As posted previously I have moved from Vermont to Ohio. In Vermont the Black-capped chickadee dominates at the feeder while in Ohio it is the Carolina Chickadee. The differences are easy to spot after seeing both; however I have spotted a Chickadee that may be a 'cross' or a subspecies. The experienced birders that I have been in contact with have said they are Carolina Chickadees.There is more variability in the black capped chickadee than there is in the Carolina.The ranges of the two birds overlap here in Central Ohio and there is an occasional report of black-capped chickadees. I find this interesting and in my observing notes I am adding comments about the variability of the birds, just to sort it out in my mind.
I think that it is appropriate that everyone should keep track of what they observe and if they are expert enough post the subspecies. I am not at that level of expertise yet. I should note that the White Breasted Nuthatch that I have observed in Ohio are slenderer than the ones that I have observed in Vermont. Something to think about.
From: Vermont Birds <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of Richard Littauer <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Saturday, January 12, 2019 11:00 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [VTBIRD] White-breasted Nuthatch
Thanks, Ruth, and thank you also, Zac, for the thoughtful response.
I'm afraid most of the recent logs for this bird have been mine. I don't
know how many people get those alerts, and I apologize if it has come off
I've been spending a lot of time looking into Red-tailed Hawk subspecies,
recently, and I was excited to learn that there are other subspecies, for
other birds, in the area which haven't been routinely logged. At the same
time, I've also been disappointed that so few people seem to log
subspecies. Having read the Red-tailed article above, I figured I would
just start doing it, as it is encouraged if you can. This seemed to me to
be a logical extension of becoming more familiar with eBird.
I've since spent more time recently looking into the White Breasted
Nuthatch, in particular looking at how the eastern subspecies looks and
sounds different than the western ones, and, consequently, I've begun
logging them when I see them. For me, this has meant identifying them
directly, either by sight (the subspecies here has a paler back and cap) or
by sound (it seems to me that the yank is lower and clearer than the
western subspecies, for instance). I apologize for writing 'default
subspecies' on occasion, which I am certainly guilty of doing - I *have*
been identifying them, but it seems that it's the lack of representation in
eBird that causes this bird to need to be commented on, at all, and writing
the same message - "pale blue back, thin black cap, low yank" - seemed more
onerous than saying that I was happy identifying them as *Sitta c.
carolinensis. *It didn't appear to me that logging a subspecies should be
any different from logging a normal species - that is, by the honor system,
where we assume the logger knows how to identify birds in the first place*.*
I'll work on my comments, in the future, if they are helpful. I also
apologize for logging several a day; I've just been birding more than usual
recently. Admittedly, there are times when I may have made assumptions
based on a quick ID; I'll work on that, too.
The user experience for eBird, especially on the app, is not clear on
whether or not subspecies is encouraged; if anything, the app seems to
discourage logging subspecies, as you have to look for rarities, add it,
and then comment. But I figure that if more people learn about the
subspecies and log them, then the more we'll know about the bird's
distribution, and this issue (and logging subspecies can be an issue,
especially as the eBird reviewers have to look over these) will be
eliminated. It's a rather cyclical situation: no one logs rarities because
it is harder to do so, and because no one sees them as an option, and so we
don't have any logs for rarities, and so they stay rare. This doesn't seem
to be the case for everything - I've seen nothing but Slate colored Juncos
here, although both Slate and Nominate options are listed. But look for *Buteo
jamaicensis borealis* sightings on eBird, compared to just Red-tailed Hawk,
and you'll see what I mean. I figured it might just take a few particularly
zealous people to change this, so I started doing so (and again, I
apologize if this has been annoying to anyone).
In any event, I really do encourage others to learn more about subspecies,
too. The process has given me a great amount of joy.
On Sat, Jan 12, 2019 at 8:09 PM Zacheriah Cota-Weaver <[log in to unmask]>
> I'm glad you asked this question as I've heard it from a few others as
> well. This may be a good time to start a discussion on subspecies
> eBird is a powerful tool for collecting data and turning those data into
> meaningful inferences about bird populations. The insights gained from
> eBird are only as good as the data that go in. While people most commonly
> report bird species to eBird, you can report individuals of just about
> every taxonomic level. My guidance to birders is to make reports based on
> your level of experience and the quality of the observation.
> I'll provide an example. If you observe a large soaring bird in the
> distance but don't get many field marks on it, perhaps eBirding it as
> "diurnal raptor sp." is the best bet. If you can tell based on shape,
> flight, and personal experience that it was a buteo genus hawk, eBird it as
> "buteo sp.". If you get a good look at a rusty tail and dark patagial
> marks, you might confidently eBird it as a Red-tailed Hawk (Buteo
> jamaicensis). Now, if you've studied your Red-tailed Hawk subspecies and
> get a good look at an overwintering one with a dark, nearly black appearing
> chin, heavy belly band with large and globular streaks, you might be
> justified in eBirding it as a Northern Red-tailed Hawk (abieticola) (Buteo
> jamaicensis abieticola). Here is an article if you are interested in
> Red-tailed Hawk subspecies:
> Sometimes birds are better left at higher levels, such as genus or family,
> when the quality of the observation is poor or when you just don't have
> experience/confidence with a certain group of birds.
> eBird gives the option to report subspecies, and many regularly occurring
> subspecies are listed when you start a new checklist. I encourage people to
> follow the guidance above. If you have studied the subspecies and feel
> confidence with your observation, feel free to report it and document it
> appropriate. We should not assume, however, that we are always seeing the
> most commonly occurring subspecies. I often hear/see the phrase "default
> subspecies", which to me signals that people are not truly identifying the
> bird to a certain subspecies, but are making an assumption.
> When a species or subspecies is flagged for review, as the White-breasted
> Nuthatch subspecies are, they show up on the alerts. I encourage folks who
> are interested in reporting subspecies to study them well and document them
> thoroughly in eBird. There are quite a few here in Vermont, including some
> that may someday be their own species (i.e. Eastern/Western Palm Warbler,
> Eastern/Western Willet).
> I'd love to hear what other folks have to say about subspecies reporting as
> Zac Cota
> eBird Reviewer
> On Sat, Jan 12, 2019 at 6:28 PM Ruth Stewart <[log in to unmask]>
> > What's the story on the WBNU showing up on the rare-bird alert?
> > Ruth Stewart
> > E. Dorset, VT
> Zacheriah T. Cota-Weaver
> 175 Depot Street
> Hyde Park, VT 05655
> (802) 696-8613 cell
> [log in to unmask]
Richard | @richlitt <https://twitter.com/richlitt> | burntfen.com