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 28 of 67

increasing sophistication of both that gear and the programs used for analyzing recordings. Without these tools, it's effectively impossible to use sounds as a basis for a taxonomic split. Within the past 15 years or so, recorders fnally have made the leap away from large, bulky, and expensive pieces of equipment that few birders had the ability or desire to tote around. Gone are the days of reel-to-reel rigs that weighed a ton and only held 45 minutes of tape. Now one can slip a cellphonesized (or smaller) recorder into a breast pocket and be ready to record at a moment's notice, and store hours upon hours of audio at once. This has had profound effects on our understanding of variation in bird vocalizations. Take a look through Xeno-canto and notice how few of the recordings are more than a few years old: recording is a booming hobby. With this new trove of data from all over the world, patterns of variation formerly not apparent become clear; even new cryptic species sometimes pop out of the wood- work! The trend will continue as recorders become ever cheaper and the birding public becomes ever more aware of the usefulness and downright fun of recording birds. 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. Being oscines, chickadees learn their songs, so one needs to look carefully at plumage to ID a bird near the zone of overlap. You could be looking at a bird singing the "wrong" song or even a hybrid! Facing page, Black-capped Chickadee Photo © Jim Ridley. This page, Carolina Chickadee. Photo © Robert Royse. November 2013 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy 27

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