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Birder's Lifelist - should heard birds be counted? (1 Viewer)

cafe birder

Well-known member
Supporter
I personally count heard only. In Britain I have 2 on my list, quail and corncrake that I have seen abroad but only heard here. I did have a policy of seeing everything for my, small, world list until I heard an odd crake in western sahara. 5 of us checked the tiny reed bed for about 40 mins but nothing emerged........ till the next day, in front of someone else who happened to have a camera handy. This is the only Allen's Galinule on my list and its staying on. Ultimately, as has been said before, your list your rules, unless you wish to be competitive when a set of criteria must be generally agreed.
 

jmepler

It's just a flesh wound.
If I read the bold bit correctly then the record doesn't have to be good enough to "get anything" on the bird if the call is diagnostic? Do they have to see it at all? That "and/or" very much suggests not.

John

That is correct John. You are not required to see the bird at all, just be able to make a positive identification. This can be by sight or sound. It can also be done after the fact, based on photos or audio recordings. The only caveat on photos and recordings is that you have had to make them in person. No remote observations such as webcams.
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
Barbados
I should not be drawn into this antiquated discussion, but: the average British birder is much more likely to make an error on Willow W/Chiffchaff identification by sight than by sound. In addition, I strongly support Jan in post two on what he said regarding the conservation/disturbance aspect of this.

Niels
 

Carl Beel

Active member
There was a time that you could only count birds that you shot. With increased knowledge of field recognition, seen only became acceptable, preferably with a photograph. In recent times, bird sounds have become much better known and documented, making heard only an accepted way of recording. So, yes!
 

DMW

Well-known member
There's a conflation of two different topics here. Nobody is arguing that a heard only record of a bird isn't a valid record. The question is whether it's acceptable to add a bird you have only heard to your life list, and that is purely a matter of personal choice. Some bird photographers only tick birds they have photographed, and I've even heard of a birder who only ticked a bird if she had seen a male. Your list, your rules!
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
There's a conflation of two different topics here. Nobody is arguing that a heard only record of a bird isn't a valid record. The question is whether it's acceptable to add a bird you have only heard to your life list, and that is purely a matter of personal choice. Some bird photographers only tick birds they have photographed, and I've even heard of a birder who only ticked a bird if she had seen a male. Your list, your rules!

That is something many people do when confronted with difficult ID's, Sunbirds and Weavers for example. I've often heard people say, after scutinisiing a potential tick that's difficult to ID that 'I'll wait for a male', I might even have said it myself!
 

temmie

Well-known member
There's a conflation of two different topics here. Nobody is arguing that a heard only record of a bird isn't a valid record. The question is whether it's acceptable to add a bird you have only heard to your life list, and that is purely a matter of personal choice. Some bird photographers only tick birds they have photographed, and I've even heard of a birder who only ticked a bird if she had seen a male. Your list, your rules!

agree for the full 100%. The topic title is biased, because nothing really should (on your personal list, as it's your list, your rules), a better one would be:
do you count heard only birds and why?
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
That is something many people do when confronted with difficult ID's, Sunbirds and Weavers for example. I've often heard people say, after scutinisiing a potential tick that's difficult to ID that 'I'll wait for a male', I might even have said it myself!

I don't think it's always just about ID. There's an aesthetic argument that you haven't had the full experience of the species if you haven't seen (e.g.) a male Peacock or Beautiful Sunbird. I find it very understandable. You could even argue that accepting a dowdy female as the tick indicates that you are just about the numbers.... ;)

John
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I don't think it's always just about ID. There's an aesthetic argument that you haven't had the full experience of the species if you haven't seen (e.g.) a male Peacock or Beautiful Sunbird. I find it very understandable. You could even argue that accepting a dowdy female as the tick indicates that you are just about the numbers.... ;)

John

If you'd seen a Peacock, you would by the very definition, have seen a male.

You could also argue, that waiting to see a male, means you either have insufficient confidence or ablity, to ID a female or juvenile. :t:
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
There's a conflation of two different topics here. Nobody is arguing that a heard only record of a bird isn't a valid record. The question is whether it's acceptable to add a bird you have only heard to your life list, and that is purely a matter of personal choice. Some bird photographers only tick birds they have photographed, and I've even heard of a birder who only ticked a bird if she had seen a male. Your list, your rules!

But the OP is specifically asking for some general guidelines/consensus so all can follow some kind of agreed rules, whatever they may be!! And asking what other countries do, if they have a general listing. A free-for-all doesn't help anyone in those circumstances (and yes, of course people can count what they want or on whatever criteria for their own listing outside any kind of agreed listing platform).
 

birdboybowley

Well-known member.....apparently so ;)
Supporter
England
Weirdest one I recall was a Norwegian guy who wouldn't count new birds on his list that were in flight (except swifts and petrels apparently!). We were in the Gambia and he never added fish-eagle, gymnogene.....we're an odd bunch really!
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
I don't think it's always just about ID. There's an aesthetic argument that you haven't had the full experience of the species if you haven't seen (e.g.) a male Peacock or Beautiful Sunbird. I find it very understandable. You could even argue that accepting a dowdy female as the tick indicates that you are just about the numbers.... ;)

John

If you'd seen a Peacock, you would by the very definition, have seen a male.

You could also argue, that waiting to see a male, means you either have insufficient confidence or ablity, to ID a female or juvenile. :t:


How many people would tick nestlings, or even eggs? Suppose you were on a guided holiday and the tour guide showed you a clutch of eggs in a nestbox of some rarity they were monitoring . . . have to admit I don't think I'd tick that! Never been in that situation fortunately.

I do tick heard-only birds, though prefer to see them if possible. Offhand, I think the only heard-only bird on my world list is Barred Owl (hooting in the distance in Texas) unless I've forgot one or two.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
How many people would tick nestlings, or even eggs? Suppose you were on a guided holiday and the tour guide showed you a clutch of eggs in a nestbox of some rarity they were monitoring . . . have to admit I don't think I'd tick that! Never been in that situation fortunately.

I do tick heard-only birds, though prefer to see them if possible. Offhand, I think the only heard-only bird on my world list is Barred Owl (hooting in the distance in Texas) unless I've forgot one or two.

To take it into other species groups, would you tick a dragonfly nymph? Or a caterpillar? I wouldn't, but I'd regard it as legitimate if someone else did, as long as the ID was solid.

I don't tick heard-only birds (and I've got pretty good at forgetting them, though I'm sure there have been one or two abroad) but I do year-tick calls on reducing disturbance grounds. So Tawny Owl, Corncrake, Savi's - all would go on the year-list without me looking to see the individual, no problem. Nestlings - no, although if they'd got most of their plumage it might be another matter - eggs, absolutely not.

John
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
The official listing rules of the American Birding Association (ABA) state that in order to be counted: Diagnostic characteristics, sufficient for the recorder to identify it to species, must have been seen and/or heard and/or documented for the bird encountered.

To me, the requirement that a bird be seen in order to be counted can lead to more bird disturbance.

The ABA also requires that: The bird must have been encountered under conditions that conform to the ABA Code of Birding Ethics. This includes rules about stressing birds and exposing them to danger. Using playback to see a bird so that you can count it would mean that you have exposed it to danger. To me that means that you can no longer count it.

It is all about the welfare of the birds.

The ABA doesn't have any official rule saying birds seen with assistance of playback don't count. Otherwise they would out and out say it. It's all a matter on if you think that playback in that situation is appropriate and ethical. Playback used in an area where its banned or overused, or playback on endangered species, would be a case where you couldn't count something. But I don't see an issue with using playback on commoner birds in less birded areas.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
To take it into other species groups, would you tick a dragonfly nymph? Or a caterpillar? I wouldn't, but I'd regard it as legitimate if someone else did, as long as the ID was solid.

I don't tick heard-only birds (and I've got pretty good at forgetting them, though I'm sure there have been one or two abroad) but I do year-tick calls on reducing disturbance grounds. So Tawny Owl, Corncrake, Savi's - all would go on the year-list without me looking to see the individual, no problem. Nestlings - no, although if they'd got most of their plumage it might be another matter - eggs, absolutely not.

John

The only Western Spadefoots on my list are tadpoles, and I have another frog on my list that I have only seen in egg form :)
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
If I read the bold bit correctly then the record doesn't have to be good enough to "get anything" on the bird if the call is diagnostic? Do they have to see it at all? That "and/or" very much suggests not.

As an aside and perhaps risking thread drift, in the UK there is no national birding authority, and the birdwatcher's code is purely voluntary. Why, in the land of the free, do people feel the need to belong to something, as well as have someone make up rules and tell them what to do and how to list? Our own dear BOU, for all its faults, tells us our lists are our own business and so is what we put on them.

John

There are birds where the physical appearance is probably pretty useless compared to call. All of my Empidonax flycatchers were seen AND heard, because ID by sight alone for that group is a nightmare.

As for the ABA...no one from the organization is going to bust down your door and make you count heard only birds, or otherwise police your lists. They are not so much telling you what and how to list, but offering some general guidelines, which you should probably follow if you decide to volunteer your list totals for publication. The only really solid concrete thing they do to regulate lists is to define the ABA area and to accept or reject new records.

Personally, for life birds I have to physically see a bird, but if I later need it for a state or county list, heard only is fine. But I don't really care what other folks do. For me personally, I am a visual person and have poor hearing, so I just feel a lot better about counting things I see.
 

Nutcracker

Stop Brexit!
To take it into other species groups, would you tick a dragonfly nymph? Or a caterpillar? I wouldn't, but I'd regard it as legitimate if someone else did, as long as the ID was solid.
I've ticked Puss Moth from caterpillars (highly distinctive!); never seen an adult. But then, I'm not a mother :-O
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I've ticked Puss Moth from caterpillars (highly distinctive!); never seen an adult. But then, I'm not a mother :-O

But you haven't seen a moth, you've seen a catterpillar and Mysticete has definitely not seen that frog!
 
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