Every hobby develops its own slang, the language by which the hobbyists most easily communicate with each other. Birdwatching is no different. In fact birdwatching may have more slang than most past-times due to both its popularity and the fact that birders come from every social, economic and cultural group. Here are some of the more colorful and commonly used slang terms in birdwatching.
A very contagious condition picked-up by some birdwatchers which is characterized by the tendency to see rare Asian vagrants where there really are none. A surge in the number of cases of Asian flu usually occurs shortly after a rare Asian bird has been reported.
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.
A bird of prey. Although many BOPs are big and impressive, they aren’t always readily identifiable, either because they are flying very high or the lighting conditions make all BOPs look like dark spots in the sky. As such, this generic acronym comes in quite handy – some days, many birds that are obviously raptors never get identified.
To intensively search through dense brush for sparrows, warblers and other small, and often elusive, passerines.
To chase after a reported rarity. This does not mean chasing after the actual bird itself but undertaking a trip (usually a long trip) in order to see the bird and record it on a life-list, year list, etc.
A mega-tick, which leaves you emotionally “crippled” either by its extreme rarity or by its sheer beauty. Not all mega-ticks attain the status of cripplers, as some birds that are very rare are also small and rather plain.
Common, and usually unidentified, gulls.
A rare bird that a birder missed seeing.
The failure to see a particular bird, usually one for which a birder has gone out to twitch. It was there, but you “dipped out on it”. The bird in question may then be referred to as a dip.
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. They are usually satisfied with the more common birds that would drive a twitcher insane with boredom. Dudes are generally not experts in bird identification but are quite happy just seeing the more common birds. The only danger with dudes is when they think they know far more than they do and consequently, run up lots of stringy records.
Any experienced birder who doesn’t believe what you saw.
Flycatchers of the genus Empidonax.
A domesticated bird or one of dubious origin, e.g., “Those are some fake ducks on that pond”.
A single engine aircraft.
Great Blue Herons.
GRIP SOMEONE OFF
If you dip out on a bird and another birder does not, then it is possible that the other person has gripped you off. This can happen simply because you arrived at the bird’s location after it flew off, you got lost or the weather turned bad. But it is also possible that the intense rivalry between twitchers may have had something to do with it. A twitcher may intentionally grip someone off by giving them the wrong travel directions, not sharing the sighting or even scaring the bird away before anyone else has seen it.
However, before accusing someone of “gripping you off”, be aware that knowledge of some rarities is suppressed in order to keep armies of twitchers away from private land or the breeding sites of vulnerable species.
Great Horned Owls.
A relatively common and regularly occurring bird that has managed to elude a person’s life list despite repeated attempts on their part to find that species. One of the most common jinx birds is the Northern Saw-whet Owl.
The sum total of all the characteristics that make a bird species unique. The jizz includes their shape, color, voice, behaviors, etc.
Thick, brushy habitat that is good for finding winter sparrows.
Urbanized Canada Geese which frequent city parks, picnic areas and gold courses.
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.
A bird species you have never seen before in your life. A lifer allows a birdwatcher to add a tick to their life list.
A person who obsesses about the size of their lifelist. This term is often used to describe a person’s level of birdwatching passion but it can also be used as a dismissive pejorative.
A really good bird to find, and usually a very rare one.
A very rare bird.
An extremely good tick, by virtue of the bird being very rare and probably very colorful and/or exotic as well. A mega-tick is not only a good tick for you, but for any birder, even the most jaded of veterans.
Any bird species which commonly forms hybrids and which shows very few (or no) intermediate characters, for example, “that’s a mostly Western Gull”.
Shorebirds, usually those species which probe into the shoreline mud, i.e., dowitchers.
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.
A local area often frequented by birdwatchers.
A term which refers to any of the small, almost identical-looking Calidris sandpipers.
A sibilant noise made with the lips for the purpose of attracting birds and having them come closer to you so they can be identified.
To have birds respond to pishing. It can also refer to the fact that all of the birds have come to investigate the pishing sound and are no longer interested in responding to the sound.
To look for birds in someone else’s territory during a Christmas Bird Count.
A new birdwatcher, and usually one who thinks they know more about birds and birding then they actually do.
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.
Any shorebird which frequents rocky shorelines.
The look over an area using a spotting scope.
Sitting for long periods of time along a seashore in the hope that something interesting will eventually fly by.
A bird which normally lives in Siberia (or nearby Asia) but crossed the north Pacific/Alaska region (usually as a result of a storm system) and wound up along the west coast.
A term most often applied to Rock Pigeons (feral pigeons), but is also used for other, frowned-upon, introduced species such as European Starlings and House Sparrows.
A malady in which sightings of rare shorebirds suddenly become more common than normal, usually in the period immediately following a report of a rare shorebird. See Asian Flu.
Birders who regularly report rare species which turn out to be more common birds. See Stringy.
A suspect identification of a rare species which actually turns out to be a more common species. Birdwatchers who create a lot of stringy identification become known as stringers.
Summer plumage. Many species have different plumages which change on a seasonal basis, for example, waterfowl. The summer breeding plumage may be quite different from the non-breeding plumage.
(n.) A new species on the life list (can also be used as a verb; to tick)
(v.) The act of making a ‘tick’ on a bird checklist to denote the fact you have recorded that particular species. There are lots of different ticks, depending on the list, i.e., life tick (for a life list), year tick (on a year list), country tick (for a checklist specific to one country), etc.
A very common bird that is often seen. This term can also refer to locally common birds that are less common elsewhere.
Birds with tube-like nares (nostrils), e.g., albatrosses, shearwaters, storm-petrels.
To go chasing after a rare bird, or a bird that is not on your life-list.
one who regularly goes chasing after rarities
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.
Any gull, regardless of whether it’s a pretty species or not, that presents an identification challenge.
Refers to the birds you would normally expect to see in an area each time you go there.
Visible migration. Being able to see a group of obviously migrating birds. The most common vis mig situation are ducks and geese.
A non-birder who scares off all the birds from an area, either due to their carelessness or their hyperactive dog.
Sparrows of the genus Zonotrichia, which are the crowned sparrows, i.e. White-crowned Sparrow.