Birder's Guide

MAR 2015

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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Page 31 of 67

30 Birder's Guide to Travel | March 2015 Making the Most of Your Next Birding Tour checklist that you have already seen. The rest are potential lifers! Use a col- ored highlighter to mark the potential lifers. • Create a hit list of your target birds. These will mainly be lifers, but you may want to add other birds of special inter- est. I carry such a list in my pocket each day so I can keep track of which ones I have not yet seen. Often, I show this list to the leader so that (s)he can be on the alert for my targets. • Make a quick index of the families of birds covered by the plates and any special birds you want to fnd easily. I do this in Excel and size it to ft inside the cover of the feld guide. I then laminate it to the inside cover. Because different books list the families of birds in differ- ent sequences, this index will help you fnd a bird's image quickly. See the photo above for an example. • Consider pulling your book apart... if your book contains the plates and additional information on separate taxonomic status may have changed since the book was published. See the sidebar for tips on how to reconcile the English and/or scientifc names in the book with the ones on your tour's checklist. • Study the birds you have marked. Learn their names well, note the characteristics of the families they belong to, and study the diagnostic feld marks of each species. AdvAnced PrePArAtion Many participants start to prepare much ear- lier than two months before the trip. They begin as above and add steps to enhance their knowledge of the species they might see. Here are some additional things you can do to be even more prepared. • Mark up your book. I mark up my book extensively by placing a large, bold plate number in the right-hand corner of each plate's page, labeling the plate in large letters with the families depicted on the plate, and writing each bird's name beside its picture so that I can fnd it quickly. I underline the name if I have seen the spe- cies before. • Use your database. Most birders keep a re- cord of their sightings in a database such as Avisys for the Mac and Windows, BirdBase for Windows, and Bird Brain for the Mac, or the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's eBird, which keeps your observational data on- line on its servers. One new database you might try is iGoTerra (, which lets you keep your data according to the IOC or Clements lists. Your database will not only provide you with an updated taxonomic list of the species you might see (if you have kept it up to date!) and with a checklist of birds for the area you plan to visit, but it also will show you which species you have seen previously. • Find all (sub)spe- cies on your tour Scientifc Name Changes Over time, taxonomists have changed the scien- tifc names of many species. The specifc epithet— the second part of the scientifc name—is very stable and seldom changes, but changes in genus are much more prevalent as taxonomists recon- sider how species are related to one other. Even a name like Turdus migratorius (American Robin), which has been in use for many, many years, could change overnight if taxonomists were to decide that Song Thrush (which is the type spe- cies for Turdus and must retain that genus name) is in a different genus than American Robin. Learn How to Find Current Taxonomies • If your tour checklist and your book differ, the easiest way to fnd synonyms (either English or scien- tifc) is to use Denis Lepage's Avibase website, Whatever name you type into the "fnd" feld, vernacular or scientifc, the website will take you to the bird that you are seeking. Lepage's database is quite up-to-date and goes back many, many years. Checklist Variations • As you probably know, there are quite a few checklists of the world's bird species, and taxonomy can vary among checklists. Many of these checklists are updated regularly, so there can be a great deal of differ- ence between what is in an older book and what is available today. The major world checklists are the International Ornithological Committee (IOC) World Bird List, Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW), Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World (H&M 4), the Peters Check-List of the Birds of the World, and the BirdLife International checklist. Check with your tour operator to see which taxonomic authority it follows on its bird lists; this is often listed on the bird list itself. Comparing Checklists • You can download a spreadsheet from the IOC website that com- pares major world checklists. It's an amazing document that incorporates virtually all recent names. Within the spreadsheet, a simple use of the "fnd" function will get you to the right bird. It's listed as "Comparison of IOC 4.4 with other world lists" at ioc-lists. Note that it doesn't have all of the his- torical names listed and that v. 5.1 will be out soon. The link above also features an astounding multilingual spreadsheet. Creating an index for your feld guide and/or for the custom-bound plates can make locating a bird much easier. Birding in Central Asia on a WINGS tour. Photo © Steve Rooke

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