Birder's Guide

NOV 2013

Birder's Guide is the American Birding Association's newest publication. Each issue focuses on a key subject, providing tips from experienced birders on a wide variety of topics like Travel, Listing & Taxonomy, Gear, and Conservation & Community.

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Page 27 of 67

" This melding of birding and science has had a real effect on taxonomy. The hours we birders spend with birds total up to far more than ornithologists could ever hope for. There are just more of us. " 26 Contributions of Bird Recordists one fnds a population with a distinctly different voice, voilĂ ! A new species is "discovered"! While it isn't always this simple, consistent and diagnosable differences in the songs of different populations of one species have often resulted in a new species being described. Even for those birds which do learn their songs, consistent vocal differences can be important. Think of it this way: if one bird is singing opera, and another one is singing country, they aren't very likely to think of each other as a territorial threat, nor is the female of one likely to fnd the male of the other a very impressive singer! So while you can't make black-and-white statements about what vocal differences mean within species of birds which learn their songs, these differences often have some signifcance. Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013 At this point, you may be thinking: This is all very interesting, but what's it got to do with ordinary birders like me? As it turns out, "ordinary" birders are making major contributions to documenting these vocal differences. Equipped with relatively inexpensive recording gear and aided by recent advances in acoustics technology, birders are making a big difference. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that you can go out in the feld, press "record" on your device, analyze the recording with widely available freeware, and publish an original scientifc discovery. The potential for discovery is greatest in the New World tropics, but, even in such relatively wellknown regions as Europe and the ABA Area, birders are advancing our knowledge of acoustics-based taxonomy. How birds learn their songs is only part of the revolution of acoustics-based taxonomy. The other equally (if not more) important part is ever-moreavailable and portable recording gear, and the

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