Through my conversations with other birders (more specifically those of WBCP), I have realized that each birder has a different way of counting lifers. Some birders are strict when it comes to counting lifers, like not counting birds in flight or not counting birds that they did not spot themselves. While some birders are not at all strict; once a birds is seen, it is already counted.
I have first heard the term “tickers” from Ixi Mapua (WBCP member). She explains them as people who get experienced guides to point out birds to them. Once the guide sees a bird, the “ticker” counts that as a lifer without bothering to observe or maybe even glimpse the bird. This is really against the birding spirit. 😦
I have actually seen a few birds that I have not counted myself. A few examples are the Philippine Serpent Eagle in Mt. Palay-Palay and the Red Junglefowl in Nuvali Bird sanctuary. You, my readers, don’t know this because I don’t write about those that I don’t count.
I myself am not too strict when counting lifers, but I do have my own set of rules. A newly seen bird has to conform with these five rules for me to consider it as a lifer. If not, then I’ll have to see it again next time to be able to count it as a lifer. It’s actually a let down if I see a bird but don’t count it, but I know it will improve my skills as a birder and help me in the future.
Here are my five rules:
- The Three Second Rule – The bird has to reveal itself to me for at least three seconds for me to count it as a lifer.
- The Field Mark Rule – I must be able to see at least one field mark that distinguishes it from other similar birds for me to count it as a lifer.
- The Ten Distance Rule – When a small bird (munia to tern) is seen with the naked eye, it must be within ten feet for me to count it as a lifer. When a large bird (coucal to raptor) is seen with the naked eye, it must be within 10 meters for me to count it as a lifer.
- The Three Second Totality Rule – A similar rule to Rule #1; When a bird reveals itself for short amounts of time, but at multiple times, and the total number of seconds that it has revealed itself is at least 3 second then I can count it as a lifer.
- The Instinct Rule – Probably the most important rule! Always trust on my own instinct when counting lifers. When my instinct says that a lifer should or should not be counted, I should follow it.