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Tips For Spotting That Rare Bird

Rufous Hummingbirds aren’t endangered, but they can be rare depending on where you’re at.

The thrill of spotting a life-lister or seeing a bird that hasn’t been in the area for decades is one of the best feelings a birder can achieve. It’s something you can feel good about, let other people in on and even brag about. We all want to see that rare bird.

The title of this blog might be a bit misleading, though, since I can’t tell you exactly how to go out and spot a rare bird no one in the area has seen yet, but here are a few things you can do to increase your chances of finding a rare bird.

Keep an eye out at your feeder

What you’re probably doing every day is actually one of the best ways to search for rare birds. By keeping an eye on your feeder throughout the day, you’ll be increasingly the likelihood of seeing that rare bird. In fact, many of the rare birds that people first see are usually around a bird feeder or a home.

For example, you might spy some Evening Grosbeaks visiting your feeder. They may not be rare in other places, but they could be rare for your state.

Go birding more at your favorite birding sites

Along the same lines, you can find unique birds by going birding as you normally do. Keep a careful eye out for all types of birds because a rare bird could unexpectedly be in your vicinity. And, of course, the more often you go birding, the greater your chance of seeing a rare bird is.

Sign up to Rare Bird Alerts

Even though you might not be able to find it yourself, you can always go out and spot those rare birds if you’re in the loop. Quite a few listservs and notification systems exists around the country. Try reaching out to a local Audubon chapter to see if they have anything specific to your area. Alternately, you can receive alerts from the birdingonthe.net listserv, the North American Rare Bird Alert or even the eBird Rare Bird Alert.

Go where few birders go

Odds are that if no one has spotted a rare bird at a popular birdwatching hotspot, you’re not going to find one out there either. So, try new spots that few people visit. As Richard Guthrie of the Times Union wrote not long ago, it’s also possible to make a list of habitats rarities would be more likely to stop at. Then, go out and visit those habitats.

Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer, but if you continue birding, you’ll eventually find that rare bird.

Timothy Martinez Jr. is a writer and freelance journalist. His work has been published in The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, Remapping Debate in New York City and other publications. He’s been a bird lover since he was young and currently lives in New Orleans, L.A.