Keen birders’ core literature: the checklists

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by Gyorgy Szimuly on December 31, 2010 · 1 comment

in Birding Africa

One of the potential split could be the American race of Whimbrel. © Gyorgy Szimuly

At the end of each year everyone makes review of the birding highlights of the year behind. I am not any different. I love to watch birds as most of you do. I somehow can’t stand not to make a list of birds I have ever seen, called lifers.

Taxonomy is a challenging science but new technologies are available for better and more proper classification of birds which always keeps life lists in motion. Luckily we don’t have to read barcodes and DNA sequences as scientists do it for us. All we have to do is tracking changes and make necessary additions or deletions in our spreadsheet or database. However that is also a hassle if a lister doesn’t keep life list properly.

I keep my life list following one of the most trusted and recognized team’s, the IOC’s recommendations on world bird list and naming. The International Ornithologist’s Union makes updates several times a year based on studies published on certain bird family or species. If a birder has a long life list changes likely to affect her/his list at every update. It is cynically called as ‘armchair tick’. I had an ‘armchair tick’ last night when I checked the latest update of IOC. There are several splits and lumps in the v2.7 update.

Back in 2004 I saw some individuals of the South African race of Black Kite. It was the Milvus migrans aegyptius, the yellow billed subspecies. As I recorded my South African list on subspecies level (as I always do it), I could easily check whether the update affected any of my lifers. Yesterday my list increased by the addition of the Yellow-billed Kite Milvus aegyptius. I make the changes in a redesigned IOC spreadsheet as well as in an online database. Bubo Listing made the IOC list available with an easy tracking system at least at the end user side.

IOC soon introduces the life list on species level including distribution of different subspecies. I just hope modern filed guides will focus on supporting identification of subspecies where it is apparent.

So lets pick your life list and start updating. Enjoy your time on the field or in the ‘armchair’ and spend as much time for birding as possible. I wish to all of our BirdingBlogs’ readers an eventful and birdy New Year.

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