Saturday, October 1, 2011

Recommended Daily Allowance of Birds

Posted by Rob Fergus:
A couple years ago I felt myself becoming anemic. I would go several days at a time without seeing more than a handful of birds. I had to take drastic action, and prescribed myself a more solid diet of birding. In order to measure my progress, I came up with a Recommended Daily Allowance of Birds. In short, I decided that a healthy birder needs to see at least 20 bird species every day. That's just enough to keep oneself ornithologically healthy in urban or otherwise often bird-deficient environments. For months and months I did very well, making sure to stop by some birding places on my way to or from work. One day spent on an airplane was a real challenge as I had to find 20 species while driving home on an interstate highway as the sun set.

Lately, I've slipped into some unhealthy birding habits again. I have a long commute two days out of the week, and some other days I'm very busy or just lazy. So I've had to give more attention to my Birding RDA. Some days I fail spectacularly. But more often than not I'm able to pull it off with a little extra effort.

For some of us, getting that Bird RDA can be a real challenge. How are you doing? Are you getting enough birds?

Postscript: The Bird RDA is now the 20 Bird Minimum Daily Requirement.


  1. @Birdchaser (Rob Fergus) Thanks for being my first contributor post!

    I don't know that I get 20 species per day. During some seasons, a great day is only 9 species. Daily birding really is the key to keeping the mind, eyes, and ears sharp...even if its just the backyard feeder. Oh, and don't forget to submit a checklist to eBird each day!

  2. I rarely see twenty species in a single day unless I'm traveling, but I suppose everyone's RDA is different depending on their own personal feelings about birding... to me, spending several minutes watching a flock of chickadees and kinglets can be just as much fun as challenging myself to find additional species. Either way, getting into eBird has definitely helped me rediscover my love of birds.

  3. 20 species a day is a pretty tall order, esp. this time of year! But I try to see as many as I can!! Great post. I love the concept. ~karen

  4. Dear Rob~

    I think I have a problem..I don't get the regular daily recommended allowance of birds. I go for days with just a few birds here and there..then I go out and get over 50 a day...and then back to just a few again.
    I have slipped into unhealthy birding lifestyle. I am a birding Loser.
    I am too lazy to make myself better...Think I will look out the window now and try..
    Chickadee~Cardinal~Robin~Titmouse...........oh~whats on facebook?

  5. LOL @ dAwN comment. I feel exactly the same :)

  6. Just like you can't go out and run a marathon--or even a 5K easily and without injury--without regular training, binge birding is also less healthy and potentially dangerous without keeping sharp daily. For one thing, forcing yourself to get your Bird RDA helps you better know the birds in your home or work vicinity--do you know where you can most easily find the 20 most common birds in your area if you had to on a lunch break? Or driving to work? Or while on a grocery run? Can you identify them by sound as you drive slowly through traffic with your car windows rolled down? Or at 65 miles an hour on the highway?

    BTW, another way to think of this is the old Minimum Daily Requirement (MDR) for vitamins, which became the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), and later became the Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) andfinally now what it is called the Daily Value (DV).

    20 seems like a tall order for some who are expecially bird deprived--just like eating fruits and vegetables seems tough for folks living on processed foods. But in most parts of the Continental U.S., 20 should be doable on most days. It might take you an hour or so, and you may have to make a special effort. But it's doable, and a good way to train for those 50 or 100 bird day marathons!