Saturday, July 7, 2012


Oddly enough, in spite of the fact that I enjoy bird watching a bit, I probably wouldn’t list any birds on a hypothetical “favorite animals” list. The truth is bird watching is really just the easiest kind of animal watching since birds are some of the most visible, diurnal animals. Invertebrates and herps tend to be more interesting. The list of the most impressive birds I have seen in the wild follows:

10. Common Pheasant (Phasianus colchicus)

Some birds are ornamentally beautiful: Wood Ducks, Peacocks, some of the Parrots. To say I have seen Pheasants in the wild is true, but not exactly in their natural habitat. They have been introduced all over. Part of what makes them special is they are fairly secretive and hard to see. I have seen them in both Texas and Denmark.

9. Lesser Rhea (Rhea pennata)

Not so notable, but one of only two flightless species I have observed wild. (The other comes later on this list.) In one of my favorite spots on earth, these are common and can be annoyingly un-shy.

8. Greater Road Runner (Geococcyx californianus)

The cartoon version of this species is fairly cool, but the real thing is better. They eat, among other things, snakes and I have seen the proof.

7. Chilean Flamingo (Phoenicopterus chilensis)

When you get a flock of these birds flying overhead, it really does paint the world in an optimistic hue.

6. White Stork (Ciconia ciconia)

Having heard of these impressive birds all my life, I finally got to see some nesting pairs in Slovenia on a drive down to Croatia. As is often true, having seen them once, I promptly began seeing them closer to home—like right down the street.

5. Black Necked Swan (Cygnus melancoryphus)

Swans are always a sight to see, but this variety is special for a few reasons: you have to go to South America to see them in the wild, where they are the largest waterfowl. However, they are also the smallest of the Swans.

4. Magellanic Penguin (Spheniscus magellanicus)

As Penguins go, this may be the least impressive or pretty, but they are the only penguin I have seen in the wild, and any penguin in the wild is cool. For the record I would love most to see a King Penguin.

3. Southern Crested Caracara (Caracara plancus)

I love this bird because it is relatively unknown, it is stunning to look at, and I took a cool picture of one once.

2. Arctic Tern (Sterna paradisaea)

I saw the most impressive migrator near the southern end of its journey. I don’t know if sightings are hard to come by or not, but I was very happy to check it off my list.

1. Andean Condor (Vultur gryphus)

My best sighting of the largest of birds was from the top of a bare hill as it flew about ten feet over my head. Single most awesome bird encounter ever.

[All pictures are from Wikipedia except the Penguins and the Caracara, which are mine.]

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