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.

Issue link: http://bg.aba.org/i/205710

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The ABA Checklist Committee in the 21st Century and credibly provide documentation of a rare bird. It is impossible to accurately quantify the phenomenon, but we believe that there exist orders of magnitude more publicly accessible bird photographs than was the case 25 years ago—maybe only fve years ago. One could probably spend the rest of one's life viewing various Flickr accounts and never see the same bird image twice! Thus, bird photography has proliferated, to say the least, in recent decades. But that's not all; there has also been an "aesthetic" change that has had felicitous consequences for records committees. In the past, bird photographers toiled to get the "perfect shot"—a well-composed image of a beautiful adult male in alternate plumage perched on a well-manicured snag with a smooth, featureless background. But many of today's birders are amateur photographers with digital cameras who will shoot at almost anything—a behavior due in large part to not having to pay for flm or developing costs. In the past, a review species seen briefy while birding might not have been photo-documented at all; there wouldn't have been enough time to set up the "perfect shot". Today, though, a birder can fre off 25 or more shots in a few seconds, and the rarity has been commendably documented. What's next? There has been speculation for several years now about a closer fusion of binoculars and telescopes with cameras; the birder of the future may be able to employ a single device both for observation and for documentation. Sensitive, precise, inexpensive, and extremely small audiorecorders are increasingly valued and used for documenting diagnostic songs and calls (Floyd 2012). Today, most cameras (and even most cellphones!) are able to record bird vocalizations accurately enough for credible documentation. It is easy to imagine that, in the not-too-distant future, there will be apps for tracking the locations of birds with radio or satellite transmitters (as costs decline and the technology approves, maybe these will be routinely affxed to mist-netted birds' leg bands?). And—who knows?—maybe the currently fantastical idea of binoculars that "see" DNA will one day be reality. The digital revolution continues to amaze all of us, and we should be open-minded about the future. Nutmeg Mannikin (Lonchura punctulata) –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Background Comments This species was recently added to the ABA Checklist on the basis of an exotic popu- Some birders may reasonably wonder about the "countability" of Nutmeg Mannikins in the ABA Area that are observed outside southern California. For example, the species is widely scattered along the northern Gulf Coast at least from Houston, Texas, to Pensacola, Florida (e.g., Duncan 2009), and escapees could be found virtually anywhere. Would a mannikin seen along the northern Gulf Coast "count" for an ABA-compliant list? According to Rule 2(B)(iii) of the ABA Recording Rules and Interpretations, available online , "an introduced species may be counted only where and when it meets the ABA Checklist's defnition for being an established population. An introduced species observed well away from the accepted geographic area is not counted if it is more likely to be a local escape[e] or Note the short primary projection and the dark legs and feet of this Common Chiffchaff (from India)—two characters that help to distinguish this species from Willow Warbler. Photo © Rafael Armada. 42 lation established in southern California. Nutmeg Mannikins have been present in California since at least 1988 and were considered common in Los Angeles and Orange counties by 1997–1999, when the population was studied by Smithson (2000). The established population ranges from San Luis Obispo County south into extreme northwestern Baja California, Mexico. The overall size of the California population is thought to number in the several thousands of individuals. The Nutmeg Mannikin is a polytypic species that is widespread from northeastern Pakistan through the Indian subcontinent and Indochina to southeastern China, Indonesia, and the Philippines. Because of its popularity as a cage bird, exotic populations are known from many regions, including Australia, California, Cuba, Dominica, Florida, Guadeloupe, Hawaii, Hispaniola, Jamaica, Japan, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Restall (1997) recognizes 13 subspecies; the nominate subspecies is found in California and Florida (Pranty and Garrett 2011), whereas the subspecies topela is found in Hawaii (P. Pyle, pers. comm.). Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013

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