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 documented in a manner that probably would not have happened 25 years ago. The wood-rail was incidentally documented when it "photobombed" a Least Bittern that was being digitally video-recorded by Matt Daw. While such documentation would have been possible in the past, vastly more birders now obtain video in the feld than was the case a generation ago. Miscellaneous We here provide a few thoughts on four species that highlight additional challenges and opportunities for the ABA CLC in the second decade of the 21st century and beyond. This is just a sampling that refects some of our own biases and interests. Barred Antshrike (Thamnophilus doliatus) Unique in the ABA CLC's history was a Barred Antshrike reported from Texas in September 2006. The only evidence for this species' occurrence is a sound recording; the bird—assuming the source of the sound was avian—was audio-recorded at night and was never seen. Although accepted by the Texas Bird Records Committee, the record was subsequently rejected by the ABA CLC; see Pranty et al. (2007) for a justifcation of the CLC's decision. In the seven years since that sound recording was obtained, there has been a dramatic surge in birders' interest in and knowledge about making and interpreting sound recordings of avian vocalizations. (For a look at this phenomenon, see Andrew Spencer's article on p. 24.) Today, it is increasingly the case that problematic audio recordings are analyzed spectrographically, rather than aurally. Birds that "sound" simple (to human ears) may actu- Immature male Barred Antshrike. Trinidad and Tobago. Photo © Jan Willem Steffelaar. 46 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | November 2013 ally sing songs that "look" highly complex (on a spectrogram); the remarkably complex song of Henslow's Sparrow provides an excellent example of a vocalization that sounds vastly different from how it looks (see Kroodsma 2005). If the Texas antshrike record were from 2013, rather than from 2007, it is likely that the ABA CLC would have sought expert, outside review of the sound spectrogram. Going forward, it is not implausible to imagine that an Asian vagrant and potential addition to the ABA Checklist will be photographed and audio-recorded. It is conceivable that images alone might not be diagnostic, but that vocalizations like a fight call might clinch the identifcation. Pioneering digital resources like Evans and O'Brien (2002) and van den Berg et al. (2003) put the birding community on alert that birds can be defnitively identi-

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