American Birding Podcast



ABA Checklist Committee adds Four Species to ABA Checklist

In recent weeks, members of the ABA Checklist Committee (CLC) have added four species to the ABA Checklist. Three species are vagrants from the Old World are River Warbler (Locustella fluviatilis), Thick-billed Warbler (Iduna aedon), and European Robin (Erithacus rubecula). The fourth is a non-native species established in Hawaii, Indian Peafowl (Pavo cristatus).

Full accounts for these and other decisions made by the CLC since December 2017 will be featured in our next annual report, to be published later in 2018, but summaries for these four new species are included here.

River Warbler: One bird seen at Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 7 October 2017, accepted unanimously. The committee expressed praise for the excellent written report by Paul Lehman and photos by Clarence Irrigoo of this notoriously skulking species. There is still a question as to whether the bird will be represented on the ABA Checklist as “Eurasian River Warbler” as it is on the Clements list or, as is preferred by some on the committee, simply “River Warbler”. The committee has asked the American Ornithologist’s Society Classification Committee for guidance on the name to use for this bird.

Photo: Clarence Irrigoo

Thick-billed Warbler: One found at Gambell, St. Lawrence Island, Alaska, 8-13 September, 2017, was well photographed during its nearly week-long stay. Committee members accepted this bird unanimously, noting that the combination of thick bill, unmarked underparts, and such a plain face rule out similar species in this difficult family.

European Robin: One presumed first winter bird, found in a yard in North Wales, Bucks County, Pennsylvania, 21 February-7 March, 2015, was accepted unanimously on the second round of voting. With no question as to the bird’s identity, the committee was asked to make the difficult call on provenance. Members noted that the bird showed no signs of feather wear consistent with time in captivity and that the bird’s arrival coincided with a larger than normal influx of European Robin in Iceland the previous fall, making a plausible case for natural vagrancy.

Photo: Devich Farbotnik

Indian Peafowl: This highly distinctive species, with wild populations restricted mostly to the Indian subcontinent, is accepted to the ABA Checklist on a 7-1 vote in the third round. Feral Indian Peacocks have been recorded on several Hawaiian Islands for many decades, with large breeding populations on the islands of Hawai’i and O’ahu that are apparently self-sufficient, and not semi-domestic or enhanced by continued releases. Committee members suggested Rock Pigeon as a similar situation, in which self-sustaining populations are frequently supplemented by new semi-domestic releases, yet there remains a strong history of breeding.

Three additional “Hawaii-only” species–Japanese Quail, Lavender Waxbill, and Red-masked Parakeet–were not accepted to the ABA Checklist after three rounds of voting, but may be considered at a later date.


The ABA CLC traditionally awaits the decision of state/provincial records committees before tackling potential new additions to the ABA Checklist. The ABA CLC looks forward to reviewing the following pending decisions by appropriate bodies: Mistle Thrush (New Brunswick), Red-backed Shrike (Alaska), Black-backed Oriole (Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and Massachusetts), Red Warbler (Arizona), and Great Black Hawk (Texas).

The updated ABA Checklist can be downloaded here >>