Birder's Guide

OCT 2014

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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47 October 2014 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy here are two committees mandated by the ABA's bylaws that fulfll essen- tial functions relating to birders and birding in the ABA Area and beyond. The Checklist Committee (CLC) keeps the of- fcial, evidence-based list of birds that have reliably been recorded in the ABA Area. The Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (RSEC) maintains and revises our oft-cited Code of Birding Ethics as well as a compen- dium of Recording Rules and Interpretations. The RSEC thus provides guidance about good and responsible birding behavior and helps birders report list totals on a level play- ing feld. The RSEC met this July in central Illinois at the rural Carlock residence of the com- mittee chair pro tem, Matt Fraker, to fnalize prospective changes to the Recording Rules and Interpretations and to lay the ground- work for a thorough update to the Code of Ethics. This brief note will give you a "quick and dirty" rundown of how these new rul- ings might affect you. But if you want to dive deep into the fner points or raise questions, it is easy to interact directly with the RSEC. Simply go to and get started, or email rsec@aba.org. So, on to the changes: 1 • Extirpated Exotics Now Count – Formerly, once an exotic species was re- moved from the main body of the ABA Checklist, that meant that you could no longer count it on your ABA lists. No lon- ger! Species listed on the ABA Checklist in "Appendix: Part 1, Extirpated Exotics" may now be counted if you saw them while they were on the main list. So, if you saw Crested Myna in Vancouver before it was extirpated in 2003, you may again count it on your lists submitted to the ABA. 2 • Collaborative ID is OK – Previously, the Recording Rules were quite restrictive about counting birds that one did not identify com- pletely on one's own. Interpreted strictly, they deemed that birds identifed "after-the-fact" (e.g., based on photographs) were not count- able unless you took the photo yourself and noted all relevant details onsite. We believe that these rules were increasingly in confict with birding in the internet age and that they were not in the spirit of helpful "collabora- tive identifcation". You are now explicitly al- lowed to count birds identifed later with the help of others. Examples include humming- birds subsequently IDed by DNA analysis and murrelets IDed only from photos taken by someone else as the birds quickly few away from an approaching boat. 3 • More Latitude on Rehabbed Birds – The rules were a bit unclear about whether rehabbed birds, having been forcibly trans- ported by humans, were countable. We de- cided that birds that have been transported or assisted by humans for rehabilitation purposes are countable. So, for example, you could still count a rehabbed Red-footed Booby at its release location even if that loca- tion is not where it was initially taken into captivity, so long as you wait for it to resume "normal, unrestrained behavior". 4 • No More "Bander Loophole" – We strongly support banders and banding ef- forts, and we recognize their signifcant contributions to ornithology. We also desire a level playing feld for all birders. So we've changed the rules so that banders are no lon- ger considered exempt from the restrictions on counting restrained birds. A bird in a mist net, in a bag, or held in a hand is no longer countable on ABA lists by anyone. All birds (in- cluding owls) released from band- ing stations are still countable by all once they resume their normal, unrestrained behavior. 5 • Rooftop Mics Count – In some cases, advances in technol- ogy and techniques have necessi- tated new rules. If you are listen- ing in your house to nocturnal migrants overhead via a rooftop microphone, you may count those migrants, but you must be in the building the mic is on and listening in real-time—you may not count birds you only heard later on a record- ing. We believe that a rooftop mic is essen- tially an aural magnifcation device (like a giant hearing aid), similar to how a telescope is a visual magnifying device. You may not count birds seen remotely via webcam. 6 • Reintroduced Indigenous Species May Count – To be counted, individuals of native species that are part of a reestablish- ment program no longer have to meet the ABA CLC's criteria for establishment. An in- dividual may now be counted if it belongs to a population that has successfully hatched young in the wild. As examples, Aplomado Falcons in coastal Texas and California Condors in western states may now be counted on ABA lists. Another topic we discussed but haven't voted on is whether an exotic species is countable if seen prior to its offcial addition to the ABA Checklist. The decision will be an- nounced on our website. We also adopted a set of rules for what constitutes an ABA Area Big Year to clarify some of the specifc issues and situations that big year birders face. In the coming months, we plan to thor- oughly review the ABA Code of Birding Ethics and to produce an accompanying document to clarify ambiguous circumstanc- es. Our new interactive website will be used to feld questions and host discussions on countability and birding ethics. If you have a situation or question that you would like clarifed, please share it with us! It's as easy as visiting our webpage and flling out the submission form. We will evaluate your submission and be sure to inform you of any subsequent decisions or statements. We hope to hear from you! Nicholas Block North Easton, MA nlb.birder@gmail.com News from the ABA Recording Standards and Ethics Committee T The ABA Recording Standards and Ethics Committee recently met in Illinois: From l: Greg Miller (Sugar Creek, OH); Chair pro tem Matt Fraker (Bloomington, IL); Secretary Nicholas Block (North Easton, MA); Jennifer Rycenga (Half Moon Bay, CA); and Shawneen Finnegan (Portland, OR). Photo © Jeffrey Gordon

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