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    #977, Purple Swamphen!

    Purple Swamphen -- Wakodahatchee Wetlands -- 2007-11-15 -- Bill PrantyBreaking bird news! The Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio) has been added to the ABA Checklist. This action by the ABA Checklist Committee raises to 977 the number of species on the Checklist.

    (Right: This Purple Swamphen, presumably of the gray-headed taxon, was photographed by Bill Pranty at the Wakodahatchee Wetlands, Palm Beach County, Florida, November 2007.)

    Full details will appear later this year in Birding magazine and in the ABA’s new quarterly publication, A Birder’s Guide. Something I’m looking forward to in particular is a summary and overview by ABA Checklist Committee chairman Bill Pranty, to appear in the May/June 2013 Birding. Pranty’s article will summarize for ABA members the following:

    • Current population estimates and geographic range for the
      ABA Area population of the swamphen.
    • Taxonomy and identification. Intriguingly, multiple taxa—possibly representing multiple species—of swamphens may occur in the ABA Area.

    In the meantime, I present to The ABA Blog community several topics for discussion. Some of these have the potential to elicit, hmm, divergent opinions. That’s great. Bring it on!

    Here goes:

    1. The swamphens have been around for a while. Would you count a swamphen you saw a few months ago? A year ago? Ten years ago?
    2. Swamphens are on the move. If you saw one in Georgia or South Carolina—presumably derived from the Florida population—would you count it for your Georgia or South Carolina state list, respectively?
    3. BPA 0227 -- Purple Swampen -- Pembroke Pines -- 1999-01-22 -- Bill PrantyAs I noted above, multiple taxa appear to be present in Florida. Anybody out there making an effort to ID swamphens beyond the level of “Purple Swamphen”? If so, what are your experiences? Can you share any tips for field ID?
      (Right: This Purple Swamphen, possibly of one of the blue-headed taxa, was photographed by Bill Pranty at Pembroke PInes, Broward County, Florida, January 1999.)
    4. What’s up with all these exotics? Common Myna was added to the Checklist in 2008, then Rosy-faced Lovebird and Nanday Parakeet in 2012, and now Purple Swamphen.
    5. Any thoughts as to what’s next? Nutmeg Mannikin or Orange Bishop, anybody? Rose-ringed Parakeet perhaps?

     

     

     

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    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd

    Ted Floyd is the Editor of Birding magazine, and he is broadly involved in other programs and initiatives of the ABA. He is the author of more than 100 magazine and journal articles, and has written four recent books, including an ABA title, the ABA Guide to Birds of Colorado. Floyd is a frequent speaker at birding festivals and state ornithological society meetings, and he has served on the boards of several nonprofit organizations. Mainly, he listens to birds at night.
    Ted Floyd

    Latest posts by Ted Floyd (see all)

    • Morgan Churchill

      “Full details will appear later this year in Birding magazine and in the ABA’s new quarterly publication, A Birder’s Guide.”

      More curious about the mention of a new publication than Swamphen countability…

    • http://birdchaser.blogspot.com Rob

      I would count a Purple Swamphen if I had seen it in the last couple of years. Alas, I didn’t see any in my last few trips to FL, so here’s another exotic I have yet to chase down there!

      Since I saw Nutmeg Mannikin in SoCal in December, I’m hoping they are the next addition to the ABA list :-)

    • Rob Williams

      I would never count one outside its native range – record them yes but never count an exotic. just legitimizes them and we should all be wanting them gone and ensuring others are not released. I accept the importance of documenting them but I really think we should stop counting them on lists.

    • http://birdchaser.blogspot.com Rob

      RobW,perhaps you overestimate the conservation value of our listing habits? I’m not sure that the four hours I spent driving around looking for Budgies in Hernando Beach is going to have any impact at all on the environment or culture of those filled-in wetland housing projects…In fact, more Budgies would probably be an ecological improvement over what is there in that new urban landscape now.

    • David

      RobW has an important point, though as Rob0 implies, the impact of listing on ecological control efforts has yet to be determined (my over-fondness for budgies aside). Swamphens are aggressive, voracious, and are close enough to native gallinules to constitute a very real ecological threat—we’re talking competition and plant loss in an area already in critical condition from abundant anacondas, development and climate change. Exotic parrots are cute and could potentially (though I’d say nay) fulfill the niche of the Carolina parakeet, but I’m afraid we definitely don’t want swamphens here—it’s pretty certain that they will lower biodiversity despite adding a tick. I wouldn’t presume to tell people what they can count, I just wonder if counting would 1) cause excited birders to belabor the eradication effort, creating value in swamphens or if 2) would aid the FWC in eradication by helping them locate populations. Maybe there could be a trial study to determine the relationship of ABA inclusions and the state/invasiveness of exotic species—whether ABA exotic counts harm or help could influence future decisions.

    • Derek Hudgins

      Is there a resource that lists all accepted ABA exotics and in what areas they are accepted?

    • Morgan Churchill

      They are included in the ABA checklist (although I imagine that Purple Swamphen won’t be added until the November update)

      As for state to state, ABA doesn’t maintain state checklists, although you could always see if a given exotic is on a state’s checklist.

    • http://www.nemesisbird.com Alex Lamoreaux

      I agree, but for others I think the encouragement of it being a ‘countable’ bird increases their likelihood to take the time to enter it (and other exotics) on eBird, etc which helps to monitor the species expansion, movement, etc.

    • Anon

      I thought the ABA Checklist only was officially updated once a year? I have memories of people not being able to count new ABA birds on their big year checklists because of the timing of the annual meeting.

      Aren’t people who see a Purple Swamphen between now and the annual checklist update breaking the ABA listing rules by counting the bird early?

      I guess I’m mostly more interested in learning more on the mechanics of the committee meetings — are the proposals and results reported out publicly online somewhere as the AOU checklist committee does? It would be very helpful to be able to read through pending proposals [I find the AOU proposals fascinating]

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi Derek,

      Yes and no. The 21 exotics on the ABA Checklist are easy to list, but only recently has the ABA Checklist begun to list _where_ these exotics are established. However, currently the CLC has no support from ABA to restrict exotics to certain regions within the ABA Area, so it is pointless and wasteful for the CLC to spend any time compiling such information.

      The 21 established exotics are: Mute Swan, Chukar, Himalayan Snowcock, Gray Partridge, Ring-necked Pheasant, Purple Swamphen, Rock Pigeon, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Spotted Dove, Budgerigar, Rosy-faced Lovebird, Monk Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet, Green Parakeet, White-winged Parakeet, Red-crowned Parrot, Red-whiskered Bulbul, Common Myna, Spot-breasted Oriole, House Sparrow, and Eurasian Tree Sparrow.

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi “Anon” and Morgan,

      Jeff Gordon and I recently decided that it is acceptable to announce online a CLC decision immediately once it has been made. And there will still be a CLC report published annually in the Nov/Dec issue of BIRDING.

    • http://www.surfbirds.com/community-blogs/nebraskabirder/ Sam Manning

      Just for the sake of correctness, you forgot the European Starling.

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi Sam,

      No I did not. There is a specimen record of a vagrant European Starling from Labrador around 1878, before the introductions into New York City in 1890-1891. European Starling is thusly considered a natural vagrant to the ABA Area, not an exotic species.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/tfloyd Ted Floyd

      And just for the sake of hypercorrectness, the European Starling gets off on a technicality. According to Pranty et al.’s ABA Checklist (the actual book, not just a list of birds, and it’s an excellent book, one that every birder ought to own), the starling is, of course, a Code 1 exotic species, but it’s also a Code 5 “mega”–that on the strength of a single record of a vagrant to Labrador in 1878.

      So, on the one hand, the starling is a dirty exotic, in bed with the likes of the House Sparrow and the Rock Pigeon. But on the other hand, it’s one of the rarest of the rare, a Code 5 rarity. Not only that, it’s a Code 5 mega (“accidental”) that hasn’t been recorded in 135 years!

      Ouch! Ow!! That hurt, Rob. (Somewhere out there, you see, Rob Williams is sticking voodoo pins in an effigy of me.)

    • Bill Pranty

      Let me qualify my above remark a bit. The ABA Checklist lists European Starling as BOTH a natural vagrant and an established exotic. But my point was that a species that has naturally strayed to the ABA Area and has established exotic populations should not be considered EXCLUSIVELY as an exotic. I read Derek’s query as to regard species EXCLUSIVELY exotic in the ABA Area. There probably are many species that occur naturally in one or more regions of the ABA Area and that established exotic populations elsewhere in the ABA Area (Muscovy Duck is one that immediately comes to mind, and I think several native gamebirds have been released outside their natural ranges).

    • http://birdsandbooks.com Frank Izaguirre

      Fascinating to think about how many more Code 5 starlings have come over without anyone’s knowledge.

    • Derek Courtney

      Hi Bill,

      It is good to see the presence of at least one of the CLC members in this open forum. When you say the CLC has no support from the ABA to restrict exotics to certain regions within the ABA Area, are you speaking about the ABA Board of Directors, the ABA membership or another entity? I am just wondering who would need to take action to enable the CLC or another ABA entity to make that happen. It seems there are a number of ABA rules that need serious revision in this realm. Thanks to Bill and Jeff for making this announcement after the CLC had made its final decision.

    • Andy Kratter

      As a former member of the ABA-CLC and a state (Florida) records committee (RC) , I feel it is up to each state’s RC to determine whether exotics occurring in their states are established or vagrants from exotic populations or are local escapes from non established populations. It can be messy on a continental scale (e.g., Trumpeter Swans in the east or Monk Parakeets in Louisiana), but these decisions should remain in the purview of the state RC. It should not be the concern of the ABA-CLC once they have decided that an exotic population is considered established.

    • James P Smith

      Alternatively you could ask what has happened to the Spotted Dove population in California, or the Crested Mynas from BC?

    • http://profile.typepad.com/naswick Nate Swick

      I believe questions of this nature would be the responsibility of the Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (RSEC), of which the ABA currently doesn’t have a functioning one. But steps are being taken to remedy that in the not too distant future.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/offshorebirder Nate Dias

      Ah, but Ted – but how do we know the 1878 Labrador Starling was not ship-assisted (and therefore not countable)?

    • Ted Floyd

      I’ve wondered about that, Nate.

      And I’ve wondered about the converse. Starlings are strong migrants. How can we say that a starling in eastern Canada in stormy weather isn’t a naturally occurring vagrant from Europe?

      Once again, the distinction between natural and non-natural is blurred, and, once again, Rob Williams is out there somewhere, howling in protest.

    • Ted Floyd

      House Sparrow, too, perhaps should be “upgraded” to Code 5 (exciting mega) status:

      http://www.sibleyguides.com/2008/02/house-sparrow-new-for-north-america/

      There really is no meaningful distinction, in this Anthropocene epoch of ours, between natural and non-natural.

    • Sam Manning

      Thanks for clarifying.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/chaetura Chas Swift

      Yes but doesn’t that mean that states are essentially dictating what exotics can be counted on the ABA area list? For example, Mute Swan in Idaho is not considered established and would therefore not countable. Does this only apply to state lists or does it include the ABA area list? And what about states/provinces without BRC’s (there are some). I know this has come up elsewhere but it would be worth further clarification here.

    • David Vander Pluym

      As is noted in the update for the blog post the Russian House Sparrows are also from an introduced population in Russia, so the birds in Alaska are not from a native population even though some are from Russia. See also the recent Western Birds article http://www.westernfieldornithologists.org/docs/abstracts/43-4.pdf

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi Derek,

      I should have tempered my above statement. Nate is correct; listing issues are the responsibility of the ABA Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (RSEC), which ABA is working on reforming. The CLC’s primary responsibilities are to evaluate potential first records of natural vagrants, evaluate the potential establishment of exotics, and to report its decisions to the ABA Board and membership on a regular basi (i.e., publishing a report annually or nearly so in BIRDING).

      In recent years, the CLC has defined the areas in which exotics are established based on a set of criteria posted to the ABA website (link below). The CLC chose to take this action because the 60 or so state and provincial records committees in the US and Canada have widely divergent criteria — if they have any criteria at all — for when an exotic is considered established. The CLC decided that since it was unreasonable — although ideal — for all state and provincial records committees to adopt our criteria, then we would at least apply our criteria to any exotic that passed local committee review if it would potentially add an exotic to the ABA Checklist (we don’t have the time to evaluate EVERY exotic in EACH US state or Canadian province individually, just as we don’t review first-state or first-provincial records of species that are already on the Checklist).

      As a hypothetical example, let’s say that a state accepts an exotic as established within its boundary based solely on its persistence for 10 years.** This species, even though ratified locally as established, would NOT pass CLC review (if new to the ABA Area), since the temporal criterion does not meet ABA’s standard of 15 years, and because the CLC requires seven other criteria to be met.

      http://aba.org/checklist/exotics.html

      Some ABA members have suggested that the CLC has no basis for “overruling” decisions of local committees, and that once a species has been added to the ABA Checklist, then it becomes countable anywhere in the ABA Area (although ABA Listing Rule 2 [B] [iii] — text below — seems to contradict this belief:

      “an introduced species may be counted only where and when
      it meets the ABA Checklist’s definition for being an established
      population. An introduced species observed well away from the
      accepted geographic area is not counted if it is more likely to be a
      local escape or release rather than an individual straying from the
      distant population;”

      http://aba.org/bigday/rules.pdf

      Personally (speaking as an individual), I totally disagree with the attitude that local committees should take precedent over the CLC. To me, it is clear that a continental checklist committee, with its stricter biological criteria, has every right to choose to not accept decisions made by local committees, with their less-stringent criteria.

      Since the CLC is not responsible for determining what birders can count on lists submitted to ABA — again, this is the responsibility of the ABA RSEC — then the first step in this process is to reform and revitalize the RSEC and let its committee members draw up some rules for listers to follow.

      Until the RSEC is reformed and functioning, then listers will likely continue to count whatever species they want to count, whenever and wherever they want to count it.

      **A “10-year rule” is often cited by birders as the only criteria that matters for exotics. Living in Florida, with our myriad — and still mostly non-countable — populations of parakeets and Hill Mynas, I hear this “10-year” argument mentioned frequently as justification for adding numerous other exotics to the ABA Checklist from Florida.

      ******************************************************************************

      If one chose to follow the ABA CLC;s geographical ranges for the four exotics added to the Checklist in the past five years, then this is what you would have:

      Purple Swamphen: throughout Florida, with one record in Georgia that represented a presumed disperser from the Florida population (as would any other swamphens thought to be natural colonists from Florida).

      Rosy-faced Lovebird: the greater Phoenix area, Arizona. ONLY.

      Nanday Parakeet: the west-central Florida counties of Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Manatee, Sarasota, and Charlotte. ONLY. The populations along the Florida east coast, plus those in California, would not be countable.

      Common Myna: throughout Florida (unless local escapees were suspected); any presumed disperser from the established Florida population would also be countable if seen in an adjacent state.

    • http://www.xenospiza.com Michael Retter

      If you have questions about “what counts” according to ABA rules, please see Jeff Skrentny’s article in the December issue of Winging It. All of these issues are covered. http://blog.aba.org/2013/01/full-length-full-color-dec-winging-it-online-now.html

    • Derek Courtney

      Thanks to Nate and Bill for your responses. I wonder how long the RSEC has been defunct? Or if this was common, available knowledge to ABA members? It seems troubling, at the very least, that one of the four committees specifically detailed in the ABA’s own bylaws was allowed to fall by the wayside. It also seems troubling that this wasn’t rectified with more urgency; all the more so in light of recent blog posts and the recent Winging It issue which focus specifically on these matters.

      Also, to Bill, is there any movement on the CLC’s part to make the entirety of the CLC’s voting process (after the fact of course) open and viewable to the public (or membership)? I think it would be enlightening to read the proposals and records submissions along with the CLC’s comments and thought processes. I would think such information would have to be beneficial to birders and future proposals/submissions. I appreciate your own personal thoughts on the countability of exotics, perhaps because they align with mine, but moreso because it is nice to hear from those amongst the ABA board and committees alongside those of ABA bloggers. Thanks again.

    • Ted Floyd

      Hi, all.

      A slight correction, if I may, to something in Bill Pranty’s details comments. Pranty says:

      “Rosy-faced Lovebird: the greater Phoenix area, Arizona. ONLY.”

      Lovebirds, doubtless dispersing from the core Phoenix population, are increasingly noted quite some distance from the Sun Valley. According to ABA Checklist Committee’s report, published in the Nov. 2012 Birding, “A few birds have also been seen near Punkin Center, along Tonto Creek, in Gila County, as well as in the Tucson region.”

      Very recently, i.e., in the past month, there are “accepted” (or “validated”) eBird reports for three locations in Willcox, Cochise County. However, I suspect that these three locations may refer to the same place; I can’t quite tell. Can anybody from Willcox weigh in on this?

      Anyhow, I, personally, would say that Rosy-faced Lovebirds seen in plausible settings (i.e., not in cages or suspiciously hanging around the birdseed section of Walmart) throughout Arizona are countable.

      Of greater–far greater–interest to me is the question of whether, and, if so, to what extent, the Arizona lovebird population is increasing and expanding. That’s something that birders can contribute directly to our knowledge of.

    • Ted Floyd

      Another thought about Arizona lovebirds. As I understand it, a key factor in the decision to add the Rosy-faced Lovebird to the ABA Checklist was an excellent article by Kurt A. Radamaker and Troy E. Corman, available here:

      http://www.azfo.org/journal/Rosy-facedLovebird2011.html

      If you read the article, you’ll see that the background work was accomplished almost entirely by rank-and-file birders. Basically, birders went out, carefully and systematically documented the occurrence of Rosy-faced Lovebirds, and the species got added to the ABA Checklist. That’s a bit of an oversimplification, of course, but it gets at the essence of what happened.

      If you want to get, say, Rose-ringed Parakeet or Nutmeg Mannikin added to the ABA Checklist, please consider doing and publishing a similar survey.

    • Bill Pranty

      That’s a good question, Nate. For 15 or so years, the CLC has had no formal policy on ship-assistance. The mere possibility that a bird may have ridden a ship for all or part of a journey across the Atlantic has never been used recently to disqualify a record.

      I might even accept a bird as a natural vagrant even if it was known to land on a ship but did not accept any direct human benefit (water, food, or shelter), and obviously if it was not kept captive for any part of the journey.

    • Bill Pranty

      Good; thanks Ted, for correcting my ignorance of Arizona geography.

    • Bill Pranty

      Ted is correct. The CLC requires that a peer-reviewed paper be published that explains the various questions about a population of exotics birds. Such a publication must present data that all biological criteria of the CLC be met before the CLC will even consider reviewing the status of an exotic. Plus, the CLC prefers to wait until a state or provincial records committee has accepted the species before the CLC will act.

      The Rosy-faced Lovebird paper is a well-written account of a well-prepared survey that took place _over a single weekend_ using dozens of observers. It’s a pretty classic paper.

    • Bill Pranty

      But I must point out that even the Rosy-0faced Lovebird paper, based on one weekend’s worth of surveys, represented a several-years effort to get the lovebird added to the Arizona list and then the ABA Checklist. That’s pretty speedy. It took about 10 years for the Nanday Parakeet to be added to the ABA Checklist once I began the process of agthering the data.

      Moral of the story: If you’re hoping to add an exotic to the ABA Checklist, expect to spend dozens of hours over 5 or more years shepherding the process through various channels. And then be prepared to have your results be rejected.

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi Derek,

      I don’t have sufficient background to comment on when the RSEC starting falling apart; I’ll let Jeff or another ABA staffer comment if he chooses to.

      But I will say that I’m old-fashioned in the sense that something isn’t “published” unless it’s in print, ideally in something more durable than a newsletter. Certainly, the RSEC never published on a frequent basis — and perhaps never at all — in BIRDING.

      As far as your second question, about “opening up” the CLC’s voting process, there really isn’t much to reveal. The CLC typically contains one or more members from the states that provide the bulk of the new continental records — primarily Alaska, California, Florida, and Texas, and sometimes Arizona — and CLC members often simultaneously serve on these local committees. Once a record has been accepted by a local committee, the CLC Chair will obtain the deliberations of the local committee members (which often is simply “yes” with no other comments) and will add these to the other relevant information about the record, which almost always has already been published in a regional or continental journal. Once a packet is complete — photos, possibly sonograms, a written account of the discovery and possibly discussion of previous vagrancy in the species or possibly discussion of the species’ history (if any) in aviculture, and comments of the local committee members, then the packet is emailed to the other 7 CLC members. Again, since all of the records reviewed by the CLC have already undergone what is typically — but is not always — thorough and careful deliberations by members of the local committee, then there usually is very litle for the CLC members to do except validate the record. (The process is much more detailed for an exotic species, which must meet eight criteria, compared to only one or two for natives).

      Once the CLC chair receives the other 7 votes, a process that usually takes 2-3 months, then the voting results are announced internally. If a record receives 7 or 8 “yes” votes, it is accepted immediately (unless the dissenting voter in the former cases requests a re-review). A record that receives 0 or 1 “yes” vote would be rejected immediately (again, unless the single “yes” voter requests a re-review). Records that receive 2-6 “yes” votes go through a second and perhaps even third round of discussion, after which the results of the third round of voting are final.

      Most of the CLC’s decisions are “yes” votes, oftentimes unanimously so. So there woudl be very little theat ABA members would gain by seeing the ballots of the individual members, which, like those of local committee members, often contain few or no comments beyond “yes.”

      The CLC is not at all like the AOU, with its many proposals over multiple counties dealing with name changes, “split” or “lumped” taxonomy, etc., issues that require careful and extensive deliberations. The CLC members, on the other hand, pretty much simply validate the bird identifications made by others.

    • Matt Brady

      Something that bothers me about Ted’s original announcement, that no one else seems to mention, is that if several taxa of Purple Swamphen are indeed present in Florida, and if they do possibly represent multiple species, then perhaps isn’t the ABA’s decision to add the current Purple Swamphen taxon to the ABA list a bit premature? Shouldn’t birders be concerned with figuring out which taxa are present, which ones are established, if they’re hybridizing or intergrading, and wait for an appropriate ornithological body to make a decision regarding the specific status of the Purple Swamphen in its native range before adding it to the ABA list? I know that if I were into adding exotics to my lifelist (and I am absolutely not), I’d want to know what I was adding before I added it. I’d want to make sure I got the “right” (sub)species of Purple Swamphen, to make sure I got the one that was truly established, and not some lesser, unestablished (sub)species. Otherwise, I’d probably just be tempted to add any free-flying exotic regardless of whether it was established or not, since I’d just done the same thing with the Swamphen.

      I guess the real question is if no one takes the time to establish if the bird they’re looking at is the right (sub)species, and they just tick it right off, but that individual is not from the established (sub)species, then does it still count when (if) the species is split later on? Or am I being overly particular about getting the “right” subspecies, when in fact they’re all equally established and thus countable?

    • Ted Floyd

      Good questions, Matt.

      Like Matt, I’ve been wondering when we’d get around to discussing the taxonomic question. I have two responses.

      First, Bill Pranty and his colleagues in Florida are, in fact, interested in these taxonomic questions. An article in the May/June 2013 Birding will address, among other things, the question of swamphen taxonomy. (Now please don’t expect absolutely definitive answers! But some fascinating questions will be raised.) A while back, Pranty and coauthor Howard Voren published an article on “Variation and possible hybridization in Brotogeris parakeets” (Birding, June 2003, pp. 262-266) that got at the question of taxonomic limits in the White-winged/Yellow-chevroned Parakeet complex in Florida. Which brings me to my second point…

      Second, although it’s great to explore these taxonomy-and-ID questions, those questions ought not, in my mind, slow down the decision-making process for the ABA Checklist Committee. For years, the ABA Checklist had an entry for Fea’s/Zino’s Petrel–because the committee just wasn’t sure which population(s) is(are) in ABA Area waters. And there’s still a Galapagos/Hawaiian Petrel entry on the ABA Checklist (although that matter may be resolved before too long, given recent actions by the California Bird Records Committee). In my opinion, such categories as Fea’s/Zino’s and Galapagos/Hawaiian are fine.

      And, really, a whole lot of our birds are in that “slash/combo” category, whether or not we choose to realize it. Currently, on the ABA Checklist, there are entries for such taxa as “Savannah Sparrow,” “Fox Sparrow,” “White-breasted Nuthatch,” “Warbling Vireo,” and “Red Crossbill.” Nearly any ornithologist will tell you that species limits in those five taxa are unresolved. We’re not necessarily saying that multiple species are involved; we’re saying, simply, that we don’t know. Even if we’re leaning toward the multiple-species hypotheses for those taxa, as many folks are, we’re still saying we need more info. But that doesn’t mean we put those five taxa in some holding bin until it’s all worked out. (I mean, you’d have to wait till the 22nd century for the Red Crossbill to be finally worked out…)

      To me, it’s the same with the taxon currently known as the Purple Swamphen, Porphyrio porphyrio. That taxon, whatever it is, or whatever they are, is, or are, out there, established, breeding, and apparently expanding and increasing in the ABA Area. So it’s (they’re?) on the ABA Checklist. And, as we learn more things, we can expect that the bird’s status will be updated.

      I, personally, am exhilarated by the dizzying speed at which the AOU, the ABA, and other organizations are now operating. Expect many more changes, lots more checklist instability, more and better knowledge, and terrific fun. Love it!

    • http://profile.typepad.com/jeffgyr Jeff Gordon

      Hi Derek,

      The obligation to maintain a functioning RSEC is clearly part of the ABA’s bylaws, as you note. And we are working to get a reformed RESC up and running as quickly as possible. You’ll be seeing more about that process in ABA fora like this one in the near future.

      As for the RSEC’s brief period in a sort of holding pattern being, “troubling, at the very least,” the ABA has in fact been through a troubled, challenging period, in all honesty. We’re coming out of it quickly and well, I would contend, and making very good progress on adapting to a new age of birding, social media, etc. But there are just a lot of things in need of attention and many of those things are often hitched together in fairly complicated ways.

      For my part, I think that having a reformed and more easily accessible RSEC will play an absolutely key role in the ABA’s evolution into a much more effective forum and fulcrum for the birding community. I’m very much looking forward to it.

      Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t thank Tony White for all the many hours he did put into the RSEC over the years. I also look forward to calling on his formidable experience and wisdom as we move forward.

      If you’re interested in potentially serving on the RSEC, or know people that would be, feel free to pass their names on to me at jgordon@aba.org. And feel free to contact me at that address if you want to discuss things in more detail.

      Great discussion, everyone.

      Jeff Gordon
      President, ABA

    • http://profile.typepad.com/jeffgyr Jeff Gordon

      Morgan,

      Glad you’re interested. More details will be available in the February issue of Winging It, which is at the printers and/or in the mail as I write this.

      Stay tuned!

    • Bill Pranty

      Hi Matt,

      As you probably know, bird taxonomy is never _settled-; it’s a constantly changing process. The ABA CLC defers to the AOU on all matters of taxonomy and nomenclature. It’s a very rare occasion where the CLC adds a bird to the ABA Checklist that isn’t already on the AOU Check-list. Purple Swamphen and Rosy-faced Lovebird are two examples; the AOU isn’t terribly active working with exotic species at the present; the AOU Check-list still includes African Turtle-Dove, even though the species has been extirpated from North America since 1999. The ABA CLC thus is taking a more active role than AOU in deciding what exotics are established in the ABA Area (and the CLC’s criteria are much more stringent and biologically defensible than are AOU’s).

      Without having the AOU to guide us on Purple Swamphen taxonomy, I would suggest that the ABA CLC follow the recommendations of the IOC World Bird List, which is becoming the standard for worldwide taxonomy and nomenclature, and it’s updated frequently. (I think buried somewhere in the ABA bylaws, it says that ABA uses Clements as its world authority, but I would suggest that the IOC list should now be used). +Another issue for ABA to determine at some point.

      http://www.worldbirdnames.org/

      Regarding Purple Swamphen, Clements accepts one species in six groups, while IOC splits out the African Swamphen to have two swamphen species.

      From a Florida perspective, the two lists are in agreement that the European and Asian forms belong to the same species known as Purple Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio). It’s documented from specimen evidence that most of the swamphens in Florida are of the Asian form _poliocephalus_; the issue is whether the seemingly blue-headed and blue-backed swamphens are of another taxonomic form. Even if they are, the blue-headed and blue-backed swamphens represents one of the European forms.

      So all swamphens in Florida are forms of the species accepted by two worldwide lists as Purple Swamphen. There is no taxonomic uncertainty that would be an issue. (And even if there were, then the AOU Check-list Committee would eventually address it — and the ABA CLC would then follow along).

    • Colin Campbell

      Of the several offerings of Purple Swamphens for sale on the internet, this one is interesting ….. it says “Sold Out”!

      http://www.purelypoultry.com/index.php?main_page=advanced_search_result&search_in_description=1&zenid=98ec2ea8f485dee46cb6aca878b41d94&keyword=swamphens&x=44&y=1

      We had a PUSW in Wilmington , DE during the Gulf War and speculation as to its origins (it appeared to be of the ‘Iraqi’ race) were quite hilarious.

    • http://profile.typepad.com/rosyfinchblogspotcom Rosy-finch.blogspot.com

      The swamphens at Chapel Trail Nature Center in Pembroke Pines, near the original relase site, seem to have deep blue neck and nape, and lighter blue on the face and chin. Here is a slideshow of some of my photos taken there. Under certain lighting conditions their heads can appear quite gray. I would like to get some side-by-side comparisons in good light. See: Purple Swamphens at Chapel Trail

    • Mick

      Just spotted this Purple Swamphen Porphyrio porphyria ssp at Green Cay in Delray Beach Fl. along with the American Purple Gallinule Porphyrio martinicus (I think). Two distinct birds that seem to be being confused by the use of the common names below.

    • Mick

      Sorry for the double pic. New guy.

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