American Birding Podcast



2016 Big Year Competition Final Determination

On December 19th, 2017, the Recording Standard and Ethics Committee (RSEC) voted unanimously (6-0) to consider the 2017 ABA Checklist additions from Hawaii as provisional species allowable for inclusion on 2016.*

2016’s Big Year ended with a dramatic three-participant run to Hawaii. The RSEC was consulted as to the legitimacy of the inclusion of Hawaii’s birds for 2016 participants. During the RSEC’s first round of voting, the RSEC voted 5-1 against inclusion of the Hawaii birds. This decision was based mostly on a sense that ABA communications had been clear that Hawaii in 2016 would not be included in ABA Area Big Years, but also as a response to a sense that Hawaii only became a Big Year issue in 2016 because of an attempt to “game” the Big Year rule book.

Two months of feedback, letters, reaching out to other birders for their opinions, and a tremendous amount of discussion led to a second round of voting that overturned the first vote unanimously, thereby allowing inclusion of the Hawaii Checklist additions as provisional species to 2016 Big Years. On the issue of Hawaii being included in Big Years following its annexation to the ABA Area in the fall of 2016, several discussions with people close to the Big Year process made it evident that, despite the ABA’s best efforts, ample room for confusion remained for the 2016 Big Year participants, and feedback was generally negative on this being a legitimate reason to restrict 2016 Big Year lists from including Hawaii species. Additionally, the committee agreed that this unanimous vote was more in line with the RSEC’s general philosophy of “tie goes to the birder**” in interpretations of the Recording Rules.

The final top 3 ABA Area Big Year totals for 2016, including all provisionals are:

John Weigel: 835
Olaf Danielson: 829
Laura Keene: 814

* This ruling applies only to 2016 Big Year lists because that was the year of the ABA Area expansion; ABA Area Big Year lists from 2015 or earlier cannot include species recorded only in Hawaii. Life Lists can include the new Checklist additions if observed at any point in the past.

** In a decision that involves the well-being of the bird, tie goes to the bird. In a decision that involves a listing rule, tie goes to the birder.


ABA Recording Standard and Ethics Committee (RSEC)

ABA Checklist

ABA Checklist Committee (CLC) Reports