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Fellow birders.

Below follows a slightly longer message about the score system, than the one that was sent out to various lists as an introduction to “EXPEDITION BIRDING”. This message contains the complete set of rules. All in all the score system reflects the conservation need of the bird and the need for more visitors to the areas where an expedition birding bird has been found. While this score system is an incentive to travel to see rare birds off the beaten track, one does not have to keep scores to be an expedition birder. The score system is merely a general guideline to help the birder making the right choices and lure him off the beaten track. His/her observations and the mere presence at the birding site, will in this way have a greater value and importance for the local economies and for the conservation of the threatened birds.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am not a fanatic lister. The expedition birding concept has been created to make list keeping a purposeful and legitimate conservation tool not to be ashamed of.

The Expedition Birding forum is for the discussion of threatened (RDB species) and endemic (EBA species), as well as newly discovered or rediscovered species, world wide. Share your sightings, report discoveries and expeditions and post trip report summaries where these birds are mentioned. Send an empty e-mail to

To make the birding and listing more purpose-full I hereby present an idea that would both help bird conservation and promote direct benefit and income to some of the poorest areas on the globe. The listers will be an asset for bird conservation. During the last 15 years of birdwatching and expeditions in Peru I have found that going to unknown places and looking for little known birds is absolutely the most rewarding birding there is.

Expedition Birding ought to be spread around, as a very rewarding way of birding and which could have tremendous impact for bird conservation around the globe.

If the competitiveness among some birders could be used as an asset for directing them to where their presence would have most positive impact on local eco-tourism and conservation projects dealing with threatened birds, this may just make the difference. It would promote birders going on expeditions into relatively unknown areas to find endemic and rare birds. The result would be conservation through avi-tourism to remote areas with relatively few bird species, but highly endemic and threatened species. These focused birders would be the fore-troops that would allow local investments to cater for more comfort demanding birders in a near future.

Dr. Jon Fjeldså has developed a system of scoring study sites in terms of the rarity and the endemism in the birds present, to be able to compare the conservation value between different sites in the Andes. Generalists and common widespread birds do not get any points, while rare (threatened) and endemic birds get high scores.

I suggest that a similar system can be applied to World birding to create a comparative measure of the quality of one’s list. Most threatened birds of the world would gain in a more continuous flow of visitors to see these. The more threatened the bird, the more it would gain from an increased flow of birders to come and see the same. The money generated through small entrance fees to conservation units would support local conservation projects. One could easily imagine the creation of general ecotourism income locally in terms of providing basic services of transport, guides, horses, porters, food, shelter, etc even in the most remote areas.

Only very rarely would world birders be a problem for the species...and in the cases where disturbance may have negative impact, the bird watching could easily be channeled in a way to minimize these effects and still allow for the generation of funds through visiting birders. If the conservation guidelines are set so no visits can be allowed for any what-so-ever reason these must be followed. If you break any rules to see a species, do not follow the set guidelines or sneak into a strict reserve, you should not count these points in your expedition birding list. The whole purpose behind this game is that it should be a benefit for the threatened birds – not a threat.

The following score system should be seen as the bird’s need of conservation attention. The score system has been modified from the original proposal!

10 points. discovery of a new species, rediscovery of a generally thought or suspected to be extinct species or species without sightings the last 30 years. In some cases (such as Ivory-billed and Imperial Woodpeckers) where there have been a number of searches for a species without success a re-encountered population of these shall also give 10 points.

8 points: Update of rules. Runner-up expedition to bird yet to be described. 8 points countable until the new species is published. There is a risk that a bird in this category will prove not to be a good species and consequently the points will be lost. On the other hand the information collected by runner-up expeditions can help the discoverers to get the description going.

7 points: Update of rules. To achieve the points in this category there is 5 year limit after the publication starting from the year after description. Thus a species published as new to science in February 2000 will be accountable for 7 points until the end of 2005. Thus during 2004 you may count species described as new to science in 1999. For rediscovered species – the period counts from the year after the publication year of the rediscovery. In some cases it may be that the rediscovery is announce widely on the internet rather than a printed journal.

If a newly discovered or rediscovered species does not generate much traffic of birders and there are years when no birders or ornithologists visit the area (remote islands or remote peaks) added years for each year without observation is granted. (For example, a species described in 1997 with no sightings in 1998 and 1999, but with sightings every year between 2000-2003 (four years) does still give 8 points in 2004). There may also be restrictions to visit an area for political or conservation reasons. In such cases there will also be a year added for each year a species has been off limits. However, the awkwardness of trying to find out if there have been years without observations forces us to make a limit to birds described or re-discovered 1994 or later. Birds described or re-discovered before this count five years in the way as mentioned above, unless it is obvious that no or very few additional sightings (traceable) have been made..

5 points: RDB - Critically Threatened. Also adding substantial data to Data Deficient birds so it will get a true threat status by BirdLife International, is rewarded with five points. It could for instance be finding the nesting area of DD seabirds or other data that can be used for a more proper status treatment.

3 points: RDB - Endangered

2 points: Red Data Book - Vulnerable
Undoubtedly getting the World Birders to focus on threatened birds would be an
asset for bird conservation, both their skills in ID and collecting valuable ecological data, as well as spreading eco-tourism dollars to where it is most needed.

1 point: Endemic Bird Area (Statterfield et al) species and Near Threatened
species regardless if they are endemic or not. Simple observation of Data
Deficient birds.

The score at the time of observation is the score that counts. If the bird later becomes re-classified to a different threat level, your score would not become higher or lower, but remain the same as it was at the time of observation (the exception is if a non-described taxon is better considered a subspecies than true species one would loose the 8 points collected). The next time an expedition birder plans a trip somewhere, he would look to where the birds are that have the highest score. Very subtly, the attention has been changed from trying to get as many lifers as possible to getting as high score as possible – and it is especially important to go for the high score birds first. The attention is turned towards the birds that most need attention. The increased stream of birders going for the most threatened and the newly discovered birds can all of a sudden mean the economical difference for some people living close to the where-about of the species searched for. With observation of the critically threatened species also comes a responsibility. Should a bird species become extinct in the wild – the points that one may have attained for this species previously, will be lost. One could easily imagine specific funds for the most critically threatened birds, where the people who have seen them could make annual contributions for the protection of such and such species.

The attractiveness with this listing system compared to other listing is that your total count of your list could be seen as a conservation score or factor. Comparing just overall numbers of birds has more to do how much money and time you have spent on your bird-trips. It seems like many of these trips focus on spending as little time as possible on each bird, in order to have more time to look as little as possible at a maximum number of bird species. It is not necessarily the most expensive bird-trip to the most mega-diverse locality that will give the highest Expedition Birding score. Island birding is particularly rewarding. Comparing Expedition Birding points make one feel that one have contributed to the overall conservation of threatened birds and their habitats.

For some species it may be necessary to upgrade their RDB status if new data is provided that the situation is worse than feared. If expedition birders have left important information and documentation that contributes to the decision of an upgrade (based on IUCN criteria and published by BirdLife International on a regulare bases), such an observer/data provider may count the new score the bird receives in the next update.

Those who have seen this bird previously, when it had a low threat status and have not contributed with new data will not be able to count the extra points, unless they go and see it again for a second time. In this latter case – another observation after a score increase – will allow you to count the higher score.

The Expedition Birding bird list with species from around the world (currently 3712 species) has been posted on This list is interactive, so you can register your own observations and see how many points you have. There are also Excel sheets available in the “files section” for the recently described species, rediscovered species and species still to be formally described. If you can help us supply data of observation years for newly described and rediscovered species, this help will be greatly appreciated. Send updates and info to Gunnar Engblom We are in the final stage of providing different search tools. You will be able to list scores country by country. You will be able to register your score for your personal trips and compare which trip has given you the highest score. And so on.
Expedition Birding is housed now on but this is a temporary solution. In a near future expedition birding should have its own web-page operated from it own server.

Also, your observations will be available to other birders and to BirdLife International as well as local conservation units to take appropriate measures for the conservation of particular species.

The score system has been built using the following literature. Purchase these and support BirdLife International. They are great to understand the underlying principles of Expedition Birding.

EBA birds are listed in Stattersfield et al (1998) "Endemic Bird Areas of the World". BirdLife International

RDB scores.
For 1988: Observations made prior to 1994: see Birds to Watch (1988). International
Council for Bird Conservation. Technical Publication No. 8. But categories of Birds to Watch 2 applies (CR, EN, VU). Species not treated within a RDB category in Birds to Watch 2 have been classified as VU (2 points) in the 1988 column.
For 1994: Observations 1994-October 2000. Birds to watch 2(1994). BirdLife
For 2001. Observations after Nov 1, 2000. Threatened Birds of the World (2000). BirdLife

Future observations can be judged by frequent updates from BirdLife International (available on line).

Following the links you will find discussion forums for changes in status of a number of birds. Obviously it will be hard to draw a guide-line how to do with species that are suggested to become upgraded. Say for instance that you go to see one of these birds currently considered VU which is suggested to become upgraded and listed either as Endangered or Critical. If you provide your observation details to Birdlife International you may count the additional points the species may receive in the update. For species that are considered to be down-graded you may still count the high score until the final list is published. But please, send your observations nevertheless to birdlife through the forums.

Observations from 2003 onwards:

The e-group for Expedition Birding is meant to promote focused world birding and to keep us all updated on various expeditions to rare and endemic birds around the world. Trip report summaries are most welcome, and special feats to see the rarest birds on earth will be exciting to learn about. Go ahead – brag about your latest hi-score birds. Once again, subscribe by sending an e-mail to You may leave the title and the body blank.



Gunnar Engblom
Kolibri Expeditions

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