Thursday, August 9, 2012

Next OBRC puzzle - opinions requested!

One puzzle that hit me on the OBRC is how we deal with hybrids....

Most specifically, we had a dark Ibis sp (plegadis) that just didn't look right for either species.... Mind you the pictures weren't perfect, but to me, there was a solid chance it was a Glossy X White-faced hybrid (couldn't say that it was or wasn't, but it looked decent for that combo --- in my opinion --- )

Now the general policy with the OBRC is that we don't deal with hybrids, but at the same time, we have a huge number of records accepted as "plegadis sp" ... (where we couldn't tell if it was a WFIB or a GLIB) --- and (thanks to Don Sutherland and the other OBRC members) - it was brought forth that a hybrid ibis is STILL a plegadis sp - and could/should be accepted as such!

Now there aren't many times where this situation can arise (and is probably a waste of time worrying about) --- but I enjoy it~! SO I'm going to look into it a bit.....

On the Ontario checklist, there aren't many "genus level" species groups where every member is an OBRC report rarity... One example is Cassin's and Bachman's Sparrow... As the only Peucaea sparrows on the list... If we had a clearly obvious/photographed Cassin's X Bachman's hybrid - would we accept it as a "Peucaea sp" ?? Or leave it off the report??

And what happens if Ontario ever gets an "Olympic Gull" --- A Glaucous-winged X Western Gull hybrid? We can't call it a "Larus sp" - can we? (since there are several Larus gulls on the Ontario list)...

As I mentioned above, there really isn't a right answer, but if anyone has any comments or opinions --- I'd be very happy if you shared them!

(oh hybrids.....)


  1. A rare hybrid is still rare! They should go on the list.

    1. So all hybrids?? I know I've seen Lawrence's Warbler reviewed in old reports... But I don't know what the story is behind those records... Kind of funny too, when you think it's (sort of) the same hybrid as Brewster's Warbler!

  2. What is the main goal of the OBRC in documenting at all. Is it not so future birders can read what rare birds were being seen back then. If so why does the OBRC think that future birders would be more interested that another California Gull was seen and not Ontario's first record of a Olympic Gull.
    Would a Brewers Duck be considered rare in Ontario?

    When are you going to touch on "Questionable Origin?" Thats a big one to me.

    1. I guess there was just a line drawn on "what exactly" the OBRC wanted to deal with! I know there are members who have not wanted to review subspecies at all, and just stick to species...

      For a while, I also toyed with the idea of making the guidelines a bit tighter, so less species were on the review list.. (eg,/ 10 records over 5 years, instead of the current 20) --- then species like Glossy Ibis and California Gull would be dropped... Which I hoped would then improve the quality of the reports we DID receive for the "rarer" species... --- Although this idea was not well received by the committee at the time!

      Based on some of these topics already, it looks like we should at least have a bit of a chat about hybrids etc. in the near future... (Also don't forget, my comments are just 1/7 or 1/9 of the current OBRC... Where other members with more experience or past history with the OBRC would probably have several additional points about these topics that I have never known or thought about)..

      As far as questionable origin goes, I can make a post about it for sure! It has been something I've found very interesting of late as well, although probably one of the most ambiguous topics we could cover ;)

      Thanks again for the comments! They are extremely valuable


  3. I think the main reason people are not documenting birds according to OBRC's guidelines are there is the perception that the review process is more of you didn't really see it until we say you did. So many figure I don't need someone else to tell me if I actually saw it. I think you need to get across that today lots of birds are being documented on things like Ontbirds or photoblogs but many years down the road information like this rare bird was seen on this date offers little to no valuable information. The review process is needed to maintain a quality level of other information for future birders to read beyond the species and date. That way down the road future readers of OBRC records won't say there is no useful information in here.

    Unfortunately when you read review comments like its too bad they didn't get a picture. That to me just says we doubt they are good enough to do a proper field identification but if I saw a picture of it I am. That has nothing to do about the quality of the document itself.

    That will be a tough perception to break but I think it would then increase the number and quality of future reports.

  4. Maybe you need to make a smaller list of the really rare birds that the documentation needs to be reviewed by the OBRC to maintain quality but also keep a list of semi rare, hybrids , aberrant plumages, questionable origins, in a non reviewed but documented list.

    I think many would find this list a good read down the road especially for the not so serious birders.

  5. Brandon,

    Does the OBRC exclude records where the observers do not sufficiently exclude all of the possible hybrids, or is this something that the committee decides on? It is one thing for plegadis sp., what about with gulls or ducks?

    My understanding of the OBRC's role is that it looks into the accuracy of reports from a scientific perspective, with the intention of maintaining the most accurate database of records possible. If a record has scientific value, then it should be included in the database. To me, the fact that hybrids are occurring at all is useful information worth recording. This holds true for collecting records of more common species as well, one of the reasons I love eBird.

    1. Hey Mark,

      Just speaking for myself here, but I usually worry about hybrids if it "feels" important...

      As an example: I would never expect a report of a Swainson's Hawk to fully mention and exclude a Swainson's X Rough-legged Hawk hybrid (recorded in texas: ) .... If a Swainson's Hawk is well described, and our other raptor species are fully excluded.. I'm happy and would vote yes...

      At the same time, we had a recent report of "Vega Gull" accepted by the OBRC... (Kirk Zufelt - ) .... Where he very clearly stated reasons why expected hybrid combinations (Herring X Great Black-backed) were eliminated... And without this information, it would have been very difficult to accept the record..... --- that isn't really taking into account his fantastic photos --- but it just shows that gull records would "need" that sort of information separating hybrids, given their history of species mixing!

      And thanks for the comment re: hybrids... It sounds like this is something we'll have to chat about at the meeting (not that it means anything will/won't change) -- but it is worth while!


  6. May i just point out that i think it's funny that "Anonymous" is interested in "Questionable Origins"? :D