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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The ABA Checklist Committee in the 21st Century nessee (December 2011–January 2012), and Indiana (February 2012), always among focks of Sandhill Cranes. Records committees in Indiana and Tennessee have accepted the records in those states as having represented natural vagrants; the Nebraska committee has yet to reach consensus (M. Brodie, pers. comm.), and the Idaho committee is still "collecting documentation" after three years (IBRC 2013). Proponents of natural vagrancy have suggested that Hooded Cranes are so rare in captivity that every individual can be accounted for (presuming that no individuals are found on the "black market"), that all should be banded, and that many have been pinioned. One possible scenario in this view is that a wild Hooded Crane from Mongolia, Russia, or Japan few off course to Alaska, joined the local breeding "Lesser" Sandhill Cranes, migrated with them to winter in the U.S. or Mexico, and was then observed in Idaho during spring migration. What we presume to be the same crane was then found during the following two years in Nebraska, Tennessee, and Indiana. This bird or these birds may have been natural vagrants, but it is unlikely that the ABA CLC will simply rubber stamp that view. For starters, the CLC will be challenged with trying to determine how many Hooded Cranes are involved. If it is thought to be just one bird, then the committee will have to wrestle with the question of the bird's complex movements around the U.S. (e.g., Tennessee and Indiana are outside the presumed northwestward trajectory of Lesser Sandhill Cranes returning to their breeding grounds in Alaska from wintering grounds in Texas or Mexico). Whether one or multiple birds are involved, the matter of provenance must be addressed. In this regard, it is noteworthy that four Hooded Cranes disappeared from captivity in Idaho in 2007. Apparently, these were all pinioned (M. Brodie, pers. comm.) and so could not have been any of the free-fying individuals. Nevertheless, it is at least a curious coincidence that the frst report of Hooded Crane in the wild in North America happened to be in the same state from which four captives disappeared 28–30 months earlier. This Sandhill Crane (right) is hanging out with a group of Hooded Cranes on wintering grounds—the inverse of what's been observed in the U.S.—in Japan. Photo © Gary N. Howard. 44 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013 Comments Of particular interest with these records is the "jurisdictional" issue for the ABA CLC. Four state committees are reviewing records of possibly the same individual Hooded Crane! Two committees (Indiana and Tennessee) have accepted the records as representing natural vagrants, but the other two committees (Idaho and Nebraska) have been unable to reach consensus. Given the differing judgments of the committees themselves, it will be impossible for the ABA CLC to reach a decision that refects everyone's views. A thorny issue for the ABA CLC is the relative experience and expertise of the different committees. How much weight, for example, should be given to the Nebraska committee's considerable experience with vagrancy in East Asian cranes? (The state has multiple accepted records of Common Crane, whose breeding range includes the Russian Far East.) Also potentially awkward is public sentiment regarding vagrants; in this age of online social media, there is a virtually instantaneous torrent of

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