If you played Red Dead Redemption 2, how many birds have you watched? None? Well, you better step your game up because Red Dead Redemption 2 boasts an impressive collection of natural wildlife, and one professional bird watcher says the game might be worth playing just for that.
On a blog post published for the National Audubon Society (an organization for the protection of birds), bird watcher Nicholas Lund gives a surprising and fascinating look at how it's possible to birdwatch in Red Dead Redemption 2. "I spent most of my time finding birds, and was impressed with the breadth and relative accuracy of the species represented," Lund writes. "Birds change with habitat: Roseate Spoonbills and Great Egrets feed in the bayous of Saint Denis. Laughing Gulls and Red-footed Boobies roost along the coast, while eagles and condors soar over mountain peaks."
Lund, who is the network manager for the Main Audubon, doesn't just detail which birds he saw in the game, but the historical context behind birdwatching in Red Dead Redemption 2's setting. "Birding as a hobby was just getting underway in the late 1800s, and much of the population, especially those living off the land as Arthur Morgan does, still primarily viewed birds as resources for food, materials, and hunting sport. The nation's landmark law protecting migratory birds was still two decades away," Lund explains.
Rockstar announced that there are some 200 unique animal species in Red Dead Redemption 2. While there are elements in the game that simply encourages hunting them for their pelts or for food, the animals are given considerable thought and lifelike behavior. Lund recalls one particular episode of theirs: "One time I had shot a Mallard and left its body on the lakeshore after taking its feathers and meat. I was nearby about 10 minutes later and noticed a Red Fox emerging from the grass and walking down towards the duck carcass, still on the shore."
There are some minor errors that I imagine only birdwatchers might notice. Lund says there are "quite a few Little Egrets in Saint Denis, which would have been a truly rare North America sighting," and that the game's California Quail is actually a different species of bird called the Northern Bobwhite. Overall though, Lund says Red Dead Redemption 2 "is absolutely the best and boldest representation of American birdlife in any video game. It's not even close."
While we didn't take into consideration the birdlife during our deliberations, USgamer did name Red Dead Redemption 2 as our 2018 Game of the Year. The scale and scope of the world contributed to our decision, and it's fascinating to see how much more in-depth Red Dead Redemption 2 goes in with its details, even if they're only noticed by members of specific groups or hobbyists.