As 2012 draws to a close we here at 10,000 Birds thought that it would be a great idea if we, like we did in 2010 and 2011, shared our Best Birds of the Year. Each Beat Writer was offered the opportunity to include what they thought was the most excellent avian to cross their path this year and the variety that they came up with is pretty darn stunning.

But we don’t want to stop with just the Beat Writers. We also want to know what YOUR Best Bird of the Year was. To that end please follow the directions below.

If you don’t have a blog either give a 100-word description of your Best Bird of the Year in the comments below or email a description to corey AT 10000birds DOT com by 24 December (you can include an image if you want – just make it a maximum of 600 pixels across).  If you have a blog please write as long a description of your Best Bird of the Year as you want on your blog and provide a link in the comments or via email by 24 December.  On 31 December I will publish another post with links to all the blog posts and the descriptions emailed to me or left in the comments and we can all revel in each others’ Best Birds of the Year!

Sound good? Great! Now on to the Best Birds of the Year for those who write on 10,000 Birds!

Felonious Jive really likes a ravishing returning rarity – a Falcated Duck.

This bird has two of the qualities that birders most want in a bird: it is a total crippler, and is staggeringly rare. This bird spent the 2011-2012 winter at Colusa National Wildlife Refuge in northern California, migrated someplace exotic and distant in February, and returned to the same pond at the beginning of this month. I’m looking forward to putting it on my year list for the third year in a row. Considering the bird survived a season in an area saturated with hunters and birds of prey, this facemelting rarity deserves our respect. I should mention that I can’t believe I’m picking something other than California’s first Common Cuckoo for Bird Of The Year.

Falcated Duck by Felonious Jive

Duncan Wright had some pretty good birds to choose from for his Best Bird of the Year.

There have been some very strong contenders this year, from my first ever bird-of-paradise, my second ever pitta, the eye-watering Red-backed Fairy-wren and a subtle Southern Emu-wren. But really, the year was sewn up six days in when one bird made a spirited attempt to disembowel me with claws as long as my hand (or at least that was what he seemed to want to do). It was a heart-pounding scene straight out of Jurassic Park, an odd experience for a laid-back pursuit like birding. But for reminding me in no uncertain terms about the theropod origins of birds I have to give the award to my Southern Cassowary.

Southern Cassowary with chicks by Duncan Wright

Carlos Sanchez was particularly appreciative of a new bird for him in Florida.

Red-necked Grebe by Carlos Sanchez

My Best Bird of the Year was a Red-necked Grebe discovered in an urban pond in Tallahassee which lingered long enough for me to go and see it — a full 17 hour round trip drive from Miami. This bird represented only the second documented record of this species in Florida. After a relatively birdless year with little travel to exotic places, this bird was the catalyst for me to go somewhere different. Northern Florida represented a refreshing change of scenery and an opportunity to explore with a renewed sense of discovery.

Adam Riley chose a bird that is near and dear to Mike Bergin’s heart.

2012 has certainly been a bumper year for me with an estimated year list of around 3,000 species after extensive travels to South Africa, Ethiopia, South Korea, Indonesia, the Russian Far East, United Kingdom, Peru, Guatemala and Panama. It was tough to choose a single bird of the year but I finally awarded the prize to the unique Horned Guan. This totally crazy bird is the crème de la crème of the cracid family, and besides being endangered (population estimated at under 2,500), its habitat choice of cloudforests on the steep slopes of a few volcanoes and mountains in southern Mexico and south-western Guatemala makes it a tough bird to seek. I was thrilled to find this co-operative bird gorging on berries during a scouting trip up the San Pedro volcano last month and even more delighted when we located a pair at the same location a week later during Rockjumper’s Guatemala tour. Definitely one of the highlights of my birding career!

Horned Guan by Adam Riley

Mike was tempted to go with a guan as well, since he had the good fortune to encounter the Trinidad Piping Guan in the only country it can be found. However, he went far afield to find a more familiar fowl.

This may sound mundane, but my Best Bird of the Year is a species we all know quite well in one form or another. I traveled to the other side of the world just to see a chicken! Of course, no ordinary chicken would do, but the Red Junglefowl is the primordial progenitor of poultry, the wild source of cutlets, nuggets, and Buffalo wings. The Singapore island of Pulau Ubin is a reliable location for Red Junglefowl, the roosters of which are dashingly handsome but unexpectedly wary… I guess that’s how they stay wild!


Red Junglefowl by Mike Bergin

Clare Kines chose an egg as his Best Bird of the Year. And, no, I am not kidding.

What is it that makes a bird the best or the year? The one offering that crippling view, the rarest, the most surprising, the gaudiest? To my mind it is the one in the moment, that moment when its in my lens, or binoculars, or displaying for a mate. So, by sheer numbers it should be my constant companion, the Raven. But for the pure joy of the moment I choose this bird, an unhatched Red-throated Loon, softly peeping through the fruits of its efforts to free itself from the shell.

an unhatched Red-throated Loon by Clare Kines

Like Duncan, Larry Jordan had a difficult time picking his Best Bird of the Year but he eventually chose a woodpecker.

I chose the Black-backed Woodpecker as my Best Bird of the Year for a couple of reasons. He wasn’t a life bird for me but I had only seen this scarce woodpecker once before and both sightings were at Lassen Volcanic National Park. I love hearing woodpeckers drumming and that was how I discovered this bird, plus I was able to get some good photos and video of him drumming! What better way to start a birding day?

Black-backed Woodpecker by Larry Jordan

Alan Tilmouth chose a bird that I would love to see myself.

Mid-winter, low sun occasionally blotted by deep, rain-filled cloud, a stiff breeze plays a constant tune in the masts and wires of the assembled fishing fleet in the small, natural rocky harbour nestled on the Irish coast. Stood high on a sea wall, north wind blowing strong in my face, scouring the dark sea, the occasional cries of Iceland, Glaucous and Herring Gulls as they dive past along with the unmistakeable smell of salt and fish locate me even with eyes closed. Out across the brooding ocean a small white shape darts elegantly toward us, buoyant in the wind, occasionally veering down to snatch an unseen morsel from the cauldron-like surface. Closer and closer, my heartbeat louder as the long-sought, oft-dreamed about Ross’s Gull dashes past just a few feet from my vantage. It was hard to know whether the tears were from the icy wind or the Arctic beauty that stole my heart.

Donna Schulman liked a cuckoo.

Mangrove CuckooCoccyzus minor was on the top of my list of target birds for my trip to the Dry Tortugas and Florida Keys. Secretive, silent and undetectable outside of its breeding season, found only in the U.S. in the mangrove forests of southern Florida, declining in numbers for reasons unknown, Mangrove Cuckoo is the model nemesis bird. Four of us succeeded in getting great views of the bird at the end of a dirt road on Sugarloaf Key, at the end of a long birding day, at the end of April. And, the best thing was that it did not require tapes, just the right habitat and good ears and patience. You can read the whole story on my blog, Queensgirl.

Mangrove Cuckoo by Donna Schulman

Clare Morton, not surprisingly, picked one of those really weird birds that Australians are lucky enough to find.

I saw some great birds this year, but the highlight remains the Australian Owlet-nightjar. They are one of the hardest birds to find and accidental observations of any bird are always special. Maybe something else will surprise me before the end of the year and top up my year list, but the owlet-nightjar will still be treasured. I wrote about the experience here. The best bird in our garden this year waited until almost the end of the year and was a Buff-banded Rail.

Australian Owlet-nightjar by Clare Morton

Jochen chose a bird that everyone can appreciate.

This year, the decision which bird is my best of the year is an easy one. I saw my all-time favourite bird species again after not seeing it for more than 10 years, a splendid Bearded Vulture (well, even two) in the Tien Shan mountains above Almaty, Kazakhstan in June. However, I am in a fierce and highly emotional year list competition with Corey, and it looks like I will lose against him. Therefore, if I end up – against all odds –  being the winner, I might consider the one species my best bird of the year that put me one ahead of my nemesis birder, Corey! Ha! Cheers!

Redgannet, like Donna, chose a cuckoo for which he is cuckoo.

This year, I have chosen the Guira Cuckoo as my Best Bird of the Year. There are three principle reasons for my choice:

First of all, it’s a cuckoo, one of the great families that rival owls and rails in my affection. Secondly, well just look at it. Sometimes the Guira Cuckoo looks as if it has just stepped out of the shower, other times, it is just magnificent. Thirdly and most significant in this instance, the individual in the photo was considerate enough to perch prominently for a picture.

After a 15 hour night-shift flying to Argentina, all I ask of a bird is to sit still and to do it close to somewhere that I can find coffee. The Guira Cuckoo is a social bird which feeds and moves as a flock during the day and roosts cheek to cheek at night. On occasion, they even incubate their eggs (they are non-parasitic cuckoos) in a communal nest.

My own Best Bird of the Year is easy. A life bird, a wood-warbler, and in Queens! That’s right, the amazingly-difficult-to-find Virginia’s Warbler that I spent fifteen hours looking for and got very frustrated about before finally finding it is my Best Bird of the Year. How could it be anything else?

Virginia’s Warbler by Corey Finger

Now, remember, give a 100-word description of your Best Bird of the Year in the comments below or email a description to corey AT 10000birds DOT com by 24 December (you can include an image if you want – just make it a maximum of 600 pixels across).  If you have a blog please write as long a description of your Best Bird of the Year as you want on your blog and provide a link in the comments or via email by 24 December.  On 31 December I will publish another post with links to all the blog posts and the descriptions emailed to me or left in the comments and we can all revel in each others’ Best Birds of the Year!

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Written by Corey
Corey is a New Yorker who lived most of his life in upstate New York but has lived in Queens since 2008. He's only been birding since 2005 but has garnered a respectable life list by birding whenever he wasn't working as a union representative or spending time with his family. He lives in Forest Hills with Daisy, their son, Desmond Shearwater, and their indoor cat, B.B. His bird photographs have appeared on the Today Show, in Birding, Living Bird Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, and many other fine publications. He is also the author of the American Birding Association Field Guide to the Birds of New York.