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    Would you count these birds?

    BARG_AldrichIn the December issue of Winging It, Jeff Skrentny shared with us his thorough review of the ABA's "countability" rules. He discovered that, in some cases, "what counts" is not always obvious.

    What's your take? Based on the ABA Recording Rules, what do you think of Jeff's conclusions? Would you count a bird that you saw in a province where it's not on the list? What about a bird just pulled out of a mist net? Or a species that's been somwhat recently repatriated in the area? How about a bird that the ABA Checklist Committee says isn't established in your state–when that state's committee says it is? And, in particular, if you saw the Thick-billed Parrot in New Mexico, do you count it?

    Andrew Aldrich photographed this Barnacle Goose in Illinois, where it's not on the state list.

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    Michael Retter
    Michael L. P. Retter is the editor of the ABA's newest magazine, Birder's Guide. He also wears his ABA cap while working as a Technical Reviewer for Birding magazine. When not at home, Michael is often leading tours in Middle America (Mexico through Panama). He currently lives with his partner, Matt, in West Lafayette, Indiana. In his fleeting free time there, he pursues interests in horticulture (especially orchids), music, cooking, and numismatics. Michael also runs GBNA, the continent's informal club and email listserv for LGBT birders.
    Michael Retter

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    • Ted Floyd

      Would you count a bird that you saw in a province where it’s not on the list?

        Yes.

      What about a bird just pulled out of a mist net?

        Yes.

      Or a species that’s been somwhat recently repatriated in the area?

        Yes, assuming I know what you mean by “repatriated”… :-)

      How about a bird that the ABA Checklist Committee says isn’t established in your state–when that state’s committee says it is?

        Does the ABA Checklist Committee say such things? If so, yes.

      And, in particular, if you saw the Thick-billed Parrot in New Mexico, do you count it?

        I didn’t see it, but, yes, I would.

      Who needs Attu when you list as laxly as I do!… :-)

    • Alan Wormington

      Would you count these Barnacle Geese if they hopped over the fence:

      http://www.blog.peregrineprints.com/search?q=barnacle+goose

      This is not a rare scene in Ontario. And it is known that some DO get loose.

      Then they could fly to Illinois or Arkansas or ANYWHERE. Presto!

    • Paul Clapham

      This isn’t a hypothetical question for me — I did in fact count the Red-flanked Bluetail which showed up this winter in British Columbia, and it isn’t on the list.

      But then, essentially there isn’t a list. Right now we don’t have any kind of committee which keeps track of what birds have showed up in British Columbia. So it’s entirely up to me to decide what I think about that bird.

    • Derek Hudgins

      Out of curiosity, is there a source out there that keeps track of the ABA-accepted introduced species and what populations A. are specifically ABA-approved and B. are approved by the state committee? Also, is there a source that examines the most likely introduced populations to be accepted next by the ABA? If not, any chance that could be the topic of a future blog post or two?

    • Anon

      A lot of my responses depend heavily on the local Bird Records Committee. As someone mentioned in the BC case, not all BRCs are created equal. My rough rule in my state, Washington, where the BRC is functional and pretty well-respected is as follows: Odds are, the BRC knows more than I do about id issues & origin issues. Choosing to go against their decisions requires that I have convinced myself that I’ve heard their position and that I really think I know better. I know that the ABA rules ‘allow’ me to count things the BRC doesn’t include on the state list, but I’m not looking for loopholes to pad my list – I want a list that I feel able to defend. So, in these specific cases:

      1. Would you count a bird that you saw in a province where it’s not on the list?

      Default answer – no.
      Exceptions
      [a] a well-documented state-first that is not on the list only for timing reasons [ I had no problem putting Wilson's Plover on my list after 2 different ones appeared - I didn't wait for the BRC to rule]

      [b] if the BRC hasn’t ruled and I find the evidence in favor of counting the species convincing [for my state, Cordilleran Flycatcher falls into this category] – if / when the BRC says our limited population of COFL are hybrid WEFLs, I’ll have to reconsider depending on what reasoning the BRC gives.

      [c] a species with wild-origin questions where I disagree w/ the BRC and think I can maintain my position – a Mute Swan remains on my list, but I didn’t count Pink-footed Goose – in the one case I felt ok defending my decision, in the other I felt the BRC knew better.

      [d] A species not-accepted by the BRC because the documentation wasn’t sufficient, but where I was sure of the id. A significant # of sightings are voted down because of inconclusive documentation – if I was confident in the id but couldn’t ‘prove’ it , I’d still keep the bird on my list, I think.

      >What about a bird just pulled out of a mist net?
      I haven’t encountered this issue, fortunately, so I’m ‘safe’ – I imagine I’d count those birds though, on some rationale that the mist netting was for a good purpose or some such. A gray area, though, since some of those birds would not have been seen by me w/o the net’s assistance.

      > Or a species that’s been somewhat recently repatriated in the area?
      Probably shouldn’t count, but I’d likely count it if it seemed the population was surviving — definitely a fuzzy standard for me though – I count Western Bluebirds where they’ve been repatriated here w/o too much concern, but it is a bit suspect, I’d imagine.

      > How about a bird that the ABA Checklist Committee says isn’t established in your state–when that state’s committee says it is?

      It would come down to the arguments made. I enjoy reading the background rationale for these decisions, so if one side or the other gave me convincing evidence, I’d defer to them over my own limited expertise.

      > And, in particular, if you saw the Thick-billed Parrot in New Mexico, do you count it?
      Does the NMBRC accept the bird with some reasoning ? I’d probably accept it. Is this one of the introduced species where the ABA accepts it based on a different location but hasn’t been clear about where-else it is countable? I’d probably defer to the NMBRC.

      Barnacle Goose is a good example where the bird is on the ABA list, but I follow the local BRC’s wisdom in so far not accepting it on my state list because origin issues seem fraught.

      I bet plenty of ABA members have birds on their submitted lists that don’t meet the technical standards of the ABA rules – for me, the question is whether they’ve thought through a reason for their actions, or whether they seem to pushing the limits for the sake of a couple more ticks. If a wild-origin well-identified ABA first came through in December, I’d sure put it on my list even though it technically should wait until August when the checklist committee might rule –

    • Morgan Churchill

      I keep a ABA checklist which strictly follows the ABA rules, and the State checklists I keep also generally follow those guidelines. But my life list follows my own guidelines

      Would you count a bird that you saw in a province where it’s not on the list?

      Depends on the bird. New Vagrant? YES; Exotic but one whose population show evidence of establishment to my own criteria? YES Ship stray? YES. Possibly escapee/dubious origin? Depends on how likely I think it is too show up where I saw it

      What about a bird just pulled out of a mist net?

      I have live-trapped rodents and manhandled snakes on my life lists for those groups…Don’t know why I wouldn’t count mist-netted birds. That said I have only been to a few banding demonstrations and nothing I saw was rare and not easily seen outside the net, so have not dealt with this issue.

      Or a species that’s been somwhat recently repatriated in the area?

      Yes.

      How about a bird that the ABA Checklist Committee says isn’t established in your state–when that state’s committee says it is?

      Yes. Rosy-faced Lovebird went on list as soon as the Arizona checklist committee added it. (Technically it was already on, but annotated)

      And, in particular, if you saw the Thick-billed Parrot in New Mexico, do you count it?

      Sure if I think it was a genuine stray from Mexico

    • Brian Monk

      What about a bird like White-cheeked Pintail in Florida? Certainly, some of these birds could be wild, and not the consequence of escape/release? But the FOS will not accept records for this species as anything other than origin unknown. Do you count that?

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