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30 January 2017

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) is pleased to announce the addition of the following subspecies to the British List:
 
View the British List
 
 
‘Caspian’ Reed Warbler Acrocephalus scirpaceus fuscus
First-calendar-year, Jenny Brown’s Point, Silverdale, Lancashire/Merseyside, 11 December 2011 (found dead, specimen at National Museums Liverpool, accession number LIV.2014.50, DNA analysis).

There have been a number of claims of this subspecies in Britain. Although some of these were trapped, DNA evidence was not obtained to confirm their identity. DNA evidence has been used to confirm a record of this taxon in Europe (Ibis 156: 799-811), and established the sub-specific identity of the Jenny Brown’s Point bird as the first record for Britain.

Breeds in Cyprus, the Middle East, Iran and Afghanistan, east to south-east Kazakhstan and north-west China, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa.

‘Iberian’ Yellow Wagtail Motacilla flava iberiae
Second-calendar-year, male, Filey, Yorkshire, 22 April 2015 (sight record, photographed).

‘Iberian’ Yellow Wagtail has also been claimed to have occurred in Britain before, but without descriptions or photographs that allowed the elimination of intergradation between iberiae and other subspecies in south-west Europe. In the case of the Filey bird, photographic evidence, supported by a transcription of the call, confirmed identity of the record.

Breeds in the Iberian Peninsula and south-west France, and north-west Africa, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa.

Other decisions

American White Ibis Eudocimus albus
First-calendar-year/second-calendar-year, Sevenoaks, Kent, 19 November 2014 to 2 April 2015 (sight record, photographed) and (same) Holland Haven, Essex, 12 May 2015 (sight record, photographed).

This record has been placed in Category E.

The identification was established for this record, but the origin was less clear. There is no evidence for trans-Atlantic vagrancy of the species. In contrast, it is kept widely in captivity in Europe, where it has bred successfully. Thus the balance of evidence suggested a captive origin for this record.
 
 
Further details of these decisions will be published as part of the BOURC’s 47th report due to be published in Ibis in January 2018. Upon publication of these decisions, the British List stands at 605 species (Category A = 587; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

20 January 2017

BOU to adopt the IOC World Bird List

The British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) recognises the value of, and is keen to move towards, a standardised global avian taxonomy. As such we wish to adopt one of the current global taxonomies, and use this for all BOU activities, including the British List.
 
From 1 January 2018 the BOU will adopt the International Ornithological Congress (IOC) World Bird List for all its taxonomic needs, including the British List. This follows a detailed review by the BOU’s Records Committee (BOURC).

Criteria for assessing selection of a taxonomic system

In August 2016 a joint meeting of BOURC and representatives of BOU Council met to draw up the criteria to select a new taxonomy, and agreed to ask the four main global avian taxonomic systems (eBird/Clements, HBW/BirdLife, Howard & Moore and IOC World Bird List) to submit a proposal that could be assessed against the agreed criteria and related questions (provided below).
 
As a scientific organisation, the BOU needs a global taxonomic system that meets the following criteria:

  • Uses a consistent scientific approach to taxonomic decisions including higher level systematics.
  • Uses a transparent system in which the scientific rationale for taxonomic decisions is clearly articulated, both in general terms and for individual decisions.
  • Is reviewed and updated frequently to keep pace with scientific developments, new studies and new information.
  • Is not biased in quality or geographic focus (including when updating the taxonomy) in a manner that results in insufficient attention being given to species that will influence the British list, or inconsistencies to arise between different geographic regions.
  • Includes extinct birds (due to creation of category F of the British List).

The focus of our decision is on taxonomic classifications. The selection of a global taxonomic system will thus not be influenced by a taxonomy’s approach towards the choice or spelling of English names as we recognise the binomial name forms the appropriate basis of scientific species lists.
We invite you to submit your classification for our consideration. In doing so, we ask you to answer specifically the 11 questions set out here.

  1. What is the frequency of reviewing and updating a) the species level taxonomy, and b) systematic decisions at higher taxonomic levels?
  2. In what format are updates released and how do these highlight changes relative to the previous version?
  3. Please summarise the scientific approach used to deciding a) taxonomic species limits and b) higher level systematic classifications.
  4. Summarise the processes that you will use to update species level taxonomy in your next update. In particular, please explain how you obtain new data that is relevant to taxonomic decisions, who is responsible for interpreting these data (including the number of people and their expertise), and the process of reporting decisions and their rationale.
  5. Does your taxonomy list subspecies? If so what approach is used to define sub-species, and how is new scientific information obtained and incorporated into updates relating to sub-species classification?
  6. If there is variation in the process of updating species level taxonomies for different geographical regions please explain these differences, and how consistency across regions is ensured.
  7. What is the process that you will use for updating the taxonomy above the species level in your next update (genera, families etc.)? Please explain how you obtain new data that is relevant to taxonomic decisions, who is responsible for interpreting these data (including the number of people and their expertise), and the process of reporting decisions and their rationale.
  8. What systems are in place to maintain consistency of taxonomic decisions within and between updates?
  9. What systems are in place to ensure long-term continuity of maintaining and updating your taxonomy in the mid to long-term future?
  10. Are there likely to be any changes in your approach in the next five to ten years that will influence responses to any of the above questions? If so, please outline what these changes are/might be.
  11. Is there a programme of periodic review of the approaches and processes disclosed in your replies to the above questions and, if so, how frequently is or are such review or reviews undertaken?
Process in selecting a new taxonomy

In September 2016 the four recognised taxonomic groups (eBird/Clements, HBW/BirdLife, Howard & Moore and IOC World Bird List) were invited to submit proposals against the above criteria by 31 October. All four groups submitted proposals and these were circulated to members of BOURC and BOU Council.
 
Initially, the BOU Council appointed a delegation which held a conference call to discuss the merits of each proposal and to arrive at a view on behalf of Council. This delegation reviewed the proposals but did not consider that there was any strong reason to make any recommendation for any of the candidate taxonomies ahead of a full meeting of BOURC.
 
BOURC subsequently met on 10 December 2016. BOURC invited the members of the Council delegation to attend, of whom two were able to be present. The Council delegates engaged in discussions but had no vote in the process. It was expected a recommendation to BOU Council would be made as a result of the meeting. All members of BOURC, bar one, were present.
 
Before discussing the taxonomic proposals in detail, the Committee considered two issues raised by those present. First, the need for and benefits of a unified global taxonomy was agreed upon. Second, it was agreed that the EU’s current use of the HBW/BirdLife taxonomy would not be a material factor influencing the Committee’s discussions.
 
The Howard & Moore proposal was discussed first as this was the only proposal for a taxonomic system which was not currently available online, and the Committee felt that accessibility of the new taxonomy to be adopted was important. With no online version envisaged until the next update (which was said to be some years away), the Committee concluded that this proposal would not be considered further.
 
In their respective submissions, the IOC World Bird List and eBird/Clements had stated their increasing collaboration, and their agreement that a single global taxonomy was desirable. On the latter point the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU) has stated that they intend to have a session at IOC2018 in Vancouver, Canada in August 2018 looking at ways to progress to a unified global taxonomy.
 
This left the Committee with two alternatives: HBW/BirdLife on one side and IOC World Bird List and eBird /Clements on the other.
 
Arguments were advanced in support of both alternatives, and the BOURC members at the meeting were evenly split between adopting either HBW/BirdLife or the IOC World Bird List. From a show of hands during which the Chair abstained, there were four votes on each side. Each member of the Committee then summarised his or her reasoning, and members were given the opportunity to reconsider their vote.
 
The outcome remained unchanged, so the Chair used his casting vote to recommend that the BOU adopt the IOC World Bird List.
 
It was emphasised that this decision was influenced by the expectation of a move towards a more unified global taxonomy, and in that respect the BOU should work with IOU/IOC to ensure that this occurs.
 
In summarising his reasons for the recommendation the Chair expressed the view that moving to the IOC World Bird List would be the most likely way of achieving a more unified global taxonomy, especially in light of the proposed meeting at IOC2018. He also stated that this move would be more in keeping with the BOU’s previous approach to taxonomy, and in many quarters would have greater scientific credibility.
 
Members were given a final opportunity to contribute or object before the outcome was accepted.
 
This decision will be reviewed in 5 years time.

12 December 2016

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following to Category A of the British List:
 
View the British List
 
 
Acadian Flycatcher Empidonax virescens
First-calendar-year, Dungeness, Kent, 22 September 2015 (photographed, DNA analysis).

The excellent description and photographs of this individual allowed identification. Identification was confirmed by DNA analysis from faecal matter, instead of feather or claw samples, as the bird was not trapped. The species is a potential trans-Atlantic vagrant being a long distance Nearctic migrant. There were no issues of provenance, as it is not known in captivity.

Breeds in eastern North America, wintering in southern Central America and northern South America.

It should be placed after Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe on the British List.
 
 
‘Eastern’ Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans cantillans
Second-calendar-year male, Fair Isle, Shetland, 8 May 2014 (photographed, trapped, DNA analysis).

This record established the taxon on the British List. The Subalpine Warbler complex has undergone revision resulting in the need for the reassessment of the new species and subspecies on the British List.

Breeds in southern Italy including Sicily, wintering in sub-Saharan Africa.
 
 
Chestnut Bunting Emberiza rutila
First-calendar-year male, Papa Westray, Orkney, 19-29 October 2015 (photographed).

This species has had a difficult history on route on to the British List, with all previous records being placed in Category E as the bird was a common import for the captive bird trade, and many escapes occurred. Following the EU bans on bird importation from the Far East in 2005 and 2007, the numbers found in Western Europe dropped. This individual, being a first-calendar-year found in the Northern Isles in autumn, had credentials to indicate that it arrived naturally. The species is a plausible vagrant from the Eastern Palearctic to Europe being a long distance migrant, and follows other accepted records in northern Europe.

Breeds in Siberia, northern Mongolia and north-eastern China, wintering in southern China, south-east Asia and north-east India.

It should be placed after Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola on the British List.
 
 
Other decisions

Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
New first record: adult, Eccles-on-Sea, Norfolk 31 October 2004 and East Dean, Hampshire 13 November 2004 (photographed), pre-dates the previously accepted first record of this species, and is therefore accepted as the first British record.
 
Category D
At the December 2016 BOURC meeting is was decided to revoke the rule in the BOURC Standing Orders whereby records placed in Category D remain in this Category for 15 years and undergo three rounds of review voting, before being placed in either Category A or Category E. This decision was taken to reflect remaining uncertainty about the origin of some species placed in Category E from Category D. Following this decision two species have returned to Category D, Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris and Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki, with immediate effect.
 
 
Further details of these decisions will be published as part of the BOURC’s 47th report due to be published in Ibis in January 2018. Upon publication of these decisions, the British List stands at 605 species (Category A = 587; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

4 November 2016

Andrew Harrop appointed Chairman of BOURC

andrew-harrrop
The BOU is delighted to announce the appointment of Andrew Harrop as Chairman of it’s Records Committee (BOURC).
 
A lifelong birder and amateur ornithologist, Andrew has served many years on county and national records committees. He has published numerous papers about the identification and status of British birds, was co-author of The Birds of Leicestershire & Rutland, and is author of the forthcoming Rutland Butterfly Atlas. He is returning to BOURC after retiring as secretary in 2013, and now divides his time between Rutland and Shetland.
 
The BOU’s Records Committee (BOURC) is responsible for maintaining the British List – the official list of wild birds recorded in Great Britain. For more information on the List and the work of BOURC see here.

18 August 2016

Adoption of a global taxonomy

The Council of the British Ornithologists’ Union (BOU) recognises the value of the global harmonisation of avian taxonomy. Following unsuccessful attempts to seek an agreed European taxonomy it was announced in November 2015 that the BOU would disband its own Taxonomic Sub-committee and review the available global taxonomies with a view to adopt one system for all BOU activities, including the British List (for more information see http://www.bou.org.uk/british-list/taxonomy).

Notably, moving towards a single international harmonised taxonomy is one of the declared aims of the International Ornithologists’ Union (IOU), with a round table meeting being convened at 27th International Ornithological Congress in Vancouver, Canada in August 2018. However, BOU recognises that it may be many years before this is achieved and would like to harmonise its own taxonomy with a global list more rapidly, rather than waiting for a final global consensus to emerge.

A working group from BOU Council and the BOU Records Committee (BOURC) met in August 2016 to determine the criteria to be considered and the process for selecting which global taxonomy to adopt. Factors to be considered will include the regularity of updates to the taxonomy, and the extent to which the process for decision making is open and transparent, as well as being scientifically valid and consistent. The major current global taxonomies (Bird-Life International/HBW, Clements, IOC, Howard and Moore) will be contacted shortly and invited to provide information relating to these criteria. All of this information will be considered at a joint meeting of BOU Council and BOURC, following which a decision will be made regarding which global taxonomic system will be followed by BOU.

5 July 2016
 

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following to Category A of the British List:
 
View the British List
 
 
Chinese Pond Heron Ardeola bacchus
First- or second-winter, Hythe and Saltwood, Kent, 17 January to 13 March 2014 (photographed).

On first impression this species may seem an unlikely natural vagrant to Western Europe and, instead, a more likely escape from captive collections. However, Chinese Pond Heron is kept rarely in captivity in Europe, and is a long distance migrant with extra-limital birds previously found both in continental Europe and North America. Thus the balance of evidence pointed very strongly towards the Kent record being a bird that originated from natural populations, and it was unanimously accepted to Category A.

Breeds in the Eastern Palearctic, from north-east India to north-east China and northern Japan, with populations migratory, moving south in winter to peninsular Thailand, Malaysia and Borneo.

It should be placed after Squacco Heron on the British List.
 
 
Slaty-backed Gull Larus schistisagus
Adult or near-adult, Rainham, London, and Pitsea and Hanningfield, Essex,
13 January to 26 February 2011 (photographed).

The well-documented record established the identification of this individual. Provenance as a wild bird was not an issue as the species is not kept in captivity, and has been found in Europe before, as have a number of other north Pacific seabirds, including gulls, terns, auks and divers, demonstrating that vagrancy from this part of the world is possible. Thus it was straightforward to accept the species to Category A.

Breeds in the northern Pacific, in northern Japan, eastern Siberia and western Alaska, moving south in winter.

It should be placed after Iceland Gull on the British List.
 
 
Other decisions

Mugimaki Flycatcher Ficedula mugimaki
First-winter male, Stone Creek, Humberside, 16-17 November 1991.

This record has now been placed in Category E following the initial circulation in 1993, and three subsequent reviews, in 1997, 2008 and 2016.

The record had already had three circulations before the occurrence of a wild bird in northern Italy in October 2011. On the basis of the Italian record, the British record was reviewed again this year.

For Category D records, BOURC procedures state a record can be reviewed up to three times in order to establish if the species should be transferred to either Category A or Category E of the British List. The 2016 circulation is the third and final review, and the species is now placed in Category E on the basis that four different memberships of BOURC (over 40 individual members) have been unable to come to a unanimous decision whether this bird originated from wild or captive sources.

The species is a plausible far-eastern Palearctic vagrant to Western Europe being a long distance migrant, and the first-winter age and late autumn occurrence on the English east coast during fall conditions were consistent with such an origin. However, the species (and age class) was imported to western Europe in the early 1990s for the avian bird trade; and subsequent to the ban in the trade of far eastern birds there have been no further British records. Thus the only British record coincided with the known import of the species into western Europe and so BOURC could not confidently determine the origin of the Humberside bird as likely to have been of natural occurrence.

Some observers may be surprised at the length of time and final decision for this record, but BOURC hopes that they will understand the thoroughness of our process.

It is also interesting to compare the initial expectations, and subsequent evidence and outcome for this species in relation to the British List with Chinese Pond Heron, described above.
 
 
These decisions will be published as part of the BOURC’s 46th report due to be published in IBIS in January 2017. Upon publication of these decisions, the British List will stand at 603 species (Category A = 585; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

19 May 2016

The BOU is delighted to welcome Dawn Balmer and Andy Stoddart on to its Records Committee (BOURC)

BalmerDawn has been a keen birder since a child, and a trained bird ringer for over 20 years. She lives in Thetford (Norfolk) and enjoys local birding and other wildlife, with regular trips to the coast. She has special interests in migration and gull identification. Dawn has worked for the BTO since 1992 on a wide range of census, fieldwork, ringing and online bird recording projects. She was the Atlas Coordinator for the Bird Atlas 2007–11 project and is now Head of Surveys. Dawn also represents BTO on the Rare Breeding Birds Panel. In her spare time, she is on the Editorial Board of British Birds, a Trustee of the Eric Hosking Charitable Trust and writes regularly for British Wildlife.

Birding has long been a male-dominated world, and Dawn becomes the first woman to be appointed to BOURC.

StoddartAndy is a lifelong birdwatcher. He has travelled widely but is most at home on his local patch of Blakeney Point in Norfolk. He has written four books on ornithological and environmental history and is a frequent contributor of papers, articles and book reviews to the birdwatching press. He is Vice-Chair and a former voting member of the British Birds Rarities Committee and Editor of the Norfolk Bird Report.

The BOU’s Records Committee (BOURC) is responsible for maintaining the British List – the official list of wild birds recorded in Great Britain. For more information on the List and the work of BOURC see here.

16 May 2016

Azorean Yellow-legged Gull admitted to the British List

The British Ornithologists’ Records Committee (BOURC) is pleased to announce the addition of the following subspecies to the British List.
Azorean Yellow-legged Gull Larus michahelis atlantis
First summer/second winter. Sennen Cove, Cornwall, 28 July to November 2008 (photographed).

A “forensic” description by the finder, and a series of excellent photographs allowed the identification of this individual to be established.

Breeds on northern Atlantic islands including the Azores, Canaries and Madeira.

Further details will be published as part of the BOURC’s 46th report due to be published in IBIS in January 2017, and upon publication, the British List will stand at 601 species (Category A = 583; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

View the British List

Other BOURC announcements

Wiki_LesserCanadaGoose9 March 2016

Lesser Canada Goose admitted to the British List

The British Ornithologists’ Records Committee (BOURC) is delighted to announce the addition of the 601st species to the British List.
View the British List

Lesser Canada Goose (Cackling Goose) Branta hutchinsii
Adult, Plex Moss, Lancashire, 14-28 November 1976 (photographed).

The taxonomy of the Canada goose species complex has undergone revision, with separation of Greater Canada Goose B. canadensis and Lesser Canada Goose to specific level, with each species proposed to consist of a number of subspecies.

Having considered a number of candidates it was deemed that the Plex Moss, Lancashire individual could be accepted as the first record of B. hutchinsii. The subspecies was undetermined, but probably nominate hutchinsii.

Breeds in northern North America, migrating to winter further south in Canada and the USA.

Lesser Canada Goose should be placed after Greater Canada Goose on the British List.

Further details will be published as part of the BOURC’s 46th report due to be published in IBIS in January 2017, and upon publication, the British List will stand at 601 species (Category A = 583; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

Other BOURC announcements

Image Credit: Lesser Canada Goose © Rob Lowe/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service via Wikimedia Commons

18 February 2016

600th species added to the British List

Yelkouan Shearwater is the 600th bird species to be admitted to the British List

 

Wiki_Yelkouan Shearwater_Puffinus_yelkouanThe British Ornithologists’ Records Committee (BOURC) is delighted to announce the addition of the 600th species to the British List.

View the British List

Yelkouan Shearwater Puffinus yelkouan, breeds on islands and coastal cliffs in the Mediterranean Sea (primarily the east). Whilst the majority of the Yelkouan Shearwaters population moves east outside the breeding season to winter in the Black Sea, small numbers (presumably of the western most breeding birds) are known to move west and enter the North Atlantic to find food during the summer and autumn after breeding.

Yelkouan Shearwater seen off Berry Head, Devon, 29 July 2008
This individual, the first positively identified in British waters, was discovered by Mike Langman and Mark Darlaston while surveying for a similar species, Balearic Shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus. Balearic Shearwaters also breed within the Mediterranean Sea, but as their name suggests breed primarily around the Balearic islands and western sea area) and move in to the North Atlantic in summer. They are seen around the shores of the UK and Ireland every year, with largest numbers in the south-west of England and off southern Ireland. Thus the observation of this Yelkouan Shearwater accords with the known pattern of movement of a shearwater species with a similar range.

Yelkouan and Balearic shearwaters are very close in appearance, so it was fortunate that the observers had much experience of the two species, and both species were present on the day to allow direct comparison, photograph and confirm the identification.

We were delighted to hear the Yelkouan Shearwater seen at Berry Head, Devon on 29 July 2008 had finally been accepted as the first for Britain. What has made this even more special was the realisation it was the 600th species for the British list – a truly remarkable milestone and we’re sure neither of us will be here when 700th is added! The identification of the species is far from straightforward and we commend BOURC and BBRC for the thorough process the record went through before arriving at a final decision. We were lucky on the day to see the bird well at fairly close range for a prolonged period (in a seawatching context), in the company of a Balearic Shearwater off the headland. Undoubtedly the photographs we both managed to secure at the time helped the evaluation process together with some detailed observation notes made on the spot.
Mike Langman and Mark Darlaston

 

It is a testament to over 200 years’ enthusiasm and perseverance of British birders and ornithologists that the national bird list of a small, northern temperate country has reached 600 species. It is also satisfying that this milestone has been reached via an exemplary process of sharp birding, detailed fieldnotes, photographs and research. Yelkouan Shearwater is a fascinating species, and it was both a pleasure and a challenge for the Records Committee to review the identification, migration patterns and vagrancy potential of this species, and its relationship with the critically endangered (and very variable) Balearic Shearwater.

This record also demonstrates the strong links between the two national committees we have overseeing records of rare birds occurring in the UK. Although it is the role of the BOURC alone to add (or remove) species from the British List, the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) plays an important role in this process, particularly on the more challenging taxa such as here.
Martin Collinson, Chairman BOURC

 

After several claims and false starts, this enigmatic seabird has finally earned its place on the British List. Like Scopoli’s Shearwater Calonectris diomedea, this species was going to require an exceptionally well seen and described bird to be acceptable, and we believe this record has made the grade in all areas. The submission was well supported by detailed notes from well-respected and experienced observers, backed up by photographs that showed all of the requisite features. All of this made the assessment surprisingly straightforward, and the committee accepted it unanimously in a single circulation.
Paul French, Chairman BBRC

View full British List
BOURC reports and papers
More about the British List
British Birds rarities Committee (BBRC)

Image Credit: © Emőke Dénes via WikiMedia Commons

6 November 2015

BOU taxonomic position

For many years the BOU has been seeking to establish a unified European-wide taxonomic model. However, despite the best efforts of our own taxonomic group, little progress has been made, with five separate national taxonomic groups (including our own) not being able to reach a consensus via the Association of European Records and Rarities Committees (AERC) since its establishment in 1991.

With no resolution in sight, BOU Council feels that the continued existence of national groups, each understandably feeling an obligation to retain control of the taxonomy used for their own national lists, is not in the best interests of ornithology and is a barrier preventing the establishment of a unified European taxonomy.

With a view to resolving this issue, the BOU has therefore disbanded its own Taxonomic Sub-committee and we will now take time to review the available global taxonomies with a view to adopting one system for all BOU activities, including The British List. This decision does not imply any criticism of the excellent work carried out by the BOU’s Taxonomic Sub-committee over the years, but is a reflection of the importance that BOU Council places on establishing a unified European avian taxonomy.

7 September 2015

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following subspecies on to the British List:

‘Thayer’s Gull’ Larus glaucoides thayeri
Adult, Pitsea Landfill Site, Essex, 6 November 2010 (photographed).

A series of excellent photographs allowed the identification of this individual to be established.

Breeds in northern Canada, wintering on the west coast of North America.

‘Daurian Shrike’ Lanius isabellinus isabellinus
A record of an adult on Fetlar, Shetland, 14-17 September 2002 (photographed).

Though the species Isabelline Shrike Lanius isabellinus is currently in Category A, a record to establish the nominate subspecies isabellinus was required. A number of candidates were considered with this individual most robustly fulfilling identification criteria.

Breeds in central and eastern Asia, wintering in the Middle East, North-east Africa and the Indian subcontinent.

Other decisions

Marbled Duck Marmaronetta angustirostris
A review of the categorization (currently Category D) of this species has been completed, and due to the ongoing high possibility of escape, the species has been moved to Category E.

The Committee encourages submissions of records of this species in the future, particularly of records where a ringing recovery or stable isotope analysis could establish wild origin.

Further details will be published as part of the BOURC’s 45th report due to be published in the January 2016 issue of IBIS.

Upon publication of these decisions in IBIS, the British List will remain at 598 species (Category A = 580; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

Wilson, Jeremy3 June 2015

Meet some of the people behind the BOU and IBIS

We thought it time the BOU and IBIS was a little less anonymous.

Just who does what here? And why are they members in the first place? Meet some of the them here.

View BOU people profiles

BOU2015_featured image5 April 2015

#BOU2015 Avian Tracking conference

#BOU2015 was our largest annual conference ever with over 200 delegates enjoying a packed programme of talks, posters, talking posters, stands, shops and displays. And loads of technology on screen and on display!

#BOU2015: an early-career researcher perspective

Some images and views from #BOU2015

Tom Evans’ (Lund University) fabulous #Storify summary of #BOU2015 in tweet form!

John Croxall presented with the BOU’s Union Medal

Sarah Wanless presented with the BOU’s Gadman Salvin Medal

#BOU2015 averageOverall rating of #BOU2015 by delegates
(RED – ordinary delegate, BLUE – early-career researcher)

#BOU2015 Value for moneyHow delegates rated #BOU2015 for value for money

#BOU2015 recommendWould #BOU2015 delegates recommend a BOU conference to others? We think they would!

IBIS on the iPhone16 March 2015

THE IBIS APP

IBIS on the go, wherever you are, whenever you want it.

The new IBIS app, for iPhone and iPad, brings you a new browsing and reading experience for IBIS. It delivers the same stimulating, informative mixture of Articles, Highlights, Editorials, and more, that you currently enjoy from your desktop or laptop, in a user-friendly mobile version for your iPhone or iPad, wherever you are, whenever you want to access it.

Download from iTunes and connect using your existing personal or institutional subscription, or buy a subscription when you download.

More details . . .

An Andriod version is currently being developed.

Screenshots

IBIS app screenshots

Amar Pied Crow web15 December 2014

A MURDER OF CROWS?

They steal, raid nests, and keep the company of witches. But the unpopular crow may not be as big a menace as people think.

Linked IBIS paper
A review of the impact of corvids on bird productivity and abundance. Madden, C.F., Arroyo, B. & Amar, A. Ibis. doi: 10.1111/ibi.12223 View paper

A new study, published today in the BOU’s journal IBIS, has found that crows – along with their avian cousins the magpie and the raven – have surprisingly little impact on the abundance of other bird species.

Collectively known as corvids, these birds are in fact being menaced by mankind in the mistaken belief that removing them is good for conservation. This new study found that in the vast majority of cases (82%), corvids had no impact at all on their potential prey species.

“Many nature lovers have been distressed to witness a crow or magpie raiding the nests of their beloved garden songbirds, stealing their eggs or eating their defenceless chicks,” said study co-author Dr Arjun Amar from the Percy FitzPatrick Institute for Ornithology. “Although this predation is entirely natural, these observations can be upsetting to witness and often leave people wondering if these predators might be reducing bird numbers.”

“However, our global review suggests that we should be cautious before jumping to conclusions over the impacts these species may have. Just because a predator eats something occasionally does not always mean that they have an impact,” Dr Amar said.

The study, the first of its kind, reviewed all published evidence on whether predation by corvids actually reduces the overall breeding performance of birds or, more importantly from a conservation perspective, reduces their numbers. Data were collated from 42 studies of corvid predation conducted across the globe over the last 60 years.

Not only were corvids unlikely to have any impact on their potential prey species, if there was an impact it most often affected the breeding success of the prey species rather than their subsequent numbers. Half of cases found that corvids reduced breeding success whereas less than 10% of cases found that they reduced prey numbers in the long term.

“These results have big implications for the likely benefits of corvid control,” Dr Amar said. “They suggest that killing corvids will be of most benefit to those interested in gamebird shooting rather than conservationists.” He added: “Bird hunters are usually most interested in increasing numbers of birds available to shoot immediately after the breeding season and this appears to be where corvids have most impact”. “Conservationists on the other hand, are usually interested in increasing a species population size and our results suggest that only in a very few cases did corvids have an influence on this aspect of their prey,” Dr Amar said.

The review analysed the impact of six corvid species on a variety of prey species including gamebirds, songbirds, waders, herons, cranes, sea birds, waterfowl and raptors. The 42 studies incorporated into the review included 326 cases of corvid – bird prey interaction Most of the data stemmed from field research in the UK, France and the United States. The impacts were determined partly by comparing bird counts before and after corvids were either removed or their numbers reduced.

The review also found large differences between the impacts of crows, historically considered the most ‘cunning’ corvid, and magpies which are sometimes killed by home owners hoping to protect songbirds in their gardens. Crow species were six times more likely to have an impact on bird prey species than Magpies.

Mistaken assumptions about corvid predation were possibly explained by the birds’ diurnal nature and the fact that they are conspicuous nest predators: “Their importance in prey population regulation is often assumed prior to any assessment of the evidence,” the study warned.

Chrissie Madden, the lead author on the paper, hoped that the review would challenge the perception that all corvids were bad, thereby preventing needless killing: “Our results suggest that this is a mistaken belief and that generally speaking people would be wasting their time killing corvids to increase bird numbers”.

“Overall therefore, our study points to the fact that we are often too quick to jump to the conclusion that crows and magpies may be the cause of bird population declines,” she said.

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  • IBIS is a peer reviewed scientific journal published by the British Ornithologists’ Union. It has been published continuously since 1859 and is one of the highest ranked international Ornithology journals in the world View journal
  • Dr Arjun Amar is a Senior Lecturer at the Percy FitzPatrick Institute and was the lead supervisor of this research project. Dr Amar has previously worked for both the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (UK BirdLife partner), the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (UK NGO), and the US Fish and Wildlife Service, where he worked on a critically endangered species of crow (the Mariana Crow on the Pacific island of Rota, CNMI). View profile Email
  • The Percy FitzPatrick Institute for African Ornithology is a research institute situated in the Biological Sciences Department of Cape Town University. It is one of the world’s leading ornithological research institutes and is a South African Department of Science and Technology-National Research Foundation Centre of Excellence.
  • Chrissie Madden is the lead author of the paper. The research was undertaken as part of her Conservation Biology Masters research at the University of Cape Town.
  • The full paper is freely available via open access.The full reference for the paper is: Madden, C.F., Arroyo, B. & Amar, A. (in press) A review of the impact of corvids on bird productivity and abundance. Ibis. doi: 10.1111/ibi.12223 View paper

 

21 November 2014

Taxonomic changes to Western Palearctic birds

In the January issue of the BOU’s journal Ibis, the BOU Records Committee’s Taxonomic-subcommittee present their latest taxonomic recommendations for Western Palearctic birds.

The items are summarised below, but for full details of each item please see the full paper. View paper (free to view from 24 Nov) (Sangster et al. 2014).

Newly recognized species

The status of species on the British List is indicated by their category (e.g. Category A).

Ostrich Struthio camelus to be treated as two species:
• Common Ostrich Struthio camelus (recorded in the Western Palearctic)
• Somali Ostrich Struthio molybdophanes (extralimital)

Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta to be treated as three species:
• Shy Albatross Thalassarche cauta (recorded in the Western Palearctic)
• Chatham Albatross Thalassarche eremita (extralimital)
• Salvin’s Albatross Thalassarche salvini (extralimital)

Sombre Tit Poecile lugubris to be treated as two species:
• Sombre Tit Poecile lugubris (recorded in the Western Palearctic)
• Caspian Tit Poecile hyrcana (recorded in the Western Palearctic)

Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes to be treated as two species:
• Pale-legged Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus tenellipes (extralimital)
• Sakhalin Leaf Warbler Phylloscopus borealoides (extralimital)
(A warbler photographed at Southwell, Portland, Dorset, on 22 October 2012 has been accepted by BOURC as either Phylloscopus tenellipes or P. borealoides)

Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans to be treated as two species:
• Subalpine Warbler Sylvia cantillans (Category A)
• Moltoni’s Warbler Sylvia subalpina (Category A)

Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens to be treated as three species:
• Eastern Mourning Wheatear Oenanthe lugens (recorded in the Western Palearctic)
• Arabian Wheatear Oenanthe lugentoides (extralimital)
• Abyssinian Wheatear Oenanthe lugubris (extralimital)

Italian Sparrow Passer italiae
Italian Sparrow is now recognised as a full species (of hybrid origin), distinct from both House Sparrow Passer domesticus and Spanish Sparrow Passer hispaniolensis. Italian Sparrow is endemic to the Western Palearctic.

New superfamily

Penduline tits (Remizidae) and tits (Paridae) are removed from Sylvioidea and placed in their own superfamily, Paroidea, based on new information about their evolutionary relationships.

Taxonomic sequence

The taxonomic sequence of the species of larks (Alaudidae) and accentors (Prunellidae) is revised based on new insights into their evolutionary relationships.

Generic changes

Note the new generic names.

White-winged Lark Alauda leucoptera (Category A)
Lesser Short-toed Lark Alaudala rufescens (Category A)

Reference

Sangster, G., Collinson, M., Crochet, P.-A., Kirwan, G.M., Knox, A.G., Parkin, D.T. & Votier, S.C. 2014. Taxonomic recommendations for Western Palearctic birds: 10th Report. Ibis DOI: 10.1111/ibi.12221.

 

10 September 2014

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following to Category A of the British List:

Alder Flycatcher Empidonax alnorum
Nanjizal, Cornwall, 8-9 October 2008 (trapped, photographed).

This Nearctic species, breeding in North America and wintering in South America, was previously one of a subspecies pair of Traill’s Flycatcher. Both have been elevated to full specific status as Alder Flycatcher and Willow Flycatcher Empidonax traillii, based mainly on differences in song and call, but with some subtle plumage differences.

This created a challenge for BOURC when establishing the identity of this individual, despite it being trapped and biometrics being available, as no definitive calls were heard. The record required two circulations, before Willow Flycatcher could be eliminated and identification confirmed.

It should be placed after Eastern Phoebe Sayornis phoebe on the British List.

Eastern Grasshopper Warbler Locustella naevia straminea/mongolica
Fair Isle, 20 September 2012 (trapped, photographed, DNA analysis).

The individual could not be definitively assigned to subspecies, and so was accepted as being one of the two taxa straminea or mongolica.

L. n. straminea breeds in western Siberia to western China, wintering in the Indian subcontinent. L. n. mongolica breeds Kazakhstan to Afghanistan and western Mongolia, wintering in the Indian subcontinent.

Eastern Black Redstart Phoenicurus ochruros phoenicuroides/xerophilus/rufiventris
Dungeness, Kent, 7 November 1981 (trapped, photographed).

Breeds in central and eastern Asia, from the Tian Shan to Mongolia.

‘Stejneger’s’ Siberian Stonechat Saxicola maurus stejnegeri
Portland Bill, Dorset, 24-26 October 2012 (trapped, photographed, DNA analysis).

Breeds in the northern and central Asia.

Further details will be published as part of the BOURC’s 43rd report due to be published in Ibis in January 2015.

Upon publication of these decisions in Ibis, the British List will stand at 597 species (Category A = 579; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

Blog DIY icon 500

28 August 2014

Top read articles in #TheBOUblog

#TheBOUblog has been running for two years and we thought we’d look at what our readers are reading the most. Our top ten most read blog posts makes for very interesting reading in itself!

#1 | Hen Harriers: going, going . . .
Arjun Amar | Percy FitzPatrick Institute of African Ornithology, South Africa

#2 | Building an online ornithological community
Steve Dudley | BOU

#3 | What have conservation scientists ever done for birds?
Jen Smart | RSPB

#4 | Yellowhammer dialects | Part 1 | Part 2
Pavel Pipek, Lucie Diblíkov├í, Adam Petrusek & Tereza Petruskov├í | Charles University, Czech Republic

#5 | Dynamic Soaring | Part 1 | Part 2
Part 1 | Colin Taylor | Retired pilot
Part 2 | Philip L Richardson | Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

#6 | What do we know about the effect of disease on Turtle Doves?
Stephanie Morren | RSPB

#7 | Ornithological Twitterati, Tweetie-pies and #birdieluv
Steve Dudley | BOU

#8 | EU Common Agricultural Policy Reform
Christina Ieronymidou | BirdLife

#9 | What is Altmetric?
Steve Dudley | BOU

#10 | Where eagles ‘once’ dared
Derek Yalden

Look out for similar articles in coming weeks and months. These will include articles from recently published IBIS journal papers including the bizarre Hooded Plover moult strategy and the amazing migration story of Scottish Red-necked Phalaropes.

 

6 December 2013

Andy Musgrove joins BOURC

andymusgrove
The BOU is pleased to announce that Andy Musgrove is joining the BOU’s Records Committee.

Andy has been a keen birder (and general naturalist) for 30 years. Since 1996 he has worked at the BTO where he currently heads the Monitoring Team. He was the lead author of the latest set of Avian Population Estimates. As well as oversight of the core monitoring schemes, he is particularly involved in the development of online biological recording databases, notably BirdTrack. Outside work, he is joint founder of the popular birding website BUBO Listing, whilst in his spare time he tries to get out hunting for wildlife of every kind. During 2013, in his home 1 km square in Norfolk he has so far discovered 1,331 species.

Photo courtesy of BTO

 

5 December 2013

Slender-billed Curlew

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has removed Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris from the British List.

Following a review by both BOURC and the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC), the identification of the bird seen at Druridge Bay, Northumberland, 4-7 May 1998 (sight record, photographed, video) (Br. Birds 95: 272-278 & 279-299) is no longer considered as proven.

Although the bird exhibited characters that would previously have been considered diagnostic for Slender-billed Curlew, both BOURC and BBRC were not convinced that the identification was sufficiently secure to stand as the only British record of this critically endangered, and probably now extinct, species.

The conclusion was not unanimous in either BBRC or BOURC’s deliberations. BBRC require a majority vote against to overturn a previously accepted record and BOURC only require one vote against the proposed identification. There was also no clear consensus between those voting members who had seen the bird and those who had not, with votes in favour of, and against, continued acceptance in both cases.

We are extremely grateful to all the observers who provided field descriptions, photographic images and video footage. The digital file for this record extends to nearly 7GB and represents the largest collection of material relating to a rarity ever considered by committee members. We recognise that this decision will be a disappointment to many of those involved in documenting the record. The conclusion of the review should not however be taken as a negative reflection on the field skills or judgement of the observers.

A manuscript on behalf of both committees explaining this decision more fully is in preparation.

This decision will be included as part of the BOURC’s 42nd report due to be published in Ibis in January 2014.

 

Related links

BirdLife – Slender-billed Curlew

Slender-billed Curlew Working Group

13 September 2013

Rebecca Kimball appointed as an Editor of Ibis

Kimball for webWe are very pleased to announce that Rebecca Kimball, Associate Professor at the University of Florida Affiliate and Associate Professor with the Florida Museum of Natural History, will be joining the Ibis editorial team from 1 October 2013.

Rebecca received a PhD from the University of New Mexico, where her dissertation focused on sexual selection in House Sparrows. After completing postdoctoral work at both the University of New Mexico and The Ohio State University, she became a faculty member at the University of Florida in 2001, where she is now an Associate Professor in the Dept. of Biology and an Affiliate Associate Professor with the Florida Museum of Natural History.

Rebecca has published over 60 scientific papers in the areas of evolutionary biology and behavioral ecology. Within these broad areas, she has several specific areas of interest: avian phylogenetics, where she has focused on reconstructing the evolutionary history among all birds as well as in specific orders; the evolution of male secondary sexual traits; the genetic and physiological mechanisms that underlie evolutionary change in specific traits; mating and social systems within and among species; as well as population genetics.

Meet the other Ibis editors

 

10 September 2013

Changes to the British List

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has accepted the following to Category A of the British List:

White-winged Scoter Melanitta deglandi
Second calendar year male M. d. deglandi, Blackdog, North-east Scotland, 11-23 June 2011 (photographed).

The species breeds in Alaska and Canada, east to Hudson Bay.

White-winged Scoter should be placed after Velvet Scoter on the British List.

‘Asian’ Red-rumped Swallow Crecopis daurica daurica/japonica
One individual, Sanday, Orkney, 9 June 2011 (photographed); same, Talisker Bay, Skye, 17 (sight record) and 29 June (photographed).

The individual could not be definitively assigned to subspecies. C. d. daurica breeds in northeast Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Amurland, northern and central China. C. d. japonica breeds in south, east and northeast China, Korea and Japan.

Further details will be published as part of the BOURC’s 41st report due to be published in Ibis in January 2014.

The British List now stands at 597 species
(Category A = 579; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

 

4 September 2013

BOU @ EOU2013UK

As well as being one of the co-hosts and organisers for the 9th European Ornithologists’ Conference – EOU2013UK – held at the University of East Anglia, Norwich, we also had an active presence at the conference including two key elements for students and early-career researchers.

More details

Image credit
Dwarf Ibis © Muchaxo | CC-BY-SA-2.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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