skills, and are well acquainted with the local hot birding sites. Birders find the rarities for twitchers, and are generally happy to help dudes with the LBJs.
  • Dude: A casual birder who likes to go birdwatching but doesn’t make it a high priority for themselves. Dudes prefer to go birdwatching in nice weather and easy to access areas.
  • Twitcher: A birdwatcher who is obsessed with list-keeping. Generally, a twitcher is obsessive of their life-list, going to great expense and effort to add new species to the list. They also tend to have several “important’ lists going at any one time, such as a year list and a country list. Twitchers invariably have huge lists that only impress other twitchers. Most surprisingly, they are not always good at identifying birds; some of them leave that work to other birders who have already located and identified the rare bird.
  • MOO-TWEET: Cowbirds.
  • NOTTABIRD: Something that looks like a bird from a distance but once binoculars or a spotting scope is used, turns out not to be a bird at all. Similarly…..
  • PSEUDOBIRD: Something that looks like a bird, and perhaps even moves like a bird, until it is examined through binoculars or a spotting scope and found to be something completely different.
  • UGLY GULL: Any gull, regardless of whether it’s a pretty species or not, that presents an identification challenge.
  • USUAL SUSPECTS: Refers to the birds you would normally expect to see in an area each time you go there.
Three sites I found and used as sources for this blog are below. 

They include most of the terms above plus some others I never heard.

What terms do you use? Or which ones will you start using? Let us know in the comments!

This is a republication of a blog originally published in July 2020.

Article submitted by: Judy Morr

Author: sibirders

SEABROOK ISLAND BIRDERS / “watching, learning, protecting” Seabrook Island Birders (SIB) are residents, renters and guests of Seabrook Island, SC who have an interest in learning, protecting and providing for the well-being of the incredible variety of birds that inhabit Seabrook Island throughout the year.

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