Birder's Guide

OCT 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.

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 22 of 35

21 October 2015 | Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy hanks for taking time to talk with me, Nick. For those of us who are not familiar with the Re- cording Standards and Ethics Commit- tee, what exactly do you do? In a nutshell, the RSEC establishes and addresses concerns about birding ethics and offcial listing rules (our bylaws are at To be more specifc, the RSEC is responsible for the wording of the ABA Code of Birding Ethics (, as well as its utility and interpretation. And when I say "offcial listing rules", I mean that the RSEC maintains the ABA Recording Rules ( aba-recording-rules/), which must be adhered to when submitting list num- bers to the ABA's Listing Central (http:// We also maintain the Big Day ( rules/) and Big Year ( big-year-rules/) listing rules. A popular phrase among birders is "your list is your own", which is absolutely true for per- sonal lists that are not reported to Listing Central. Enjoy and count whatever you like for such lists; more power to you! But if you are submitting a list total to Listing Central, please make sure the species list- ed were encountered in a way that adheres to the Recording Rules. How does this differ from the function of the ABA Checklist Committee? The two committees (RSEC and CLC) are completely independent bodies within the ABA. The CLC maintains the offcial ABA Checklist (the CLC bylaws are at http:// bylaws/). It determines which species are included on the main list and its two ap- pendices. It decides when new species should be added to the Checklist (e.g., Egyptian Goose and Common Redstart were added in 2014) and when previ- ously listed species should be removed completely or moved to an appendix (e.g., Caribbean Elaenia was removed in 2009). Essentially, the CLC decides what species go on the Checklist, and the RSEC deter- mines how/when those species may be counted on reported life lists. I understand that the RSEC was inac- tive for a decade or so and was resur- rected in 2013. Was there anything in particular that instigated this? I don't know the specifcs of why the RSEC was relatively inactive for that period. I at- tribute its "resurrection" to the changes in ABA leadership, though. I think it's some- thing that Jeff Gordon and the current San Antonio, Texas Sheridan Coffey Board members—including Matt Fraker, the current RSEC chairperson—were ea- ger to see return as a resource for birders. Recently there have been some adjust- ments to the rules, which sparked a dialog on the ABA's Facebook discus- sion group, among other places. Is this something we should expect regularly? How often do you plan on modifying the rules? We hope that the several updates we made in 2014 will not need much tweaking. Since their original publication in 1996, the Recording Rules were updated in 1999, 2003, 2004, and 2014. We will re- view the Rules every year, but we do not plan to make any major changes (such as altering the countability of reintroduced indigenous species) again anytime soon. The potential addition of Hawaii to the ABA Area is a perennial source of speculation. Is this something that the RSEC could or would do, or would you be involved at all? If it happens, do you foresee any fak from long-time listers? As far as I understand, Hawaii can only be added to the ABA Area following a full membership vote, but I do not know the details of how that process could occur. The RSEC will play no role in whether Hawaii joins the ABA Area. If Hawaii were added, the effects it would have on list- ing are that the listing area description for the ABA Area ( descriptions/) would be changed to in- clude Hawaii, and thus, many new spe- T Birder's Guide assistant copy editor and technical reviewer Sheridan Coffey recently inter- viewed Nick Block, the current Secretary of the ABA's Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (read about him on page 5). She asked him questions she has pondered herself and others she's heard fellow birders raise over the past year or so. Here is their exchange. with the Secretary of the Recording Standards and Ethics Committee " ...the RSEC is responsible for the wording of the ABA Code of Birding Ethics, as well as its utility and interpretation. "

Articles in this issue

Links on this page

Archives of this issue

view archives of Birder's Guide - OCT 2015