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Reliability of identifications: Some research

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Old Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 16:35   #1
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Reliability of identifications: Some research

I stumbled across this paper from back in Feb 2019.

"Seeing rare birds where there are none: self-rated expertise predicts correct species identification, but also more false rarities"

Nils Bouillard, Rachel L. White, Hazel A. Jackson, Gail E. Austen, Julia Schroeder

https://ecoevorxiv.org/9z63v/

The authors tested 3000 people on their bird id skills. Whilst the self proclaimed experts got more correct, they were also more likely to misidentify birds as rarities.

The test they used is here

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1F...2aIrA/viewform
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Old Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 18:47   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mono View Post
I stumbled across this paper from back in Feb 2019.

"Seeing rare birds where there are none: self-rated expertise predicts correct species identification, but also more false rarities"

Nils Bouillard, Rachel L. White, Hazel A. Jackson, Gail E. Austen, Julia Schroeder

https://ecoevorxiv.org/9z63v/

The authors tested 3000 people on their bird id skills. Whilst the self proclaimed experts got more correct, they were also more likely to misidentify birds as rarities.

The test they used is here

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1F...2aIrA/viewform
It seems pretty obvious having looked at the paper and the test - some people were having a laugh......

All the best
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Old Wednesday 22nd January 2020, 20:38   #3
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Oh yeah, the effect of "advanced birders" finding way too many "rarities" is quite obvious. One has to sometimes wonder why such a large fraction of vagrants are birds that are very similar to something locally common while simultaneously being also very in avoiding having any pictures of them taken.
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 06:48   #4
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The questions about expertise are in fact quite good and the answers probably rather objective. The main result is that more experienced birdwatchers can identify birds better than less experienced. I find this hardly surprising. More experienced people named more rarities probably because they knew about existence of such birds, and inability to read instructions is distributed evenly in all expertise groups. But it is a good recommendation that information about the experience of observer should be filed together with the observations. However, this study does not go very deep into the interesting problem about the reliability of data of "citizen science" projects.
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 08:18   #5
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I am immediately reminded of Odd Billie's treatise on submitting rarities and how inclusion of "observer familiar with the species" might be met with "committee familiar with the observer!"

Everybody makes mistakes. Experienced birders are consulted on more difficult questions (because of their experience, doh) and therefore have the opportunity to make bigger and more public mistakes....

I'm not sure why mention is made of data in citizen science projects. Is there some evidence that scientists don't make the same kind of mistakes as experienced birders in the field at the same frequency for given observing conditions? I'd actually suspect the opposite might be true, that a good birder will outmatch a project-oriented scientist in the field.

John

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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 08:47   #6
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Have the other people that have commented looked at the test? I remain firmly of the view that the misidentifications were deliberate and people having a laugh! I doubt the Yellow Bunting identification was even a Yellow Bunting identification. More likely the use of the old name for Yellowhammer.

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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 09:00   #7
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The survey is nonsense. The over elaborate interpretation of the results is laughable.

No one thought that the Starlings were Brown-headed Cowbirds or the European Robins were Red-flanked Bluetails. Look at the underlying paper and survey. It is funny!

All the best
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 10:52   #8
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I doubt the Yellow Bunting identification was even a Yellow Bunting identification. More likely the use of the old name for Yellowhammer.

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That certainly caused some consternation on Scilly when someone persuaded Cardboard Box to use it instead of Yellowhammer!

John
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 10:52   #9
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Originally Posted by Paul Chapman View Post
Have the other people that have commented looked at the test? I remain firmly of the view that the misidentifications were deliberate and people having a laugh! I doubt the Yellow Bunting identification was even a Yellow Bunting identification. More likely the use of the old name for Yellowhammer.

All the best
I have looked at the test and I openly admit that I am not sure with many of the birds, in particular the drawings - how do you even ID a drawing??? - and some of the weird angles. It is also not made extremely clear in the formulation where should be these birds be assumed to be observed.
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 11:25   #10
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That certainly caused some consternation on Scilly when someone persuaded Cardboard Box to use it instead of Yellowhammer!

John


good old Cardboard Box
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 11:29   #11
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What's 'cardboard box' in this context?
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 13:18   #12
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What's 'cardboard box' in this context?
Completely irrelevant to this thread but...
In the 80's and 90's the October birding scene on Scilly was extremely active.
As an efficient method of spreading news, birders adopted handheld CB radios.
People adopted nicknames (or handles as CB aficionados would say).

A retired resident on Scilly, living high up in the area called Telegraph, was an avid CB fan. The story I know is that he followed the birders conversations from early October and enjoyed the virtual company, although he knew nothing about birds other than a countryman's familiarity of the birds around him.

At the peak of CB use there was often a manned (personed really, as there was often a woman's voice) powerful mains powered CB broadcasting from the Porthcressa Hotel (a pub beloved by birders), this was later replicated at Old Town Café and Longstones Café.

However, one rarity rich day, folks were calling up trying to get information.
All to no avail, people were watching rare birds !!
However, dear old Cardboard Box stepped in to the void and started relaying messages. He was located in possibly the best spot and had a very powerful CB.
Thus was born the legend of Cardboard Box
We had a whip round for a bird guide for him but there are many amusing anecdotes around his mispronunciation and general "getting mixed up" but he was a lovely old bloke.
Sadly, he died a few years ago and is sadly missed.
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Old Thursday 23rd January 2020, 13:36   #13
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Thanks!
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Old Friday 24th January 2020, 05:56   #14
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Originally Posted by opisska View Post
I have looked at the test and I openly admit that I am not sure with many of the birds, in particular the drawings - how do you even ID a drawing??? - and some of the weird angles. It is also not made extremely clear in the formulation where should be these birds be assumed to be observed.
Jan

Don't overthink them. The drawings are quite 'strong' but maybe I am used to Mike Langman's illustrations. I enjoyed a mural of his at a local nature reserve (Ham Wall) on Sunday.

I believe that they are all very obvious identifications really.

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Old Saturday 25th January 2020, 07:57   #15
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The survey is nonsense. The over elaborate interpretation of the results is laughable.

No one thought that the Starlings were Brown-headed Cowbirds
or the European Robins were Red-flanked Bluetails. Look at the underlying paper and survey. It is funny!

All the best
I don't know about that. From one of the figures in the paper, the brown-headed cowbird mistake seems to be on this image: https://lh4.googleusercontent.com/2i...2Yl4B0QQ_=w740

This does have a reasonable resemblance to a female or juvenile brown-headed cowbird. Of course, the beak shape is all wrong and there are other problems, but I have seen far worse misidentifications. This looks like a reasonable fit for the hypothesis "didn't recognize the species right away [slightly tough angle and/or not familiar with juveniles], so looked at a North American website". The authors state that mistaken ID of exotics correlates with use of reference material.

It's also worth noting that the "identified rare or exotic birds" trend is not linear. It peaks at a self-rated expertise of 4 ("familiar with most British species, especially common birds"). I don't think this is "experts having a laugh", I think it's mostly sincere mistakes. Most of the "trend" is simply due to novice birders not ever considering exotics, so their rate is near zero. Statistically, that makes correlation of exotics with expertise almost inevitable.

To me the authors are naive in being surprised that their respondents would consider exotics. They never stated that all birds shown were native to Britain. Many respondents may have assumed so, but the fact that (at least) 4% did not is hardly surprising.
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Old Saturday 25th January 2020, 23:38   #16
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Natreb

Many thanks. All noted but it is entitled - "Common British Birds Identification Quiz". I suppose that it is possible but my views remain unaltered. (I have seen Brown-headed Cowbird in Britain but 5 records is not common.)

Can you tell whether it was a Starling, Chaffinch, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Blue Tit or Robin that was identified as Cream-coloured Courser?!?

Edit - just to add a personal Cowbird pic from New England in 2016.

All the best

Paul
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