Thursday, March 31, 2011

Utah Birder Profile: Jerry Liguori

Jerry Liguori
Salt Lake City, Utah
How did you get into birding? Did you or do you have a birding mentor? Did you have a “spark bird”?

I first noticed birds when I saw a cardinal in my yard...I couldn't believe its brilliant red color. But it wasn't until late in high school when I got hooked...I watched a bunch of vultures spook off a deer carcass and float over my head, and I was captivated by their buoyant flight for such a large bird. I had a birding mentor in college named John Rokita, he taught me bird banding, rehabilitation, bird calls, taxidermy, and much more.

How long have you been birding?

28 years seriously, a bit longer casually.

How often do you go birding? And where do you regularly go birding?

I don't do much general birding at all. I spend most of my time birding along the foothills of the Wasatch looking for fly-by migrants. Most people know me as a hawk enthusiast, and are surprised when I identify a passerine by call or shape. I am constantly looking into the sky for birds whenever I am outdoors.

Where is your favorite place to bird in your Utah? In the U.S. (or your country)?

In Utah, it is Farmington Bay, I love the winter raptor watching. In the US, there are many favorites ...Whitefish Point, MI is special, the Goshute Mts. hawk watch is a great place to spend some time, anywhere in CA, WA, OR, NM, or AZ, but my favorite place is along the Wasatch Mountains because it is my home.

Do you have any local birding hotspots that may be yet unknown to other birders that you would be willing to share with us? 

Several, I will say that Bountiful Peak is amazing for watching the fall migration.

Where in your state/province would you say is the most under-birded place that may have great untapped potential?

Out by Park Valley Utah.

How would you describe yourself as a birder? A “watcher”, a “lister”, a “chaser”, “ticker”, “twitcher” all of the above, or something else?

Absolutely a watcher and a student, I don't keep life lists and I don't chase rarities. I do keep a yard list that I discovered is the biggest in the state but I could care less...I just enjoy keeping a yard list, it is fun and makes me aware of what is in or over the yard.

What kind of birding equipment do you use?

I use Zeiss 7x45 Night Owl binoculars, they are from 1994 but are still amazing! I have a pair of Zeiss 7x42 Victory FL binoculars and love them too. I typically carry a camera when I go birding. I never really got on with scopes because I don’t like to carry or travel with them, and my eyes take too long to re-focus after using one.

How do you keep track of your bird observations? And why?

This sounds crazy, but I remember where I took every photo I have, and I have tens of thousands. But I can't remember some names of birds, I guess if it is important to me, I remember it. I use eBird, but not as much as my friends who run the eBird project would like (but I will be better about it in the future).

What is your favorite bird sighting and what is the story behind it?

 I'd like to answer that but I really couldn't, I have a ton of memorable sightings.

Any good backyard birding stories or amazing backyard bird sightings you can share?

Absolutely the juvenile gray-morph Gyrfalcon....couldn't beat that for me. Flew right along the hillside as I was shoveling my driveway, wish I had my camera nearby because the bird was gone by the time I frantically ran in the house and up the stairs to get it. I have a few neat sightings from my yard.

Which birding publications and websites do you read and recommend?

I recommend the ABA's Birding magazine. Cornell's website has an amazing depth of information. I don’t recommend publications that reward photographers by publishing their nest shots or pictures of birds being harassed.

Which is your favorite field guide and why?

I don't really have one. I'm lazy, so I never even take them off the shelf. The Sibley guide is great. I have learned more from him in the field than I have from his guide though.

Which three books from your personal birding library would you recommend to other birders?

I'd like to say my two books, but that would sound self-serving. I would say The Raptors of Europe and the Middle East, The Wind Masters, and The Birder’s Handbook.

Do you have any formal bird-related education background?

Yes, Ornithology, and general Biology classes, etc.

If a fellow birder had a question about a bird, do you consider yourself an expert (or at least proficient) on any specific family of birds? 

People say I am an expert at raptor identification. I guess I'm also decent with shorebirds, passerines, and a few other things. I'm not a big fan of the term "expert", it has an implication that someone knows it all or does not make mistakes. I will say this, it takes a lot to be an "expert". It is more than memorizing field marks, there is so much more to identifying birds than that, and applying that knowledge correctly in the field is a whole 'nother ball game. That is one of the most important things a birder can learn.

What future birding plans do you have?

To watch birds for a few days at The Grand Canyon.

Are you involved with any local or national birding organizations?

 A few casually, but I'm a bit of a hermit.

What is your nemesis bird?

I don’t have any… I've never chased a bird. But I will chase a rare raptor if one shows up within 2 hours of my home.

Any birding related pet-peeves you’d like to vent about here?

No, but if you asked me that 15 years ago I would have pages worth.

Anything about your family you’d like to share with us?

My wife Sherry is a birder and a Biologist.

Outside of birding, what are your other interests or hobbies?

Comic books (I love silver age Marvels), hiking, golf, cooking, chess, I am a sci-fi and old time radio fanatic.

If you were a bird, which species would you be and why?

 A Red-tailed Hawk, I just love them and have always been partial to them.

Anything else that you would like to humbly brag about?

I would never brag in "public". I did watch birds with Roger Tory that was pretty cool.

Total life list?

I really have no idea, I'm sure my North American list is pretty extensive though.

Most exotic place you've gone birding?

Mexico, Alaska (in the middle of nowhere).

Your mission in life as a birder? 

To publish more articles and share information. To continue to donate to bird conservation.

You can continue to follow Jerry Liguori's work and adventures at Utah Birders.

Birder Profile is a regular blog segment at "Birding is Fun!" spotlighting a fellow birder.  If you are interested in sharing a little about yourself and your birding experiences, please send me an email.  Is there a birder you'd like to see featured?  Please nominate that person by sending me an e-mail too.  Enthusiasm for birding is the only prerequisite!


  1. I remember how passionate you were about sharing your love of watching red tails out behind the house in Galloway. Great memories my friend!! Rob

  2. I remember sitting behind the house in Galloway just waiting for any birds to come by. You were so fascinated by them all. But, I definitely remember how passionate you were about the red tailed hawks!! Even to this day if I see one I immediately think of you. Good times my friend!!