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The ABA Area Referendum Results: What’s Your Take?


Birding Together 1112c
Back in late July, I posted on this blog asking for discussion of one of the issues we at the ABA are questioned about most frequently: what, if any, expansion of the ABA Area boundaries ought to take place? I also asked for your feedback on how we ought to go about polling our membership for their thoughts. That post has garnered 70 comments so far, many of them astonishingly thoughtful and well-informed. Though I didn't comment on all of them, I did read them all and they were truly helpful in shaping the non-binding referendum that we then sent out with our annual proxy ballot.

Well, the results are in. If you've received the current issue of Birding, and you should very soon if you haven't yet, you may have seen that I reported on your answers in my "Birding Together" column. If you haven't seen the article, or are not yet an ABA member, you can read that column here.

I encourage you to go ahead and give it a read. It's short, and goes through the tallies with a minimum of editorializing.

But blogs, of course, are all about editorializing. And I'd like to hear what you have to say about the results. Are you surprised? Or did things pretty much go the way you expected? Perhaps even more important, in view of what the membership has told us here, what would you like to see happen next?

Should we move immediately to consider the question of annexing Hawaii? What about the other areas? Their addition wasn't favored by a majority. Does that mean they should be removed from further consideration?

One other thing that may help make the results a bit easier to interpret and which there wasn't space for in print: some pie charts. Below, you can see the results as compiled for each of the 4 areas that we specifically asked you about.

A caution. These results, as informative as they may be, don't tell it all. We got dozens of handwritten comments, with a few major themes emerging, as I mentioned in the column. And we have not attempted to do any kind of deeper analysis; e.g., how did people who voted yes on Hawaii vote on Bermuda?, or similar correlations.

So here are those pie charts. Take a look, read the column, and by all means, tell us what you think.


HAWAII chart




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Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon

Jeff Gordon is the president of the American Birding Association. There's very little about birds, birding, and birders that he doesn't find fascinating, though he's especially interested in birding culture and the many ways we all communicate our passion for birds, including this Blog.
  • Craig Caldwell

    I wish now that I’d responded to the actual survey instead of by a separate email, to add myself to the “oppose Hawaii addition” numbers. An area which includes Hawaii is fine (though of course there already is one, “United States”), but changing the ABA Area definition isn’t the best way to create it. Make an area of the 50 states and DC, Canada, and St. Pierre et Miquelon and name it New ABA, Big ABA, The Real ABA, What the ABA Area Always Should Have Been…

  • William Thompson

    If the ABA is trying to appeal to a broader spectrum of new, younger, and possibly financially challenged birders, why not more emphasis on the Lower 48 List? Add all the exotic locales desired to the Grand ABA List, but popularize the Lower 48 List as the Heart of American Birding that can be achieved by anyone not willing or able to commit thousands of dollars and weeks of travel that the proposed new destinations require.

  • Morgan Churchill

    I would guess emphasis on lower 48 listing would probably estrange Canadian ABA members.

  • Morgan Churchill

    I guess my question would be: what next?

    It appears adding Hawaii, especially if a “Classic ABA” list was maintained, is actually well supported. So will we see a binding referendum on adding the Hawaii soon? or discussion on how to incorporate it into the current checklist? What needs to happen now?

  • Well said, Morgan.

  • I think this thread is meant to discuss those very questions, Morgan. 😉 What do you think?

  • William, my impression is that the under-50 crowd (and certainly the under-40 crowd) overwhelmingly supports adding Hawaii. If I had to guess why with a broad, oversimplistic reason, I’d say less sentimental attachment to tradition. Demographically, I suspect views on this topic are rather like that for marijuana and same-sex marriage legalization. There’s a generational divide, with younger folks being more liberal on the issues. I think that on all these issues, the question is not if change is coming, but when.

  • Eric DeFonso

    Can by-laws be changed through binding referenda? I didn’t have the impression that that was how it worked, but I suppose that could be done if the ABA leadership allowed for it. Then comes the question of whether a simple majority vote is sufficient, or whether it requires a “supermajority” or something. This could get sticky.

  • William Thompson

    Well, I don’t feel estranged because the World Birding Center is in Texas or the World Series of Birding is in New Jersey. The Lower 48 is the heart of North America geographically and I doubt that many Canadians would be offended if that list were touted a bit more. But, you are right Michael, this is just an aside to the main thread. Having birded Hawaii several times, I would favor it’s inclusion as that would no doubt raise awareness of Hawaii’s birds and their circumstances. If I have to re-visit the islands to see the birds again after their inclusion that wouldn’t be a bad thing either.

  • Morgan Churchill


    I am in favor of adding Hawaii and think steps should be made to put it to a vote in 2013. I have long argued for expanding the ABA area here and on facebook. I would like also to see an issue of birding where all the arguments for both sides are laid out, and more detail on how it will be implemented.

    By the way, to hit on another point you already raised, I am 32. From my perspective I am really not all that interested in a lower 48 list (versus an ABA list). I don’t have the time or money to twitch every rarity that occurs. From a logistics and “price per bird” viewpoint, I would rather save up money and visit Hawaii and see a bunch of truly awesome endemics, Than fly or drive a long distance for one rarity that may already be gone or not cooperating by the time I arrive. Not to mention I think Hawaii provides a new frontier for young birders to explore.

    And that doesn’t even factor in conservation benefits, benefits to the local Hawaii birdwatching scene, etc

  • A change to the bylaws (which is what woudl have to happen to make this come to pass) requires a majority vote of the membership.

  • Kevin Morgan

    Just curious – is that a majority vote of those who choose to vote, or an absolute majority of the total membership? Will it be an in-person vote at an ABA meeting (limiting voting to those who can attend) or will it be a mail-in ballot, an online ballot, or some combination of all three?

  • I’d agree about the World Series of Birding. But it’s named after a sporting event. The World Birding Center is only in Texas, is more than one birding center, and is not named after anything so far as I know. It’s an incredibly arrogant name, in my opinion.

  • William,

    Thanks for commenting, here and lower down the thread.

    I understand your concerns and they are ones I hear frequently. I guess one question I’d ask you is this: what about the birders that live in Hawaii? They are in many ways disenfranchised by the current situation. What would you say to them?

    As for the thought that Canadians wouldn’t mind the Lower 48 being touted more (in your 2nd comment), my sense is somewhat different there. But I’m hopeful we’ll hear from residents of many different places, both inside and outside the traditional ABA Area.

    Again, thanks for contributing to the conversation.

  • Carl Bendorf

    The founders of the ABA chose to specifically define the ABA area with language in the bylaws. Like any change to the articles or bylaws, a vote of the membership is required. All members are eligible to vote and a majority of those voting (either by proxy ballot mailed to all members or in person at an official membership meeting) would approve an amendment. Everything prior to this formal vote by the membership is extremely useful discussion and debate but the only thing that ultimately counts will be that membership vote. I think the trick is going to be to advance the discussion far enough so that the exact language of a proposed amendment is clear enough so everyone understands what exactly is being voted upon. That formal vote has to be an up or down vote on exact language. Since the vast majority of votes would be represented by proxy ballots (for example, the last membership meeting in Delaware this past Sept had something like 27 members present and 1400+ voting by proxy ballots), it’s hard to visualize how the language could be amended on the spot at a meeting by those present and the proxies all still being voted on amended language. Please note that although I’m a member of the ABA board, this comment represents only my personal observation.

  • First things first. As Carl Bendorf says, “Please note that although I’m a member of the ABA [staff], this comment represents only my personal observation.”

    As they used to say on AOL, “Me too.”

    My personal observation is that Carl’s comment, although the truth, isn’t the whole truth… 🙂

    Yes, the ABA Area is defined in the association’s bylaws, but it is worth recalling that the ABA Area had been previously established, by apparent fiat, on the pages of Birding magazine. As early as vol. 0, no. 0 (1968), Hawaii is specifically excluded from what would come to be known as the ABA Area; see the unnumbered “Sports Page” of vol. 0, no. 0.

    By the time of Birding, vol. 1, no. 1 (1969), the rules are spelled out in greater detail (p. 5):

      “First the average number of species in each of fifty states (regardless of the number of state lists reported), and secondly the average percentages for fifty states. Fifty is used instead of 49 both for convenience because we don’t count Haiwaii [sic] and also to allow for Canada–considered as the fiftieth state in the scheme.”

    There you have it! So much for the belief that some constitutional convention of birding’s founding fathers assembled and pondered such weighty matters as biogeography and the geopolitics of cultural sensitivity. (Alan Wormington, you out there? Canada summarily demoted to U.S. statehood; ouch. Watch the blood pressure, man.)

    Those founding fathers are known to screw up from time to time. For starters, Article 1, Section 2, Paragraph 3 of the U.S. constitution. And Article 1, Section 3, Clauses 1 and 2. And what were they smoking when they wrote Amendent 2 to the U.S. constitution?

    Back to the present. As to the merit of the case (Hawaii), I ain’t sayin’. But whatever we do, folks, let’s do what’s right and sensible, regardless of tradition. Let’s acknowledge that the ABA’s founding fathers, as brilliant and visionary as they were, apparently didn’t put a huge amount of thought into the definition of the ABA Area. Most of all, let’s act in a manner so as to benefit bird conservation and the birding community in 2012 and beyond.

  • Alex Wang

    Thanks Jeff and Michael for your spot on comments,

    As a student that lives in Hawaii, I think I fit into the “new, younger and possibly financially challenged birder” category and I certainly don’t want the emphasis to remain just in the lower 48!

    In addition, I firmly believe it will benefit the endemic avifauna in Hawaii that are being neglected compared to the mainland in conservation dollars. See also:

    And it sounds like William could use an excuse to come back out here!

  • Andrew Haffenden

    Nothing to do really with your response – well, tangentially – but since when was Hawaii higher than the non-Alaska US states. Is my atlas off?

  • Jeff, in answer to your question “I guess one question I’d ask you is this: what about the birders that live in Hawaii? They are in many ways disenfranchised by the current situation. What would you say to them?”
    – I’d say: “You don’t live in any bio-geographical definition of America. Sorry folks, but the ONLY link to “America” is that you happen to be citizens of the United States of America. It is clear that from the inclusion of Canadian and part of French territory, political boundaries are not the primary guides for the ABA area. Rather it is based – reasonably since the avifauna is consistent – on a bio-geographical guideline. Now one can argue about this bio- geographical guideline as to whether it should include Greenland (virtually all of whom’s birds occur in North America) or the Bahamas (ditto) – but the indiginous avifauna of Hawaii is (except for a handful of pelagic seabirds) very alien to the Americas. If Hawaii, then why not American Samoa, Guam (if it had any birds left!) or any other remnant of the U.S. Empire. If only we’d hung on the the Philippines; imagine how big our ABA list could be!!”

  • Ted Floyd

    Hi, Martin. Nice to hear from you in this forum.

    In what sense, I wonder, is the ABA Area–consisting of, among other places, Brownsville (but not Matamoros), Attu Island (but not the Commander Islands), the Channel Islands (but not the Coronados Islands), Kentucky, Québec, and Key West–a biogeographically cohesive and/or exclusive region?

    Also, I disagree that the ABA Area was established for biogeographical reasons. Such reasons may have been adduced after the fact, but they don’t seem to have been related to the “framers’ intent.”

  • Andrew – could you explain what you meant by “…but since when was Hawaii higher than the non-Alaska US states.”?

  • Aloha from Kane’ohe, O’ahu

    An issue of Birding of focusing on the ABA-Area expansion sounds like a great idea prior to an actual binding vote by membership. I’m not in favor of a Lower 48 (based on financial reasons?) or a Classic ABA-Area (only Hawaii would be excluded from that list, due to financial reasons?). Don’t forget that U.S. residents (ABA members) in Hawaii fly across the ocean to visit all of your birds in the other 49 states (it’s not cheap for us either).

    Time is running out many endangered endemic Hawaiian Honeycreepers, especially on the Island of Kaua’i at the moment. For those also interested in seeing introduced species, you could look at it as a cheaper way of traveling around the world with many different regions represented and helps in not getting too depressed about the islands’ endangered endemics. On the brighter side of things and other end of the spectrum, the Hawaiian Archipelago recently added a new bird species to the world with Bryan’s Shearwater. There is still much to be learned about Hawaii’s avifauna especially in regards to seabirds (pelagics) and vagrants (we could always use more eyes; in just the past couple years, several new species were added to the state checklist including a Snowy Owl). Hawaii is ready to join the American Birding Association’s ohana (family).

  • Ted Floyd is absolutely correct, and Martin Reid sadly misinformed when it comes to the biogeography vs political boundaries argument. Once you choose the US-Mexican border, most of it drawn with a ruler, as your southern boundary, any argument for biogeographic considerations goes out the window. But let’s consider where Hawaii falls, biogeographically speaking. Recent subfossil discoveries as well as DNA studies have clarified this somewhat, and it turns out that nearly all of the Hawaiian avifauna has at least Holarctic affinities, and most of those that can be narrowed down from that have North American connections. In fact, now that the ‘o’os are thought to be related to silky-flycatchers, the monarch flycatchers known as elepaios (3 spp) are now the ONLY Australasian element in the avifauna! Considering only the historically known birds, the hawk is related to the Short-tailed; the thrushes are clearly related to American solitaires; the stilt is a subspecies of Black-necked; the gallinule is just that and not a moorhen; the Nene is a derivative of Canada Goose; and the night-heron and short-eared owl are the same subspecies as mainland US birds. The ancestors of the crow, ducks, coot, and extinct rails are holarctic and could have been either Asian or North American. Also, the vast majority of shorebirds and waterfowl that regularly migrate to Hawaii, as well as most terrestrial vagrants, come from North America rather than Asia. That leaves two ancestors that we now know are Asian: the reed warblers (millerbirds), and the Hawaiian honeycreepers that descend from a single colonization by an Asian rosefinch. The latter bias our thinking because they greatly outnumber the species total for all the other groups. But that is all the result of evolution within the Hawaiian Islands themselves, and, biogeographically, their 50+ species still constitute only a single avifaunal element. Consider further that Hawaii lacks (or did before introductions) such defining tropical Pacific bird groups as pigeons and doves, kingfishers, parrots, swiftlets, white-eyes, and honeyeaters. Given these facts, in which biogeographical realm would YOU put the Hawaiian Islands? It seems to me that those of you who argue that the ABA Area has a biogeographical basis are actually strengthening the case for adding Hawaii.

  • Morgan Churchill

    If you are arguing from a biogeographic basis, that means you are campaigning for Mexico to be added in, what with Northern Mexico being considered part of the North American province.

    ALSO: Hawaii doesn’t share much similarity with any of the other south Pacific Islands, and excluding seabirds the landbird fauna is quite distinct. Only Monarch Flycatchers and Reed Warblers are shared. Hawaii lacks the cuckoo-rollers, kingfishers, doves, megapodes, etc of the South Pacific

    Honeycreepers/Hawaiian Finchs are descended from North Asian Rosyfinches

    Hawaiian Honeyeaters are probably new world in origin

    The Hawaiian Hawk, Solitaires, plus the waterfowl, including ducks, geese, coots, moorhens, and stilts are all North American

    So from a faunal standpoint, Hawaii certainly is not part of the rest of the South Pacific. Even Ernst Mayr, one of the preeminent researchers in the last century on bird speciation and biogeography, said that on the basis of of bird, Hawaii could justifiably be considered part of the Nearctic.

    (Oh, and if you want further support, the only native Bat is the Hoary, a NA species, and the only native pinniped is (probably) most closely related to the Caribbean Monk Seal)

  • Ha! We happen to be citizens of the United States of America? That’s funny and doesn’t sound like a real reason to exclude Hawaii.

    In regards to the “bio-geographical guideline” reason, here’s some interesting facts: In recent history, there are nesting records of Pied-billed Grebes and Blue-winged Teal on Hawaii Island. The entire population of Bristle-thighed Curlews that nest in western Alaska spend their winters in the Pacific Ocean, large numbers in the Hawaiian Archipelago as well as the Pacific “they are everywhere in Hawaii” Golden-Plovers.

    In regards to “…the indigenous avifauna of Hawaii is (except for a handful of pelagic seabirds) very alien to the Americas.”, it doesn’t reflect on the U.S. Endangered Species List. The bird portion of the U.S. Endangered Species List is made up of mostly Hawaiian bird species.

    We can talk about adding American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, Puerto Rico, etc. when and if the ABA membership is as ready as Hawaii.

    Can you imagine if the U.S. limited themselves to the original 13 States? Wouldn’t the ABA membership get bored if they decided limit the ABA-Area to the Lower 48 States?

  • Ted Floyd

    This is brilliant, Doug. And I’m not saying that because we agree. Indeed, your main thesis is very distinct from the simple idea I was trying to get across.

    I try to make it a point, every day of my life, to learn some new fact. That’s easy. There are a lot of facts in this universe. Much, much rarer than learning a new fact, though, is learning a new way of thinking. And, Doug, you’ve succeeded, on my behalf, on that front: You’ve opened up an entirely new way of thinking for me. You see, I’d always fallen back on the old argument that goes like this: Yeah, the Hawaiian avifauna ain’t all that “American,” but, then again, neither are the avifaunas of Attu, Portal, and Bentsen.

    You’ve opened up my eyes to a brand new way of thinking about Hawaii: The island chain’s avifauna is heavily, indeed pervasively, Nearctic. That’s fascinating. The following, I have to say, is a new way of thinking for me: “It seems to me that those of you who argue that the ABA Area has a biogeographical basis are actually strengthening the case for adding Hawaii.”

    I feel smarter this morning. Thanks, Doug!

  • I think Andrew is referring to the misnomer “lower 48” which would technically mean all of the states save Alaska and Minnesota. I, too, prefer the more cumbersome “contiguous 48.”

  • Mark Leggett

    I’m with you on that, Michael. The young are not much into exclusion.

  • Mark Leggett

    Interesting, William, although I wonder if there is much cost difference for a Seattle birder to explore the Key West Florida area versus the Big Island in Hawaii.

  • Of those who choose to vote. A combination of the first two–just like the non-binding referendum that generated this discussion. Exact same procedure, only the results would be binding.

  • I stand corrected, and am glad to get an education on the origins of Hawaiian avifauna! But how would Puerto Rico compare, bio-geographically? What about U.S. Virgin Islands? Bahamas? Greenland? Northern Mexico? I suspect that some of all of the above at at least as eligible for inclusion into the ABA Area on bio-geographical grounds as is Hawaii. And none of these areas are a natural home to ANY Australasian or Asian birds. So while I am happy to fully concede that I was ignorant of Hawaii’s bird origins and had got most of it wrong, Hawaii is still more different than any of the other possible additions I’ve mentioned above.
    Thus it seems to come down to political status and convenience. It seems to me as though one argument being offered for including Hawaii is “we don’t need any logic or defendable basis for changing the ABA area – we can change it just because the majority of us want to.” The fact that younger ABA birders seem to have no problem with this does not mean that they should have their way. What next? Using this “logic” the younger ABA birders might choose to exclude species not recorded within the ABA area in the last 15 years? It too would let the younger birders move up the Listing rung at the expense of those who had been following the same set of rules for many years prior to this arbitrary date.
    For Lists to have meaning they have to have context, and adding in ANY of the areas I’ve mentioned above, including Hawaii, removes context. Let’s say John Smith is an older birder who really treasured his ABA birding List, and spent the last 25 years of his life working on getting a really good list under the current, been-in-use-forever definition. His List appears in the top ten ABA Area list, as he is proud of the work it took to achieve this. Then he is struck down with some debilitating disease that prevents him from traveling any more. He still takes pride in this Top Ten rating, knowing that gradually others will put in the same or more effort to see the tough species that will get them above him. Then you change the ABA Area to include Hawaii. Within a short period, his hard-earned total disappears from the “ABA Area Top Ten List” as those still mobile can head to Hawaii to add a bunch of now “easy” ABA Area species and shoot ahead of him. He feels cheated.
    Keep in mind that this Listing stuff is not science, it’s not conservation work – it’s a hobby. Sure it’s a hobby that can indirectly add to science and improve conservation, and the ABA as an organization can aspire to more than Listing – but the Listing part of the ABA has always been about friendly competition with a fixed set of rules that all play by, so that comparisons are meaningful. By all means add a seperate ABA Hawaii List, and then maybe a combined “ABA Area + Hawaii” List – But PLEASE don’t go and pull the rug out from all those who have been playing by the existing rules.

  • Martin, I’m glad you now agree that “[the ABA Area boundary, whatever it is] seems to come down to political status and convenience”. I think wide acceptance of that principle is very important before moving forward with any discussion on the future.

    You mentioned that “the Listing part of the ABA has always been about friendly competition with a fixed set of rules that all play by.” I understand what you mean, but I disagree. The checklist changes every year. Exotic species are added. Exotic species are dropped (e.g., Black Francolin, Crested Myna). Taxonomies change. Not only that, the Area has changed, too. It used to include Baja California.

    I’ve previously been opposed to such a move, but the more I think about it (and thanks to those of you you’ve participated in this discussion over the years for suggesting and supporting it), having an “ABA Area Classic” list seems a good compromise between the majority who wants change and inclusion and the the listers who don’t want their numbers to be compromised.

  • Ted Floyd

    “Let’s say John Smith is an older birder who really treasured his ABA birding List, and spent the last 25 years of his life working on getting a really good list under the current, been-in-use-forever definition. His List appears in the top ten ABA Area list, as he is proud of the work it took to achieve this. Then he is struck down with some debilitating disease…”

    For sure, Martin, I’ve heard this argument from several folks–including folks, like you, whom I greatly respect.

    That said, I don’t get it at all. I’d turn it right around and say:

    “Let’s say Jane Doe is a younger birder who can’t possibly get to Attu. The first problem is that, well, it’s really hard to get to Attu these days. The cruise ships stop by, but that’s a far cry from those multi-week trips they used to have in the 1980s and 1990s. Second is cost and convenience. If Jane lives frugally for the next year, she’ll have saved up enough for the big trip to Hawaii (got a good ticket with a major carrier, will camp out on her college classmate’s floor, etc.). However, it’s not at all an option for her to do the cruise-ship-that-stops-by-Attu thing. Besides, the timing’s all wrong. You know: job, family, that sorta thing. As to Hawaii, though, she can go there pretty much on her own schedule, maybe over spring spring break.”

    If anything’s “unfair” in this, it’s that a bunch of rich old men racked up lifers on Attu well before I had a driver’s license, and before our hypothetical Jane Doe was born.

    History marches on. Baselines shift. The rules change. As many of us noted in an earlier iteration of this thread, the rules in sports change all the time. Are the current 162-game baseball and 16-game football seasons “unfair” to those who set records in the mid-20th century? And it’s not just that the rules change. The fundamental resources are different. Today’s professional athletes have access to better training and better conditioning; even eyeglasses, when you think about it, are a major change. (Pitchers who wore corrective lenses in the early 20th century were unusual; today’s pitchers get laser surgery to help them see better.) Today’s birders, analogously, have access to better optics, better field guides, better knowledge networks, a bunch of splits, and the elimination of the prohibition against heard-only birds.

    If I’m “John Smith,” I’ve got a lot more to worry about than Hawaii. Those darned kids, they have Zeiss bins we never even dreamed of, they have The Sibley Guide, they have ABA’s Birding News and rarity alerts (“no fair! we used to have to pay for NARBA!”), and a gazillion splits…Cackling Goose, Cassin’s Vireo, Nelson’s Sparrow, and a whole bunch more…plus, they’re counting all those heard-only birds!

    Let’s leave Hawaii out of it completely. Consider the challenge of getting to 700 birds in 2012 vs. 1972. In 2012, you can get there in a calendar year. Heck, you can get there before autumn! Turn back the clock 40 years, though, and you have the first time ever that somebody–it was the great Joe Taylor–reached 700 in a lifetime. I never met Joe, but I gather he was one of the greatest of all time. Yet his achievement, by 2012 standards, wouldn’t be all that impressive.

    I get all that. I get that Joe Taylor is one of the legends of the game, so to speak. But we don’t put asterisks (cf. Roger Maris) by the life list of, say, Martin Reid, just because Reid has benefited from so many changes in the way the game is played. Adding Hawaii to the ABA Area would be just one of the many, many, many–did I say many?–ways the game has changed since 1968.

    So, Martin, we disagree. That said, I sure do appreciate your participation in this forum.

  • Hey Michael: firstly I don’t “agree that “[the ABA Area boundary, whatever it is] seems to come down to political status and convenience” – I am saying that IF you include Hawaii, it would make it so!
    It’s a bit like the Constitution:- originally crafted and thought to cover everything; protected by the requirement of an overwhelming majority in order for change to occur so that simple majorities (which can be fickle) don’t gain total control; changed over time by a super majority as its constituents accept change is needed to clarify something, or right a wrong not perceived in earlier times. Thus I feel the ABA should only make such a momentous change with the endorsement of a super-majority – not just a simple majority.
    I personally feel that including Hawaii into the base ABA Area for listing purposes is arbitrary and wrong. Yes I have a concern about context for those who have labored for their ABA totals under the current definition. But I also am concerned about the precedent set for further expansion…

    If the ABA Area is to have any resemblance of a logical definition:-
    There are only two palpable justifications for the inclusion of Hawaii: 1) bio-geographical affinity – which all those other areas I listed in my previous email also meet – probably in a better sense than does Hawaii. 2) Its inhabitants are U.S. citizens rather than U.S. nationals.
    If these arbitrary conditions are to be the benchmark, then clearly the French Islands should be excluded, and when Puerto Rico becomes a State, it must de-facto be included.

  • Morgan Churchill

    I guess my feeling is that where you see arbitrary (for the sake of being arbitrary), I see conservatism for the sake of being conservative. Avoiding change for the sake of avoiding change.

    The main argument you see to be focused on in both posts is comparability of checklists through time. This could be easily resolved with having the existing checklist remain beside the an expanded new one. Having a High lifelist in the classic ABA region would not be devalued with the addition of Hawaii, anymore than having a high ABA list now somehow devalues a high lower 48 or state/province list.

    I personally have no problem adding Greenland and Bermuda, or for that matter the Bahamas to the checklist. Some day maybe there will be more support for such a move. There is support for Hawaii NOW, and I think the ABA should make efforts to include it if Hawaii is desired by the majority of the membership. I also don’t think we should start moving the goal lines. In the 80’s when this was last put to vote, a majority was (I think) the necessary a requirement. Now that it looks like a majority of the membership would vote for it, we need a super majority? I call shenanigans.

    There is precedent for this…remember the AOU didn’t originally include Hawaii, but later added it in. Time for ABA to follow!

  • Ted Floyd

    Martin’s concern, if I’m reading him right, is that adding Hawaii is unfair because it’s a case of moving the goalposts. Well, as was noted by many persons in an earlier iteration of this thread, those selfsame goalposts are, in “real” sports, constantly in motion. (Many examples cited of enormous changes over the years in American baseball, football, etc.)

    In the case of birding, it’s interesting to reflect on just how much the goalposts have moved in the past 40 years.

    In 2011, as many of us know, John Vanderpoel made a remarkable run at the North American big year record. Before the end of August, he’d already seen 700 species.

    Forty years earlier, in 1971, the great Joe Taylor became the first person ever to reach the 700 barrier in a lifetime.

    Don’t get me wrong. Vanderpoel’s achievement was impressive: 700+ species in fewer than 8 months vs. 700 species in Taylor’s life up to that point. At the same time, it is unquestionably the case that the goalposts have been moved a great distance since Taylor’s time. Here’s a quick summary of a few of the changes I can think of off the top of my head:

    1. Heard-only birds didn’t count in Taylor’s day, but they count today.

    2. Way over 100 species have been added to the ABA Checklist, among them many “splits” and exotics. There have comparatively few lumps and deletions of extirpated exotics.

    3. Our optics are much better.

    4. Our field guides are much better.

    5. Our access to information is incomparably superior. (In Taylor’s day, telephone RBAs were cutting-edge technology, and pay-per-use NARBA was something for the flighty futurists to fantasize about.)

    Today’s birder can digiscope a mystery sparrow, upload the image to Flickr, discuss it on Frontiers of Bird ID, and get confirmation that it was a Nelson’s Sparrow. Forty years ago, we didn’t have digiscoping, we didn’t have Flickr, we didn’t have Frontiers of Bird ID, and we didn’t have Nelson’s Sparrow.

    The goalposts have moved. Of course they have. Time marches on. Baselines shift. The rules change.

    Perhaps the rules will change with regard to the status of Hawaii. If that happens, it happens. No asterisks on the new records (cf. Roger Maris). The idea of having two ABA Areas (“ABA New” vs. “ABA Classic”) doesn’t sit well with me. In baseball, we don’t maintain two sets of records, one set for the 154-game era and one set for the 162-game era; in football, we don’t maintain two sets of records, one set for the 14-game era and one set for the 16-game era; for the ABA, we don’t publish separate records for the no-heard-birds era and heard-birds-count era. We don’t put an asterisk by the lists submitted by, say, Martin Reid just because he has benefited from the many ways in which the rules have changed in the past 40 years.

    700 is the new 600. 800 is the new 700. And, in due course, 900 may well be the new 800. That doesn’t bother me. Rather, I delight in the prospect of change and advancement. It’s gratifying to me that today’s birders benefit from all the changes since Joe Taylor’s time. I’m hopeful that tomorrow’s birders will benefit from yet additional changes. And I’m confident that we won’t be so stingy as to begrudge tomorrow’s birders their accomplishments and aspirations. In other words: No asterisks, no “ABA Classic.” Just one ABA Area, forever evolving, forever adapting to the constantly changing American birding community.

    Me? I’m in awe of Joe Taylor. (I admire Martin Reid, too! He does good work.) And I’ll be cheering on “Jane Doe” when she’s the first to 900 in the ABA Area. I’m “John Doe,” you see. But it’s not about me. It’s about the kids. Right? It’s about the future of birding. Isn’t it?

  • Martin, I’m sorry I seem to have misunderstood you and put words in your mouth. But if we cannot all agree that “[the ABA Area boundary, whatever it is] seems to come down to political status and convenience”, then I’m not sure I see much point in continuing the discussion. The current southern ABA Area boundary in Texas is the Rio Grande, which is in no way any kind of biogeographical boundary. If the border were instead somewhere south of Port Lavaca, where Red-bellied give way to Golden-fronted woodpeckers, Downy give way to Ladder-backed woodpeckers, Tufted give way to Black-crested titmice, American Crows and Blue Jays disappear, and Pauraques and Green Jays begin, *then* you’d have an argument. But the same problem occurs everywhere else west along the US-Mexican border: it’s a line humans drew about 150 years ago based on two wars and a railroad line. To claim that the ABA Area has any kind of legitimate biogeographical basis is simply ridiculous.

  • Mark Leggett


  • Alan Wormington

    “Just one ABA Area, forever evolving, forever adapting to the constantly changing American birding community.”

    What happened to the “Canadian” birding community?

  • Ted Floyd

    A landmass in the western hemisphere that consists of the continents of North and South America joined by the Isthmus of Panama.

    It’s what the first “A” in “ABA” stands for.

  • Alan Wormington

    So next time I cross the U.S. border and the guard says “citizenship?” you are suggesting that I answer “American”?

    Sorry, America may be a land mass, but Canadians are definitely not Americans. North Americans, yes. Please stop telling me what I am or am not, otherwise the tables may turn in short order!

    Also, I truly believe that the American Birding Association should change their name to United States Birding Association (USBA), then everything published in Birding and various blogs would finally make perfect sense!

  • Minnesota is part of the Lower 48.

  • Thanks for reminding us that words have definitions with meanings, Ted. Seriously.

  • One cannot be North American without also being American. That’s like saying “I live in South Africa, not Africa.” Alan, I cannot help but think that if you truly believed what you say, you’d not be bothering to comment every other day on the *American* Birding Association Blog when someone dares to use the word “American”. So again, I put this to you: If you want to help right what you perceive is an anti-Canadian bias within the ABA, then step up and be the change you desire. Write an article, a blog post, volunteer to do something, anything, more than leave unhelpful blog comments. If you won’t step up, then you can’t blame anyone else for doing the same. Or, if the ABA’s focus is simply too far gone to be fixed, as you assert above, then why do you care at all? I do not believe that you can have it both ways and remain credible.

  • Alan Wormington

    Michael, as usual you just don’t get it. And I can’t bother to explain it ad infinitum.

    Just for fun, and maybe to gain some insight on the situation, go to this Canadian blogger’s site and read the first two sentences of her recent post:

  • I’ m 61 and have been birding since 1975. Only in the alternate universes of TV commercials and one or two fertility clinics on the planet would I be considered young. I’m old fashioned in many ways, love tradition, and dislike having to adapt to change.

    But I’m very much in favor of adding Hawaii. It makes as much sense in both a biogeographical way and a personal finance way as counting birds on Attu. Whatever the “founders’ intent,” they named us the American Birding Association. If we want to exclude all the South and Central American countries and just count the US and Canada, it can reasonably be argued that we count birds seen in all our states and provinces.

    The ABA is here to promote the sport of American Birding. But Hawaiian birders ARE American birders, and it seems ridiculous to me that their backyard list isn’t countable. And as someone who has always had a far, far more limited budget than any of the serious listers in the ABA, I know that getting to Hawaii is still more affordable and within the realm of possibility than Attu ever was.

    Moving the goalposts? When I started birding, the Eskimo Curlew, Ivory-billed Woodpecker, and Bachman’s Warbler were all countable.

  • Alan Wormington

    Michael and Ted, enter “Americans” into Google search and see what comes up. The definition is not as clear as you claim.

  • A google search reflects how words are used and misused, but hardly provides an actual definition.

  • I tried to make my way through this discussion this morning, and I came across one comment that confuses me. Michael Retter commented that “The World Birding Center is only in Texas, is more than one birding center, and is not named after anything so far as I know. It’s an incredibly arrogant name, in my opinion.” Arrogant?

  • In the cold light of a new day, I’ve re-read all the above comments, including my own, and come to the realization that my resistance to including Hawaii was purely a personal position that, on reflection, does not have much basis. While I would still personally prefer that Hawaii were added separately (i.e. ABA Area; a separate Hawaii, and then ABA Area + Hawaii), I can see that alternatively having an ABA Area (that includes Hawaii) and an ABA Classic Area (that excludes Hawaii) is tantamount to the same thing.

    But let’s be clear: there is no rhyme or reason to the ABA Area boundary; it is simply whatever the membership wants it to be. It will be interesting to see how the demographics of membership might change in the future, and if this leads to more changes made on the whim of the majority.
    My gut tells me that the original inclusion of Baja was influenced by a strong founding contingent of California birders who already birded that region, and that the later removal vote was successful because the larger membership had no such relationship with Baja and perhaps were intimidated (personally or financially) by the prospect of birding in Mexico to boost their ABA list.

    The inclusion of Hawaii against the wishes of a large minority of members might have consequences: some may choose to leave the ABA; some may choose to organize and lobby for further changes that some of the Pro-Hawaii members don’t like; some may remain as members but feel disenfranchised and withdraw from participation in other areas.
    Morgan you make a fair point about the last such change being done on a simple majority – but if that was a mistake (and I contend that it was), do we have to repeat it based on precedent?

    Lastly, I feel that there is a big difference between changes such as species being added by occurrence, splits, establishment, or allowing heard-only birds to be counted (a huge change that I am surprised was not mentioned here) – and changes to the primary limiting protocol for the game. Look at something like American Football (or many other sports); it is played on a field of a fixed size, with lots of rules and regs about how you play on that field; over time the rules and regs have been tweaked, but what if someone suggested making the field shorter so that there’d be more scoring? It is a change to the most fundamental element of the endeavor, and just because the last (only?) such change in the ABA was done on a simple majority does not mean this next proposal should be done the same way. Also there is a big difference in consequences between expanding the area and shrinking it: When Baja was removed, a quite small number of top listers had to remove a large handful of species, while the vast majority of the membership were unaffected.

    Thus, while I have no defendable basis (other than personal preference) on which to refute adding Hawaii, I do have some concerns about making such a change via a simple majority.

  • I do have to add to your thoughtful and insightful comments that actually, if we switch from football to baseball, some of us are old enough to remember when the “designated pitcher” rule for the American League came into being. That was a huge, and quite literal, game changer!

  • Sorry, Ted, my comment probably was a bit confusing. The middle comment, “more than one birding center,” was only mean to convey that the “center” is oddly named. A series of world bird centers? Then again, there are a series of world trade centers, but they’re spread out across the world.

    To call any organization that’s regional “World X” is more than a little odd. It’s the fact that it/they is/are only in Texas and not named after any event (e.g., the World Series of Birding) that makes World Birding Center a rather arrogant name. I doubt that the entire world birding community came together to decide that it should be located in the United States, let alone Texas. The WBC name makes it seem as if the entire birding world should agree that south Texas is its premier destination.

  • Just a couple point to clarify about Baja. It was ever officially in the ABA Area. There was a small window of time when the ABA was in existence and it did not yet have bylaws. During that time, for ABA listing purposes, the AOU Area was used. At at that time, it was Canada + continental US + Baja. A couple years later, the ABA did create a set of bylaws, and within them, the ABA Area was codified as “Canada + continental US + St.-Pierre-et-Miquelon”. So it was not really a change in the ABA Area; it was a change from AOU to ABA for ABA listing purposes.

    Martin, I agree that removing Baja from the equation had little effect, but for a different reason. You said “top listers had to remove a large handful of species”. Well, I suppose that depends on what you mean by “a large handful”. The following are the Baja endemics: Belding’s Yellowthroat, Gray Thrasher, and Xantus’s Hummingbird. If you want to split some quasi-species, then you can add Baird’s Junco, Cape Pygmy-Owl, and San Lucas Robin. And if you want to add some even shadier splits, there’s an Oak Titmouse, a White-breasted Nuthatch, an Acorn Woodpecker, and a Cassin’s Vireo. Since the S tip of the peninsula is not attached to the rest of tropical Mexico, none of the tropical species of that region (e.g., Social Flycatcher, Black-throated Magpie-Jay) reaches southern Baja. There are a couple pelagics you can get off the S tip that are not in the U.S., like Townsend’s Shearwater, but using the early 70s taxonomy, and assuming a lister had all of the possible Baja “specialties” relative to the US, (s)he is only looking at losing 5–6 species. That doesn’t seem like a “large handful” to me. Baja was included by AOU at the time because its avifauna is almost identical to that of California, not because of the influence of California birders who spent a lot of time birding in Baja.

  • Alan Wormington

    My point exactly!

  • Hey Michael thanks for the clarification – I knew you’d set me straight! BTW I had originally only written “handful”, thinking of the Yellowthroat, Hummer, Thrasher and Owl – but then wondered if there might be a few more Mexican taxa that were not endemics but were not found in the U.S. Your summary of the Baja avifauna is most appreciated.

  • Laura: but they did not move the bases closer together…

  • On the other hand, every expansion team actually has added to the areas where people play and watch AL baseball and NFL football.

  • My pleasure, Martin. It’s a complicated history that’s not easy to find an authoritative source on, and I may well have gotten some of it wrong as it was before my time. But I’m pretty sure that’s how it went.

    It’s just a shame I can neither type nor see my own typos. In case anyone was confused, those first two sentences should have read, “Just a couple points to clarify about Baja. It was never officially in the ABA Area…”

  • Morgan Churchill

    Hi Martin,

    I do at some level understand some of your concerns. I support and endorse a “ABA Classic list” largely for some of the reasons you cite. I think not having it is likely to alienate people, and increase the odds that some people will drop out or that the list won’t be changed. I think you can easily keep an ABA classic list without needing two separate lists; just bold the “Hawaii” only birds on the checklist. BAM…easy differentiation.

    I think there are obviously some issues to still be worked out, and I look forward to reading about how ABA will resolve them if/when the vote to add Hawaii occurs.

  • Derek Courtney

    These sports metaphors are becoming a bit poor. In professional football, they actually did move goal posts; there was no endzone initially. Goal posts were right on the goal line. Do the records of those old kickers still count … yup. In baseball, every stadium has different dimensions for what “counts” as fair or foul, and distance/height needed to be awarded a home run. Batters in a short park or at altitude in Colorado have their records vetted as equal to those playing in more cavernous stadiums. Furthermore, they may not have moved the bases, but they sure as heck raised (then lowered) the pitching mound. Think that doesn’t matter? 1968 Bob Gibson 1.12 ERA … still standing. In basketball, the 3 point line has been created, then moved, yet scoring records of the earlier players were not altered to what might have been. In soccer and hockey there is no uniform field/rink dimensions, so some teams do have less space to create/defend, yet everyone is perfectly fine with this.

    Ted is completely right on this (and I feel terribly discomforted when I agree with Ted on anything). There are no defensible reasons not to include Hawaii aside from selfish reasons and the sanctity of “the list”. And yet, while birders do, in varying degrees, protect their own list, the ABA essentially does nothing to vet its sacred numbers. The records, as has been previously discussed on this blog, are questionable to put it kindly.

    Thanks to Doug and Michael for their insights to the discussion as well. The context provided was excellent.

  • I still think that some participants in this conversation are not getting my main point (one that I too have meandered to!): Thanks to Michael Retter we (= I) now understand that Baja California was never actually part of the ABA Area. So we are back to the original premise that the “ABA Area” is unchanged from almost the very start of the ABA. Many in the thread have rightly pointed out a myriad of changes that have taken place within the ABA Area (splits, new species, heard birds, better equipment, etc) that have truly raised the possibilities and the “bar” – I agree with Ted’s notion that “800 is the new 700” etc.
    But all of these changes have taken place within an UNCHANGED PLAYING FIELD. Expanding the size of the ABA Area is unprecedented, and being such a root element of the game for all these years, I personally feel that any such change needs to be approached with caution, mindful of the actual precedent it might set.
    A simple voting majority is dangerous for deciding significant change – it’s why the Founders of the USA came up with the brilliant notion of a Constitution that prevents simple majorities from having absolute power – I know about this, having lived through Thatcher’s nightmare years of absolute power in the UK years ago!
    You have to consider the views (and potential reaction) of the minority on significant changes like this – and keep in mind that more than a third of the membership got of their bottoms to tell you that they don’t want this change.

    Keep in mind that the one thing this great diatribe has clarified is that there is no logical parameter by which adding Hawaii can be justified (when Northern Mexico, Greenland, Puerto Rico, etc are considered) – it is on the docket simply because a large number of members want it so.

    In the end the esrtwhile immutable ABA Area may indeed be enlarged to include Hawaii – I just hope that it is done in a manner that all the membership can live with, and most don’t come to regret as time goes on and the precedent set by this action comes back to bite us.

  • Martin, surely you can’t expect us all to agree that “there is no logical parameter by which adding Hawaii can be justified”. I wonder if you’re not confusing the geopolitical and the biogeographical again.

    There is a very logical reason to include Hawaii: it is one of the 50 states. Another is that it will likely increase conservation activities within Hawaii. Those may not be logical reasons to you, but they are to many of the rest of us.

    Personally, I wish we’d just call it “The US and Canada” and be done with it. (Cue the hate mail from St.-PIerre-et-Miquelon.)

    I agree that caution is warranted, and that’s why the vote being discussed here was nonbinding–to take the pulse of the membership.

  • So when Puerto Rico becomes a state it automatically gets in? – it sure could do with an increase in conservation activities.
    If not that, then does it automatically get put up for a vote, based on the sole logical requirement that it is now a U.S. state? And what if the membership votes it down?
    Unless it automatically would be included in the ABA Area by means of statehood, then your very logical reason changes from “it is one of the U.S. states (I don’t believe you’d attempt to defend “I meant only the first 50 states”!) to “it is one of the U.S. states AND the majority of our members want it.” – which ceases to be logical, and comes back down to “what the majority wants”.
    Let’s face it Michael, the convenient notion “must be a state” is one that you’ve personally identified as being useful for the cause. I agree it would be a narrowly defined logical construct for allowing Hawaii but not Northern Mexico, U.S.Virgin Islands, Bahamas, etc., but where is your logical reason enshrined into the ABA rules? – it’s not, and the membership have not been asked to vote it into the rules.
    I could just as easily say that the logical construct should be “U.S. states and territories” – it is as logical as your suggested reason, and carries just as much authority (= zero) as yours does!
    So perhaps before voting to change the ABA Area, the membership should examine and adopt protocols for such changes. These could include one or more logical constructs – agreed-to by the membership – so that the parameters are those of the formal membership rather than purely someone’s (or some group’s) self-serving (in the literal sense) logical construct.

  • “So when Puerto Rico becomes a state it automatically gets in? – it sure could do with an increase in conservation activities.”

    That would depend on the exact wording of any updated bylaws.

    “If not that, then does it automatically get put up for a vote, based on the sole logical requirement that it is now a U.S. state?”

    Not unless that’s also written into the bylaws.

    I’m afraid I don’t follow the next part of your response: “but where is your logical reason enshrined into the ABA rules? ”

    It’s not. That’s why we’re having this discussion in the first place!

    “I could just as easily say that the logical construct should be ‘U.S. states and territories’ – it is as logical as your suggested reason, and carries just as much authority (= zero) as yours does!”

    Yes, that’s true. But I don’t see your point.

    “So perhaps before voting to change the ABA Area, the membership should examine and adopt protocols for such changes.”

    There is already such a protocol for bylaws changes written into the bylaws.

    These could include one or more logical constructs – agreed-to by the membership – so that the parameters are those of the formal membership rather than purely someone’s (or some group’s) self-serving (in the literal sense) logical construct.”

    Any bylaws change must be approved by a majority of the voting membership. A single person or a small group cannot change the bylaws on its own, logical construct notwithstanding.

  • Hey Michael, it seems to be just you and me now, so I suggest going offline with our little contretemps.

  • Anonymous

    One of the main reasons the ABA mentioned to add Hawaii was for conservation purposes.

    Is adding Hawaii to the ABA Area really going to make a big impact on conservation? My plane ticket to Hawaii certainly wouldn’t impact conservation, not directly anyway, although I’m sure Orbitz would be happy to take the money. There are probably some dedicated birding lodges where I could spend my money, although they are probably quite expensive. This would lead me to choose a cheap hotel instead, which doesn’t seem like it will affect conservation much at all. I’ll probably eat at local restaurants, which, while benefiting the Hawaiian economy, doesn’t seem like it would benefit conservation.

    So, what money that I spend is going to be used for conservation? Perhaps park fees, if there are any.

    If the ABA is really concerned with Hawaiian bird conservation, it seems there are more direct ways that will make a bigger impact. Endorse some ABA tours to Hawaii and donate the profits to conservation. Fundraisers, social media, ect. Run a special in Birding magazine on one or two endangered species of Hawaii per issue with ways to donate and support conservation that way. In my opinion, these would have a much bigger impact than my $5-10 park fees.

    I am an ABA member and just don’t see the need to add Hawaii to the ABA Area.

  • First, let me say that the conservation benefit of adding Hawaii to the ABA area is NOT one of the reasons I support it. [I do so because I agree with Michael Retter that the list should include all of the US and Canada + the 2 enclaves of St. Pierre and Midway.] But it IS a nice side effect. The benefit would come, not from such trivial things as park fees etc. that Anonymous cites, but rather from raising awareness of Hawaiian endangered species among mainland birders. How many of you realize that while Hawaii is host to well over half of the birds on the US Endangered Species List, Hawaii receives less than 10% of the federal funding for endangered species recovery? I believe that the increased attention to the 50th state on the part of birders nationwide would help to change that. But Hawaiian birds have been perceived, by the ABA and others, as somehow “not really American”, and therefore not as deserving of our tax dollars as Whooping Cranes and California Condors. We need to realize that these Hawaiian birds that are going extinct before our very eyes are “our” birds, too!

  • About Puerto Rico: No one has pointed out that in the recent election, for the first time ever, the statehood option gained the majority in their recurrent nonbinding poll. So the possibility of PR becoming a state is greater than ever. Personally, I think we should stick with the boundaries of the US (all of it) and Canada, plus enclaves, and that means if PR gains statehood it would automatically become part of the ABA area to maintain consistency. Remember, it’s a politically, not biogeographically, defined area. And I can now hear the chorus of “where will it all end”. In fact, it is fairly easy to see where it would end. The only other remotely reasonable possibilities for statehood beyond PR would be the US Virgin Islands and the Pacific island territories and possessions (Guam, Northern Marianas, Am. Samoa). I doubt that any of them would ever have the population base to warrant statehood, but the Pacific territories might some day be added to the State of Hawaii (I don’t consider that likely, and Am. Samoa would probably opt out of any such arrangement, but it’s been seriously suggested). Likewise, I doubt the USVI would want to be part of any State of Puerto Rico, but it could happen. If all of these changes came to pass, it would expand the ABA area to the maximum extent possible under the US + Canada definition. Frankly, I don’t think that would be a bad thing, and I don’t think it should be an argument against including all of the US in the fundamental ABA Area.

  • James Swanson

    You can go two ways in defining the area; either go whole-hog biogeographical and include Greenland, the Bahamas and a large swath of Central America (personally, I like the boundary Steve Howell proposes in his guide to birds of Mexico and Central America where he draws the line somewhere in Nicaragua – but then good by Arizona and Texas birding festivals); or go whole-hog political… Martin Reid’s comment about the Philippines could make sense for certain ‘traditionalists’ – include all areas ruled as colonies or administered areas from polities that developed from the British North American colonies: all US, all Canada, Guam, Samoa, Philippines, Cuba, Panama Canal Zone … any US or Canadian embassy compound in any country in the world (I’m not sure if I would want to count area that have been under military occupation only). Now that would be a fun area to bird!

  • James Swanson

    Now all we have to do is prove that this ‘avicentric’ point of view holds true for all Hawaiian biota. Just because Hawaiin birds overwhelmingly originate from the Holarctic doesn’t mean that its other plants and animals do. If I am not mistaken, ecozones are defined by a lot more than bird species. I am not advocating for or against inclusion of Hawaii here, just pointing out that as birders, we can be short-sighted by thinking we can draw conclusions just looking at our specialty and passion – birds.

  • James Swanson

    The idea of a ‘Classic’ list is very interesting. Who says the ABA can only have one region? Why can’t it have multiple regions? Such as: 1)An ABA biogeographical region that includes part of Central America, Greenland, Bahamas, etc. 2)The ABA US-Canada political region that includes Hawaii, Puerto Rico and perhaps other areas. 3) The ABA ‘Classic’ region which is basically the region as it is currently. 4)Other ABA regions that some sizeable percentage of the membership might propose.

  • James Swanson

    Isn’t the point of including someplace in a broader biogeographical area that it has a large percentage of the SAME species, not ‘species derived from’? Crows and Jays are derived from species from Australasia, but biologists don’t look at that as a piece of data that favors uniting the Nearctic and Australasian realms (admittedly outweighed by many other derivations). No. Instead, they look at an area like Alaska and note that many of the SAME species that occur in Alaska occur all down the Pacific Coast as well as down the Rocky Mountain chain. Other species occur across Arctic Canada. There are also shared species across the Bering Strait into the Palearctic, but not nearly as many, so they conclude Alaska belongs in the Nearctic while having affinities with the Palearctic (Nearctic and Palearctic being two realms however that are very similar). However, there is a concept outside of biogeographical realms – oceanic islands – that doesn’t fit into the idea of biogeographical realms because in isolation, they have evolved a biota that is demonstrably DIFFERENT from that of any biogeographical realm. Hawaii fits this definition. In fact, many of the arguments for including Hawaii in the ABA area is because that would help preserve its UNIQUE avifauna. If the argument is that Hawaii’s avifauna is not that different from the rest of the ABA area, then why care about preserving it more than the avifauna of Vancouver Island, Catalina Island, Manhattan Island or Key West? It seems to me that the main argument for inclusion is that it is unique and endangered and as Americans (and realize that Canadians don’t really have an interest in Hawaii being included or not being included. It’s an American question. Canadians are much more interested in someplace like Cuba being included since Canadians can go a lot more easily than Americans, while Hawaii is an American State, easier for Americans to visit than Canadians). Americans should be interested and responsible for Hawaiian avifauna’s preservation since it is a part of the country.

    I want to emphasize that I am not against the inclusion of Hawaii. However, I think it is ingenuous to ignore scientific principles and pretend that Hawaii is something that it isn’t. It is an oceanic island chain with strong avifaunal affinities to the Nearctic realm – nothing more. The reasons for including it are not biogeographical in nature, but political. Some people are opposed because they want the ABA area’s definition to be more biogeographical. I don’t think you can fool them with this argument that REALLY Hawaii is part of the Nearctic realm. They won’t accept it. It is not a solution.

    If we want the definition of the ABA area to be more practical based on geopolitical realities, fine, but the sooner we grasp this, the closer we will be to a resolution. There will be people who won’t accept it, but that always happens. We need to be asking the question, “Is that a price we’re willing to pay? Is the upside of including Hawaii worth the division and discontent we will have because of it?”

  • James Swanson

    This 53% ‘yes’ is hardly a resounding desire to include Hawaii. It is a bare majority to a non-binding referendum phrased in the broadest possible terms. In other words, the question was designed in such a way to garner the widest support possible. A binding referendum probably would have had less support, most likely not a majority. And once you start to get down to specifics of inclusion, you will probably lose even more votes. Would this change mean the defection of many members? As it stands, this looks like a very divisive question as the discussion above confirms.

  • I would agree with your birding series about the world. During and before voting period, leaders they will say, that we are to satisfy your needs. We will provide you the bright future.

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