ALAN W. BRUNER
(ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE NOVEMBER, 1995 INDIANA AUDUBON QUARTERLY)
A great number of individuals of varying talents, from the professional ornithologist conducting intense studies to the casual nature lover who just enjoys seeing birds whenever the opportunity arises, have had the opportunity to observe birds within the borders of Indiana and provided evidence of the occurrence of 378 species making up the current Official List of Indiana Birds. Thanks to photographs, specimen, tape recordings, and written accounts made available by the scores of individuals who took the time to document their observations, Indiana can make claim to a tremendous variety of bird life. The significance of these contributions to the state, as well as the “birding community”, is especially appreciated by the Indiana Bird Records Committee (IBRC) whose task is to determine which species have at one time appeared in Indiana and make up the Official List.
The nomenclature and order of listing conforms to the 6th edition of the American Ornithologist Union’s Checklist and its supplements and the inclusion of each listed species is based on one of two criteria:
- Verified Records – records supported by physical evidence in the form of an identifiable specimen, identifiable photograph, or diagnostic recording of songs and/or calls.
Lower case lettering denotes “verified species”.
- Sight Records – records supported by credible written accounts or descriptions in the form of published articles, formal or informal written documentation, and/or original notes taken in the field.
UPPER CASE lettering denotes species listed on the basis of sight records.
* – An asterisk (*) attached to the species names denotes that fewer than ten acceptable records exist for the state and any new records should be fully documented and forwarded, or sent directly to, the IBRC for evaluation. Presently the acceptance of all other documentable records will be determined by field note and count editors who may refer them to the IBRC for evaluation at their discretion.
Nine species have been assigned to an Unverified List having records of occurrence that are presumably correct, but for which physical evidence or descriptive written documentation has been lost or is not currently available for evaluation. The presence of these species in Indiana at some time cannot be denied or confirmed at this time. The following species are assigned to this list at this time:
- Roseate Spoonbill
- Whooping Crane
- Eskimo Curlew
- Long-billed Curlew
- Carolina Parakeet
- Great Gray Owl
- Ivory-billed Woodpecker
- Bachman’s Warbler
Extirpated species are those once present in Indiana, but are no longer found here, although they are still present in other areas and may possibly occur here again.
Often observers of Indiana birdlife approach field note and count editors with considerable uncertainty as to what is considered a significant record, the degree of significance of their record, and what information should accompany the record. In order to assist birders in this matter, additional information has been incorporated into the Official List.
- Nest – This first column has been included to indicate that nesting has occurred by the species. An “X” in this column denotes that breeding evidence exists in the form of published accounts or physical proof (specimen of nest, eggs, or young). An “(X)” denotes that evidence is available to indicate that the species nested or may have nested prior to 1900, but no nest records have been obtained this century.
- Photo – This column denotes whether or not an identifiable photograph of the species has been published in a scientific or semi-scientific journal. Photographs of nests, eggs, or young which in themselves are not identifiable to species are omitted.
To further assist birders in contributing to our knowledge of Indiana birds, seasonal significance codes have been determined for each species. Bird records published in Mumford and Keller (1984), Brock (1986), theIndiana Audubon Quarterly, and Audubon Field Notes (formerly American Birds) have been analyzed to determine the frequency with which each species has been reported for “ten-day” periods throughout the year (an eight to eleven-day period was used for the latter third of each month). By totaling the number of published records for a specific period of the year a determination of the rarity of the species during that period was made thus indicating the significance of subsequent records for that same period.
- D – Documentation warranted A “D” code assigned to a “ten-day” period indicates that very few acceptable records of occurrence have been published for that period and any subsequent records for the period should be fully documented by utilizing either the documentation form shown by Keller (1995) and available form the IBRC, or some other form of notes which supplies the same detailed information. Such records reflect a high degree of rarity and should always be reported to field note and count editors.
A “D” code in the Breeding column indicates that nesting for the species is extremely rare and any records providing breeding evidence should be accompanied by complete details sufficient to confirm species identification of nest, eggs, or young birds, and that nesting indeed occurred within Indiana’s borders.
- d – Details warranted “Ten-day” periods given this designation reflect a reasonable degree of rarity, as the species considered generally cannot be expected during this period in any given year. Records for these periods should be accompanied by details sufficient to eliminate similar species, but a full documentation is not necessary. These records are definitely of interest to field note editors,
- s – Significant “Ten-day” periods with this designation are periods of significance and records for such periods supply the bulk of field note reports. Only the species name, number of individuals observed, dates of observation, and observer names need accompany these records when submitted to field note editors. These records concern, among other things, early arrivals, late departures, limited populations, and changing populations.
An “s” code in the Breeding column indicates that nest records are not common, or are extremely localized or sporadic for the species. These records should always be submitted to Field note editors with species name, type of breeding evidence noted, number of breeding pairs, nests, eggs, or young, dates of observation, location, and observer names.
- “Blank” “Ten-day” periods for which code letters are omitted represent a period when the species is expected to be present in suitable habitat, especially at traditional locations. Such records may have local or personal significance, but the number of statewide or regional published records for the period makes subsequent records insignificant on the basis of frequency of occurrence.
It should be stressed that this list addresses records only on the basis of rarity, frequency of occurrence, and difficulty in identification. The intent is NOT to discourage reports of common familiar species.Changes in permanent and seasonal bird populations are significant and serve as monitors of serious environmental problems. Unusual behavior and interactions between or among species can be important. Records involving albinism or melanism are always interesting. Unusually high concentrations and daily counts make up a large portion of field note reports. And there are many other reasons for submitting records and reports of common or expected species. At any rate, records should be reported if there is any doubt of their significance.
Through examination of the list and its codes, most Indiana birders should discover that they have much valuable information to contribute. In addition it should be apparent that there are many gaps in our knowledge of Indiana birds. Is a record early spring migrant an indicator of a confused individual, or a previously unknown, but annual and regular precursor, to the main migration? Only through the submission of additional documented records for that period can this question be answered. Are Whip-poor-wills as uncommon in September as current published records indicate? Who will supply the first breeding evidence for Alder Flycatcher in Indiana?
It is clear that many great birding adventures are in store for Indiana birders as they contribute valuable information to Indiana field ornithology.
Keller, T. 1995. The Why’s, How’s, When’s and Where To’s of Documenting Rare Bird Sightings. Indiana Audubon Quarterly, 73:92.
Mumford, R. and C.E. Keller. 1984. The Birds of Indiana. Indiana University Press, Bloomington.