Birder's Guide

OCT 2017

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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6 Birder's Guide to Listing & Taxonomy | October 2017 ew World ornithology made a major advance in 2016 with a merger of the American Ornithologists' Union and the Cooper Ornithological Society. For science, for birds' environmental future, and for educating a new generation of researchers, the new American Ornithological Society (AOS) is more than a combination of names. We now have an important new scientific organization "dedicat- ed to the study and conservation of birds" (americanornithology. org). Each of the two venerable organizations was born more than a century ago, and current members were clearly enthusiastic about moving far beyond that old age. More than 90% of the two organizations' membership voted for the merger. As this is written, the AOS has 2,990 members who range from esteemed professors to enthusiastic young researchers—and, yes, to many people who consider themselves just plain bird- ers. Steven R. Beissinger, the AOS president, tells us ABA members, "We believe that we can better serve or- nithologists and advance ornithology by combining our assets to working together as a single merged society". Which brings us to the question, what does the merger mean to the broad American Birding Asso- ciation community? The answers are: superficially, almost nothing; fundamentally, a lot. First, the superficials: The long-familiar American Ornithologists' Union Check-list of North American Birds is newly named The American Ornithological Society's Check-list of North American Birds. It remains the of - ficial source on taxonomy of species found in the re- gion and on which the ABA Checklist is based. It is produced by what is now named the AOS Commit- tee on Classification and Nomenclature of North and Middle American Birds, but its organizational struc- ture is unchanged because there was no counterpart within the Cooper Ornithological Society. With one exception, the vast regions of coverage continue to extend "from the Arctic through Panama, including the West Indies and Hawaiian Islands". The exception is newly added Greenland, which had been absent from the covered area since 1983. This return is appropriate in the AOS committee's view because it is "geographically, physiographically, and tectonically part of North America". (Note: The ABA Area does not include Greenland.) Subspecies are a perennial topic of interest (and, heaven knows, dispute) in classification. There has been no coverage of the subject since the 1957 AOU Check-list edition. The AOS web- site refers us to online resources of Avibase (tinyurl.com/Avibase- home) and the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's Birds of North America (tinyurl.com/BNA-subspecies) for up-to-date treatments. Now, the fundamentals, which are certainly important to bird- ers as well: In a November 2016 message, Beissinger told members, "Com- ing together to form the AOS, we are now a stronger society, and we will need this strength to take on the formidable challenges ahead. With the growing gap between what the public believes about the world and how science tells us it works, and the growing threats to science and birds, our mission is more important than ever." The AOS mission statement is clear: "advancing scientific knowledge and conservation of birds." Goals include openly ac- cessible ornithological research, organizing and hosting annual conferences that meet the ever-changing needs of ornithology and ornithologists, recognizing and promoting significant accom- plishments in ornithology, developing and encouraging young scientists through student and postdoctoral research awards, and sustaining scientific impact through fi- nancial support for ornithological research. Another aspect of the mission is equally clear. It is the pursuit of a global perspective—recognition that research is not restricted to particular politi- cal boundaries. Readers of The Auk and The Condor are already well aware of the crucial links among not only New World avian conditions but also for worldwide knowledge of birds' seasonal breeding, migration, and wintering patterns. The ultimate ef- fect of all this research might well be summarized in a single, practical goal: conservation. Collaboration between the two venerable organi - zations began six years ago when leaders wondered about the prospects of a merger. Before long, a scien- tific sign of things to come was a new thematic link between The Auk and The Condor (described in the January/February 2014 issue of Birding, pp.32−33). The Auk is now subtitled "Ornithological Advances", focusing on basic research—the source of all knowl - edge. The Condor's subtitle is "Ornithological Ap- plications", translating those findings into practical concerns of population dynamics, diverse threats to species' future, and conservation. In the first issue of The Auk in 1884, the eminent ornithologist Elliott Coues told us in 10 detail-crammed pages about "Ornithophilologicalities" (no joke), but the issue had nary a pointed mention of conservation. Other than oddities like that, the main themes were birds' distribution and abundance. Truth be told, though, it was not long before the topic did receive in- creasing attention. For example, topics of two recent papers in The Auk point im- plicitly to possible conservation concerns: "Habitat quality and Paul Hess phess@salsgiver.com Natrona Heights, Pennsylvania Introducing the American Ornithological Society N

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