Tony Fitzpatrick

Enjoy this celebration of birding with great food, music, and art while helping the ABA help birds and birders!

At this afternoon party, we will announce the species, and unveil the painting of the 2020 ABA Bird of the Year, by Chicago icon and prominent American artist Tony Fitzpatrick.

Click here for more info and tickets


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Rare Bird Alert: December 6, 2019

Noteworthy rarities continuing into the beginning of December include Red-footed Booby (ABA Code 4) and Garganey (4) in California, and the long-staying Antillean Palm-Swift (5) and the likely-to-be long-staying La Sagra’s Flycatcher (4) in Florida

 

This week had another edition to the annals of epic rare bird stories, surrounding the fate of Washington’s 3rd Ross’s Gull, which showed up in Seattle and sent shock waves through the local birding community. Unfortunately, the bird was as interesting to the local Bald Eagle population as it was to the birding world, and in short order was depredated by one of the urban Baldies right in front of a shocked phalanx of birders.

The story is one that was remarkably similar to the last Ross’s Gull to grace the Lower 48, a San Mateo, California bird that was done in by a Peregrine Falcon.

Such is the fate of these arctic beauties in the south, sadly, but thanks to eBird we can still gaze upon its rosy glory in better times.  Literally minutes before the deed according to the photo sequence in the checklist.

That wasn’t the only exciting birding to be had in Washington, however, and a Mountain Plover in Grays Harbor and a Brambling (3) at a feeder in Richland were also nice birds for the state.

Oregon had a Emperor Goose among goose flocks in Columbia this week.

In Utah, a small group of McCown’s Longspurs in Enterprise were the first in the state in many years.

Always a nice find in the continent’s interior, a Eurasian Wigeon was seen at the Qu’Appelle Dam in Saskatchewan.

Michigan had a Spotted Towhee in Barry, one of many in the midwest in the last month.

Good for Iowa was a Harlequin Duck at Mason City.

In Missouri, an Anna’s Hummingbird has been visiting a feeder in Boone for some time.

The 5th Heermann’s Gull for Texas was seen in Tarrant, interestingly in the interior of the state.

A briefly seen Red-legged Thrush (5) in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the 4th for the ABA Area, 3 of which were seen this year.

Remarkable for North Carolina was the state’s 2nd record of Snail Kite flying down the Outer Banks in Dare. 

West Virginia had a Red-throated Loon in Randolph. 

As it frequently is, Cape May, New Jersey, is loaded with good birds including a Black-chinned Hummingbird and a Harris’s Sparrow this week.

Connecticut becomes the latest state to host a Pink-footed Goose (4), this one in Preston.

Noteworthy for Massachusetts was a Shiny Cowbird (3) in Dukes and a Pink-footed Goose (4) in Plymouth. 

Nova Scotia had a Barnacle Goose (4) this week at Cobequid Bay.

And in Quebec, a Harris’s Sparrow was seen at La Haute-Gaspésie.

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Omissions and errors are not intended, but if you find any please message blog AT aba.org and I will try to fix them as soon as possible. This post is meant to be an account of the most recently reported birds. Continuing birds not mentioned are likely included in previous editions listed here. Place names written in italics refer to counties/parishes.

Readers should note that none of these reports has yet been vetted by a records committee. All birders are urged to submit documentation of rare sightings to the appropriate state or provincial committees. For full analysis of these and other bird observations, subscribe to North American Birds, the richly illustrated journal of ornithological record published by the ABA.

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2020 AOS Classification Committee Proposals, Part 1

As we have in the past, here is the first rundown of the new bird taxonomy proposals submitted to the American Ornithological Society’s North and Middle America Classification Committee for 2020. The AOSNMACC is the volunteer group of ornithologists who make the split, lump, and name-change decisions that influence the ABA Checklist and our field guides.

We suggest the usual caveat that you are undoubtedly familiar with by now, that it’s important to note that these are just proposals and the committee has yet to vote on them formally. There are some that are unlikely to make the cut for whatever reason, but in my opinion the proposals are often more interesting than the actual results anyway as we get a peek into the wild world of bird taxonomy as it exists from year to year.

This post will only mention those changes that affect the ABA Area, but if you’re interested in every single one of the proposals– the committee’s jurisdiction includes all of the North America south to Panama – please refer to the official list of proposals at the AOS’s website (.pdf).

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Change the English name of Olive Warbler Peucedramus taeniatus to Ocotero

Olive Warbler is famously one of the worst bird names in North America, as it is neither olive nor a paruline wood-warbler, as recent genetic research has made abundantly clear. In fact, the Olive Warbler is far more interesting than all that, being the sole member of the family Peaucedramidae. It has become something of a convention to give the birds in these single-species families a one word name as befits their genetic uniqueness, and Ocotero has been suggested here as it is a name that is already in use across much of the species Latin American range, as it is derived from ocote, a colloquial Spanish name given to pine trees in which this bird is frequently found. As such, it highlights the bird’s habitat and behavior in addition to its evolutionary uniqueness.

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Change the generic classification of the Trochilini

We’ve become accustomed to proposals concerning potential rearrangements of the taxonomic order in these reports. This becomes necessary as our ability to parse the genetics of various bird families and genera becomes more sophisticated. Trochilini is a very big group of hummingbirds, continuing over 100 species, and as such, this is a big proposal even if its impact on ABA Area birders is fairly light.

The seven species of hummingbirds on the ABA checklist included in this group are the ABA Area breeding Broad-billed Hummingbird, Buff-bellied Hummingbird, Violet-crowned Hummingbird, and White-eared Hummingbird along with vagrants Berylline Hummingbird, Cinnamon Hummingbird, and Xantus’s Hummingbird will likely see their placement in the checklist relative to each other arranged in some fairly modest way. But rest assured, there are some big doings going on south of the border.

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Recognize Mexican Duck Anas diazi as a species

Taxonomy fans might remember that this split was also proposed last year, and it was not accepted. The basic facts are more or less unchanged. Mexican Duck is one of those cryptic Mallard-like species that have always been problematic from a species standpoint. All of the various Mallard and Mallard-like duck species are known to interbreed with Mallards readily, particularly as non-migratory populations of Mallard have become the norm, but in the case of Mexican Duck it appears that that hybridization is not as extensive as was formerly believed. Or, at least, it appears that the levels of genetic divergence in diazi is at a higher level than any of the other full species in the New World Mallard complex. In fact, Mexican Duck appears to be more closely related to American Black Duck than to Mallard, and it may be more accurate to say that diazi is a western counterpart to the former as opposed to a southwestern form of the latter. This proposal adds another study to the mix and asks that the AOS reconsider their decision. This split would add a species to the ABA checklist.

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Split Royal Tern Thalasseus maximus into two species

“An armchair tick!”, you might be quick to exclaim upon reading the title. But this proposal does not suggest splitting subspecies in the Americas, but splitting the nominate subspecies that ABA birders are no doubt familiar with from a population in west Africa. Those African birds, as it turns out, are not really that closely related to the Royal Terns of the Americas despite their physical similarities. Our Royal Terns are most closely related to Sandwich Terns whereas the African birds are a sister species to the Lesser Crested Tern of Asia and should be split with the new name African Crested Tern.

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Recognize Great White Heron Ardea occidentalis as a species

The Great White Heron of south Florida and the Caribbean was, for more than 100 years, considered a full species until it was lumped with Great Blue Heron in 1973 (a famously lumpy checklist year). The proposal suggests that the evidence for that lump was weak and that Great White Heron should no longer linger as a range-restricted color morph of the widespread Great Blue Heron. Hybrid birds (long known as Würdemann’s Heron) are not, in fact, a subspecies but a population of hybrid birds as one would expect in the contact zone. A contact zone that closely resembles those of other closely related species like Lazuli/Indigo Buntings and Rose-breasted/Black-headed Grosbeaks. This split would add a species to the ABA checklist.

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Modify the linear sequence of species in the Phalacrocoracidae

Yet another revision of the taxonomic order, this time concerning cormorants and mirroring a recent decision made by the South American Checklist Committee.

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Modify various linear sequences to reflect new phylogenetic data

And in the housekeeping vein, the last proposal is mostly a grab-bag of various taxonomic revisions recently accepted by the South American Classification Committee. Expect minor changes to the taxonomic sequence of boobies, vultures, rails, and gulls.

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The full list, including background information and recommendations is available here (.pdf). Stay tuned for the results of the voting this summer. May the splits be with you.

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Birding Photo Quiz: October 2019

First things first: a nostra culpa. The Oct. 2019 Birding went out a while ago, and we simply forgot to post the online version of the photo quiz! In our semi-defense of that oversight, we have been tremendously busy with Birding of late, with four issues going out in the last four months of the [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 22, The Common Kiskadee

Without giving it too much thought, What are some of the great places in the ABA Area? Alaska and Hawaii, for starters. The Chiricahuas, the Salton Sea, and the Everglades, needless to say. Cape May and Central Park and Montrose Point, of course. But I want to make a special shoutout here to South Texas, [read more…]

Blog Birding #423

At Avian Hybrids, Jente Ottenburghs writes that thrush hybrids are far more common and complex that we would have originally imagined.

“Hybridization is not always limited to two species; often multiple species are interbreeding.” This is the first sentence of my recent Avian Research review on multispecies hybridization in birds. In that paper, I [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: November 29, 2019

Rarities continuing into the end of November include a Red-footed Booby (ABA Code 4) in California, a Pink-footed Goose (4) in Nova Scotia and the ridiculously long-staying Antillean Palm-Swift (5) in Florida.

One of the more exciting finds of the week came from Massachusetts, where a Northern Lapwing (4) was seen in Bristol. This is [read more…]

American Birding Podcast: LIVE from the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival

The ABA’s 50th Anniversary roadshow rolls on, this time to the Rio Grande Valley Birding Festival for another LIVE show

Our special bird-themed game show features guest appearances from Birds of North America‘s Jason Ward and Birding magazine editor and podcast stalwart Ted Floyd. Listen in for fun birdy games, Rio Grande Valley anagrams, real [read more…]

Rare Bird Alert: November 22, 2019

Continuing rare birds in the ABA Area include the long-staying Antillean Palm-Swift (ABA Code 5) in Florida, still being seen by birders into the last part of November. Multiple Red-footed Boobies (4) are still being reported in California, making for one of the most impressive incursions of this species in recent memory, and a Blue-footed [read more…]

The Comeback Bird

A review by Patricia Paladines and Carl Safina

Ospreys: The Revival of a Global Raptor by Alan Poole

Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019

220 pages, hardcover

ABA Sales / Buteo Books 14921

When it comes to us and Ospreys, it’s deep and personal. Around 1970, a neighbor took an adolescent Carl to a secret [read more…]

How to Know the Birds: No. 21, Hawaii’s Most Perfect Bird

Last year in Birding magazine, we ran a multi-issue series on the birds of Hawaii. Jeffrey A. Gordon started us out in the Feb. 2018 issue with a tribute to the iconic ‘i‘iwi; Lisa Crampton and Helen Raine followed with coverage in the Apr. 2018 issue of the behaviorally fascinating ‘akikiki; then Andy Bankert told [read more…]