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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amount of discussion and media coverage of this presumed vagrant. It seems destined to become one of the most celebrated ABA Area vagrants of all time. The identity of the bird is not in question, but, understandably, there have been questions about its provenance. The general consensus seems to be that it is a natural vagrant; however, some wood-rails are known to be kept captive in the U.S. But we're getting ahead of ourselves, as this record awaits review frst by the New Mexico Bird Records Committee. Comments There are two records of Spotted Rail in the ABA Area. This one was photographed in Argentina. Photo © Horacio Luna. impassioned opinion about the countability of vagrants (see Brinkley 2012) whose provenance is in many cases impossible to determine with certainty. Needless to say, the ABA CLC strives to render judgments that are objective; at the same time, it may be impossible for some members of the committee to be completely unaware of and unaffected by public discourse. Finally, there is a strictly procedural question for the ABA CLC. Members of the CLC need to decide at what point they will review the Hooded Crane records. Does the CLC evaluate the record(s) right now, after two state committees have voted in favor of vagrancy? Or does the CLC wait until the Idaho and Nebraska committees also reach consensus? With more birders than ever, and with more and generally more active records committees than ever before, such procedural matters will continue to challenge the ABA CLC. Rails are in a family known for long-distance movements. Notable vagrants to the ABA Area from the Neotropics have included Paint-billed Crake and Spotted Rail (Pranty et al. 2008). But despite their aquatic habitats and the dull plumages and secretive behavior of many species, rails are kept in captivity and at times escape. A recent, familiar example is the population of Purple Swamphens found in Florida, which began from captive individuals allowed to roam freely. Another example, this one specifcally regarding wood-rails, was the report of two small populations of Gray-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides cajanea) "said to exist under protected conditions" in southeastern Florida (Vero Beach and Miami) in the 20th century (Stevenson 1976, Robertson and Woolfenden 1992). Unfortunately, published details about these populations are so sparse that it is not known even whether they were released accidentally or intentionally or whether any of these birds bred outside of captivity (Greenlaw et al. in press). As stated above, there seems to be some consensus that the New Mexico wood-rail was a natural vagrant. However, records committees aspire to operate independently of the "court of public opinion". Will the New Mexico and ABA committees corroborate public opinion about this bird? We honestly do not know. One possible point of reference is another recent, spectacularly out-of-place bird at Bosque del Apache: a Sungrebe (Heliornis fulica) in November 2008. The species was accepted by the ABA CLC as representing a natural vagrant (Pranty et al. 2011), but the New Mexico committee's decision to accept the record was not unanimous. It is too early to say whether the Rufous-necked WoodRail will be added to the ABA Checklist. In passing, we note that the Rufousnecked Wood-Rail was discovered and This Rufous-necked Wood-Rail was photographed toward the northern end of its expected range, on the edge of mangrove forest near San Blas in Nayarit, Mexico. Photo © Greg R. Homel. Rufous-necked Wood-Rail (Aramides axillaris) –––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––––– Background One individual was at Bosque del Apache National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, 7–19 July 2013. There has been an extremely large—perhaps unprecedented— November 2013 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy 45

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