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

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
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.

Exactly so and rather than 'publication', the more important word is 'comparison' because you need a standard reference point.

It would be like going to buy a piece of wood and having asked for a piece 3m long, you call the woodyard when you find it's only 2.9m, to be told, 'ah but we don't measure from there, we measure from here'. :t:
 
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Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
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 ticked nestling Tropical Screech-owls (in a nest at the Napo Wildlife Center), although I've seen several since.

I've ticked two birds in North America from hearing only: Black Rail and Buff-collared Nightjar. The reason being that they were single birds on the edge or outside their normal breeding range, and the songs are quite distinctive so I can identify them myself.

When birding internationally I count only seen birds. The difference is that in many cases the songs are so similar, plus I'm not as familiar with the songs, so I'd like to have the added confirmation of seeing it.
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
I ticked nestling Tropical Screech-owls (in a nest at the Napo Wildlife Center), although I've seen several since.

I've ticked two birds in North America from hearing only: Black Rail and Buff-collared Nightjar. The reason being that they were single birds on the edge or outside their normal breeding range, and the songs are quite distinctive so I can identify them myself.

When birding internationally I count only seen birds. The difference is that in many cases the songs are so similar, plus I'm not as familiar with the songs, so I'd like to have the added confirmation of seeing it.

I've only ever seen nestling Northern Saw-whet Owls, to this day. I don't think there is any other bird on my list that is only represented by a nestling or egg.

I have a very short list of heard only birds that I keep in a separate tab from the actual life list. I can't bear to add them to the latter list. Especially Little Spotted Kiwi. That's still smarts all of these years later!
 

temmie

Well-known member
I have seen an egg of a Philippine nightjar once. I luckily saw the nightjar the next day.

I sometimes play tape if I see a woodcreeper or empidonax to see its reaction (to confirm ID).

The ABA guidelines are probably intended to discourage people using playback to increase their birdlist.
But for those who don't count tape-lured birds: would you count birds seen after phishing or after flushing them? Because in the end, the result is the same: the bird is disturbed by the sound you made.
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
I have seen an egg of a Philippine nightjar once. I luckily saw the nightjar the next day.

I sometimes play tape if I see a woodcreeper or empidonax to see its reaction (to confirm ID).

The ABA guidelines are probably intended to discourage people using playback to increase their birdlist.
But for those who don't count tape-lured birds: would you count birds seen after phishing or after flushing them? Because in the end, the result is the same: the bird is disturbed by the sound you made.

I've seen (and I think ticked) Three-toed Woodpecker young in the nest hole mouth in Finland. A bit unsatisfactory on head-only views but they were clearly identifiable as that species. Was a bit annoying as the photographers in the party parked themselves about 10 feet from the nest hole - the adults never returned whilst we were there.


Anyway ... I think there is a slight differnece with tape-luring birds on song as the specific song of a rival can cause a different stress/response to just another noise or disturbance.

Going back to ABA heard-only for rare/vulnerable species I think I recall a seminal moment in the debate was when a bunch of twitchers tried to flush in order to see a Black Rail (?) in habitat - it was found later trampled to death once most had left.
 

temmie

Well-known member
Going back to ABA heard-only for rare/vulnerable species I think I recall a seminal moment in the debate was when a bunch of twitchers tried to flush in order to see a Black Rail (?) in habitat - it was found later trampled to death once most had left.

whoa, that's about the worst that could happen! Very bad behaviour.

I happily don't remember any abuse of this kind on any of my birding outings, or it must have been a Blackbird I accidentally hit with the car on the way to a Snowy Owl (driving regular speed, with a car in front of me that must have spooked the bird in half light and it crossed the street badly timed).
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I've seen (and I think ticked) Three-toed Woodpecker young in the nest hole mouth in Finland. A bit unsatisfactory on head-only views but they were clearly identifiable as that species. Was a bit annoying as the photographers in the party parked themselves about 10 feet from the nest hole - the adults never returned whilst we were there.


Anyway ... I think there is a slight differnece with tape-luring birds on song as the specific song of a rival can cause a different stress/response to just another noise or disturbance.

Going back to ABA heard-only for rare/vulnerable species I think I recall a seminal moment in the debate was when a bunch of twitchers tried to flush in order to see a Black Rail (?) in habitat - it was found later trampled to death once most had left.

This sounds like a tall tale to me, the chances of a Rail, allowing itself to be trodden on, seem remote at best. Is this described anywhere in official literature?

Is Black Rail the one where they used to use a string with tins cans attached at intervals, to drag a small swamp in order for flush views or was that something else?
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I have seen an egg of a Philippine nightjar once. I luckily saw the nightjar the next day.

I sometimes play tape if I see a woodcreeper or empidonax to see its reaction (to confirm ID).

The ABA guidelines are probably intended to discourage people using playback to increase their birdlist.
But for those who don't count tape-lured birds: would you count birds seen after phishing or after flushing them? Because in the end, the result is the same: the bird is disturbed by the sound you made.

Do these people exist?

You'd probably have to scratch the entirety of most peoples nightbird lists!
 

dantheman

Bah humbug
This sounds like a tall tale to me, the chances of a Rail, allowing itself to be trodden on, seem remote at best. Is this described anywhere in official literature?

Is Black Rail the one where they used to use a string with tins cans attached at intervals, to drag a small swamp in order for flush views or was that something else?

This is a good read - https://fatbirder.com/apocryphal-birding-stories-and-urban-myths/

(Halfway down for unfortunately trodden on rails and snipe)
 

Mysticete

Well-known member
United States
This sounds like a tall tale to me, the chances of a Rail, allowing itself to be trodden on, seem remote at best. Is this described anywhere in official literature?

Is Black Rail the one where they used to use a string with tins cans attached at intervals, to drag a small swamp in order for flush views or was that something else?

That's Yellow Rail in coastal Texas...although I think Black Rail has shown up at those occasions.

IIRC, it's still going on, or at least it was recently, but it's very organized and done once a year or something. Probably less popular though since you can get the same thing by riding around on rice harvesting combines in the fall in Louisanna.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
Back to "what should you count?" Bet most people tick things the guide found for them. My list would be much poorer if not... But always check you agree the ID: everyone makes mistakes and sometimes your guide makes big ones. Fact they know you want to maximise the number of ticks doesn't help...

I quite enjoy going back over old notes and realising what it must have been: for example striped cuckoo in South America
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Back to "what should you count?" Bet most people tick things the guide found for them. My list would be much poorer if not... But always check you agree the ID: everyone makes mistakes and sometimes your guide makes big ones. Fact they know you want to maximise the number of ticks doesn't help...

I quite enjoy going back over old notes and realising what it must have been: for example striped cuckoo in South America

But they don't all enjoy having it noticed and pointed out to them!
 

Jeff Hopkins

Just another...observer
United States
Going back to ABA heard-only for rare/vulnerable species I think I recall a seminal moment in the debate was when a bunch of twitchers tried to flush in order to see a Black Rail (?) in habitat - it was found later trampled to death once most had left.

The Black Rail that I ticked "heard only" was one that showed up in a small swamp here in PA near Hawk Mountain. One of the naturalists from there actually stayed at the marsh to make sure that people wouldn't hike into it and try to flush the bird to get a view.

Unfortunately, he couldn't be there 24/7 and while he was away, a few birders did just that. It caused a major stink in the PA birding community.

Fortunately, nobody trampled it.
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
The Black Rail that I ticked "heard only" was one that showed up in a small swamp here in PA near Hawk Mountain. One of the naturalists from there actually stayed at the marsh to make sure that people wouldn't hike into it and try to flush the bird to get a view.

Unfortunately, he couldn't be there 24/7 and while he was away, a few birders did just that. It caused a major stink in the PA birding community.

Fortunately, nobody trampled it.

What you "do" is what we "did" in Bogota. Get the local trespassing feral dogs to flush it (them in this case) for you
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
OK, I'll buy it. What happened next?

He walked in holding a Kookabura in his hands in front of him and sorry it was in to a doctors surgery.

The receptionist said, 'sorry, we don't treat animals, there's a vets practice down the road', at which point, he removed his hands to show that he was impaled through the midriff by the bird. The story is that he was travelling at speed, on a motorbike when the bird hit and impaled him.......

I always assumed it to be a myth?
 

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