August 26, 2010
Snowy Owl
Snowy Owl
A couple years ago I did a "bucket list" ( of ten North American birds you have to see before you die.  Afterwards I received feedback from readers about birds they thought should have been included, so here's my next ten.  As before, the parenthetical numbers and letters refer to the difficulty of seeing each bird ("1" being easy, "5" difficult) and the state where each may most easily be seen.

Common Loon (3ON)--because nothing speaks of wilderness like the "tremolo" and "yodel" calls of this species.  But you need to see it on its breeding ground to hear the calls and fully appreciate the beauty of its checkerboard back pattern and white throat stripes.  Ontario is the center of the breeding population.

Bald Eagle (1AZ)--because this majestic raptor is the symbol of our country's independence and your freedom.  In breeding season watch along the Verde River northeast of the Valley, and in winter check out Mormon Lake south of Flagstaff.

Whooping Crane (4TX)--because this beautiful yet pterodactyl like crane is the symbol of our success with "back from the brink of extinction" efforts.  It's gone from only 16 individuals to nearly 300.  Go to Aransas National Wildlife Refuge on the Texas Gulf Coast in winter.

Snowy Owl (4BC)--because owls are so special and this is our largest owl by weight and wingspan (bigger than a Red-tailed Hawk!), and it's mostly snow white.  Try the Boundary Bay area south of Vancouver, British Columbia or the Duluth, Minnesota harbor, both in winter.

Common Pauraque (4TX)--because goatsuckers are so special in their leaf litter camouflage and crepuscular lifestyle.  Count it if you see it at night, but I'll bet you can't find one in daylight.  The Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas is the only place in the U.S.

Rufous Hummingbird (2AZ)--because hummingbirds are so special and this male, "the copper bullet," is our only hummer on which green is not the predominant color.  They are common throughout Arizona in southbound migration, mid-July through September.  Yes, you need to see the spectacular male.  Did you need to ask?

Pileated Woodpecker (3FL)--because this is our largest (the size of a crow!) and loudest woodpecker, and the closest thing we have now to the "Lord God Bird," the extinct Ivory-billed.  Walk the boardwalk through Corkscrew Swamp Sanctuary near Naples, Florida.

Red-faced Warbler (3AZ)--because warblers are the "butterflies of the avian world," and this stunning one is an Arizona mountain specialty.  Best found in Rose Canyon on Mt. Lemmon during May and June when it's nesting.

Western Tanager (2AZ)--because the showy yellow, black, and red male is our most colorful tanager, common throughout Western pine forests, and breathtaking when first seen.  Listen for its persistent, Robin like song in Ponderosa Pine in the White Mountains or the Sky Islands of southeast Arizona.

Red Crossbill (3AZ)--because its bill is an evolutionary wonder developed to pry open pine cones so the bird can extract the seeds, then husk them with the grooves in the lower mandible.  Guaranteed coming to the water feature at Jacob Lake Inn, North Rim, Grand Canyon (

Best of luck.  Enjoy the quest.  We'll do this again in a couple years.