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Introduced Species & Birders

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  • Bill Noble
    Elias in his 9/5/13 post in the News from the . . . thread was the first in this discussion to bring up the impact of exotics. He mentioned islands: The
    Message 1 of 4 , Sep 5, 2013
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      Elias in his 9/5/13 post in the "News from the  . . ." thread was the first in this discussion to bring up the impact of exotics. 

      He mentioned islands: The definitive popular book on California natural history is Elna Baaker's classic *An Island Called California." Isolated by mountains, desert and ocean, California - and its flora and fauna - show many of the characteristic vulnerabilities of island biotas in competing with invasive exotic or cosmopolitan species.

      All this brings up a great puzzle for me. Birders, skilled and abundant, are in a perfect position to monitor and report on introduced species and to play an active role, perhaps, in control measures, much like members of the California Native Plant Society play an active role in monitoring and combating invasive introduced plants.

      But birders do nothing like that. We watch, for instance, in nearly complete passivity the explosion of eurasian collared doves and their impact on native mourning doves, or the impact of turkeys on oaks and herps. At times, there seems to be an almost touristic excitement at invasion. And of course, the inevitable animal protectionist sentiments are a factor (birds are cute and charismatic); I recently read about a man who considers himself the "guardian" of California's "13 parrot species."

      I'd love to see some discussion of all this. What is our responsibility as amateur ornithologists?

      Bill Noble, San Rafael 
    • Kimball Garrett
      Obviously the news of the addition of Nutmeg Mannikin [= Scaly-breasted Munia] to the California state bird list - and now by the ABA-CLC to the North American
      Message 2 of 4 , Sep 6, 2013
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        Obviously the news of the addition of Nutmeg Mannikin [= Scaly-breasted Munia] to the California state bird list – and now by the ABA-CLC to the North American list – has stimulated a lot of discussion, and here are some more thoughts (Monte – just hit the delete key now and have a nice day).

         

        There are a few sub-threads running through this discussion, e.g.:

        1.      Is the CBRC being consistent in adding Nutmeg Mannikin but not yet adding other “deserving” species such as Rose-ringed Parakeet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Orange Bishop, etc.?

        2.      Which introduced species, if any, should be “counted” by birders on their various lists?

        3.      How can we (or should we) marshal the collective knowledge and record-keeping skills of birders to better keep track of the establishment and potential invasive spread of introduced bird species?

        4.      As birders concerned about conservation, do we risk “championing” introduced species by admitting them to faunal lists and seeking them for our personal lists?

        These are all themes I have already planned to include in my talk on introduced birds at the Central Valley Birding Symposium this coming November, so it is gratifying to see there is interest (albeit not universal) in these topics.

         

        For what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts on these issues. 

         

        1.      The CBRC’s criteria for adding an introduced species to the state list are spelled out in the by-laws (available at www.californiabirds.org ).  It’s always a judgment call, of course, as to whether the criteria have been met, but the CBRC (and most such committees) are pretty conservative about adding species because of the ephemeral nature of many introduced populations.  We look for widespread establishment and other factors that give us some confidence that the populations will persist.  In the case of the Rose-ringed Parakeet, there is only a single well-established population in California (Bakersfield); we generally wait until a species has spread geographically through larger geographical areas of suitable habitat. Black-throated Magpie-Jays are similar – a persisting population south of San Diego has not spread significantly, and (unlike Rose-ringed Parakeets) overall numbers are not especially high.  In the case of the Mute Swan (and perhaps the magpie-jays as well), there are very sound ecological reasons for seeking to eradicate this species from the wild in California (as many regret not having done on the east coast), and to us it makes little sense to add an introduced species to the state list when agencies might attempt to eradicate its populations.  Orange Bishops are somewhat similar to Nutmeg Mannikins in their status in California, but they are less numerous overall, much more of a habitat specialist, and geographically more restricted.  Bishops are definitely on the “watch list,” but probably have not yet satisfactorily met our listing criteria.  Lilac-crowned Parrots, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets, Nanday Parakeets, etc., are all very much worth monitoring for future consideration for addition to the California list. The list goes on, and the CBRC is certainly aware that some or many of these species might, sooner or later, fit our criteria.  Can we predict what will happen in a few decades? Of course not.  Few of us would have thought 40 years ago that Spotted Doves would essentially disappear from California. Was it a mistake to ever have admitted it to the state list? If you were birding in California from the 1920s through the 1970s you probably wouldn’t have thought so.  What are faunal lists for?  Of course the ecological impacts of Orange Bishops in California are far greater than the impact of the one Couch’s Kingbird ever encountered in the state.  However, we all agree faunal lists should encompass all “naturally-occurring” species.  The disagreement is to what extent they should also include the gamut of introduced species from a one-off escapee to a widespread, thriving, long-term set of populations of a very successful species.

        2.      As for “countability,” that’s not my strong suit, nor the CBRC’s concern.  If one is interested in one’s ABA list, one should probably follow ABA listing rules.  If one is into “competitive birding” and wants to compare lists on a level playing field, then simply not counting any introduced birds seems like the best way to go.  Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never met the “list police,” and didn’t even know they existed.

        3.      One of the most persistent themes in the recent e-mail thread was the importance of monitoring ALL birds, including naturalized and potentially naturalizing species.  I hope we can all agree on this.  So how do we facilitate this?  First, large-scale data-gathering schemes have to accommodate and encourage data on all species occurring in a wild state, native or not.  I remember when we were not “allowed” to enter sightings of “Rock Doves” (domestic Rock Pigeons) on Christmas Bird Counts – until the 1973-4 count!  CBCs discouraged inclusion of any but a handful of introduced species (they didn’t “count” in the species total), but these CBCs should be one of our most thorough avenues for tracking exotics.  And eBird, far and away our largest source of bird distributional data, is an obvious venue for reporting and monitoring introduced species.  It’s my opinion that we should report all correctly-identified free-flying exotics “in the wild” on our eBird lists; even if these are invalidated by eBird regional reviewers, the records remain in the overall database and can be studied.  We may be clumsy about how we’re monitoring exotics, but birders have the potential to paint very accurate pictures of the patterns of establishment and population growth and spread of such species.

        4.      Finally, I, too, am a bit concerned about those who might be “champions” for non-native species.  The list of negative environmental impacts of introduced birds is too long for us to be advocates for introduced species.  On the other hand, relatively few introduced birds in North America are truly “invasive’ in the sense of having significant deleterious impacts to natural habitats and to native birds within those habitats.  There are culprits, to be sure (European Starling, Mute Swan, Wild Turkey, etc., and a great many more bird species in environmentally sensitive areas such as oceanic islands).  The impacts of invasive birds are absolutely miniscule compared to those of many insects, plants, marine invertebrates, freshwater fish, bullfrogs, crayfish, etc.  But there are impacts and potential impacts nevertheless, and bird conservationists should recognize that new introductions are best avoided, that some introductions might best require eradication efforts, and that all introductions, at any stage, should be monitored as closely as possible. 

         

        Kimball L. Garrett

        Ornithology Collections Manager

        Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

        900 Exposition Blvd.

        Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA

        213-763-3368

        kgarrett@...

        http://www.nhm.org/site/research-collections/ornithology

         

        From: CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com [mailto:CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Bill Noble
        Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2013 8:26 PM
        To: calbirds@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [CALBIRDS] Introduced Species & Birders

         

        Elias in his 9/5/13 post in the "News from the  . . ." thread was the first in this discussion to bring up the impact of exotics. 

         

        I'd love to see some discussion of all this. What is our responsibility as amateur ornithologists?

         

      • AlbionWood
        Picking winners in the great game of evolution? Until we reach the level of understanding about natural systems to accurately predict all the consequences of
        Message 3 of 4 , Sep 6, 2013
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          Picking winners in the great game of evolution? Until we reach the
          level of understanding about natural systems to accurately predict all
          the consequences of any actions we take (or avoid), I say we have no
          responsibility to do much more than observe, document, and educate.

          Ecosystems are always changing, evolution is always occurring, and the
          fact that we humans are not only witnessing but also causing some of
          these changes does not necessarily make the changes any less natural.
          We are not outside the world we observe.

          Cheers,
          Tim Bray
          Albion, CA


          On 9/5/2013 8:26 PM, Bill Noble wrote:
          >

          > But birders do nothing like that. We watch, for instance, in nearly
          > complete passivity the explosion of eurasian collared doves and their
          > impact on native mourning doves, or the impact of turkeys on oaks and
          > herps. At times, there seems to be an almost touristic excitement at
          > invasion. And of course, the inevitable animal protectionist sentiments
          > are a factor (birds are cute and charismatic); I recently read about a
          > man who considers himself the "guardian" of California's "13 parrot
          > species."
          >
          > I'd love to see some discussion of all this. What is our responsibility
          > as amateur ornithologists?
        • Joan Lentz
          Dear Kimball: Thank you from all of us for your concise and thorough treatment of this subject. As usual, you have answered the questions and laid out the
          Message 4 of 4 , Sep 6, 2013
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            Dear Kimball:
            Thank you from all of us for your concise and thorough treatment of this subject.  As usual, you have answered the questions and laid out the issues in a most informative way.  This sums up the whole introduced species situation, at least for birds, and it is complicated.   I plan to quote you the next time somebody asks me about it.
            Again, my appreciation for taking the time to send this to the group,
            Sincerely,
            Joan Lentz
            Santa Barbara
            On Sep 6, 2013, at 1:16 PM, Kimball Garrett <kgarrett@...> wrote:

             

            Obviously the news of the addition of Nutmeg Mannikin [= Scaly-breasted Munia] to the California state bird list – and now by the ABA-CLC to the North American list – has stimulated a lot of discussion, and here are some more thoughts (Monte – just hit the delete key now and have a nice day).

             

            There are a few sub-threads running through this discussion, e.g.:

            1.      Is the CBRC being consistent in adding Nutmeg Mannikin but not yet adding other “deserving” species such as Rose-ringed Parakeet, Lilac-crowned Parrot, Orange Bishop, etc.?

            2.      Which introduced species, if any, should be “counted” by birders on their various lists?

            3.      How can we (or should we) marshal the collective knowledge and record-keeping skills of birders to better keep track of the establishment and potential invasive spread of introduced bird species?

            4.      As birders concerned about conservation, do we risk “championing” introduced species by admitting them to faunal lists and seeking them for our personal lists?

            These are all themes I have already planned to include in my talk on introduced birds at the Central Valley Birding Symposium this coming November, so it is gratifying to see there is interest (albeit not universal) in these topics.

             

            For what it’s worth, here are some of my thoughts on these issues. 

             

            1.      The CBRC’s criteria for adding an introduced species to the state list are spelled out in the by-laws (available at www.californiabirds.org ).  It’s always a judgment call, of course, as to whether the criteria have been met, but the CBRC (and most such committees) are pretty conservative about adding species because of the ephemeral nature of many introduced populations.  We look for widespread establishment and other factors that give us some confidence that the populations will persist.  In the case of the Rose-ringed Parakeet, there is only a single well-established population in California (Bakersfield); we generally wait until a species has spread geographically through larger geographical areas of suitable habitat. Black-throated Magpie-Jays are similar – a persisting population south of San Diego has not spread significantly, and (unlike Rose-ringed Parakeets) overall numbers are not especially high.  In the case of the Mute Swan (and perhaps the magpie-jays as well), there are very sound ecological reasons for seeking to eradicate this species from the wild in California (as many regret not having done on the east coast), and to us it makes little sense to add an introduced species to the state list when agencies might attempt to eradicate its populations.  Orange Bishops are somewhat similar to Nutmeg Mannikins in their status in California, but they are less numerous overall, much more of a habitat specialist, and geographically more restricted.  Bishops are definitely on the “watch list,” but probably have not yet satisfactorily met our listing criteria.  Lilac-crowned Parrots, Yellow-chevroned Parakeets, Mitred and Red-masked Parakeets, Nanday Parakeets, etc., are all very much worth monitoring for future consideration for addition to the California list. The list goes on, and the CBRC is certainly aware that some or many of these species might, sooner or later, fit our criteria.  Can we predict what will happen in a few decades? Of course not.  Few of us would have thought 40 years ago that Spotted Doves would essentially disappear from California. Was it a mistake to ever have admitted it to the state list? If you were birding in California from the 1920s through the 1970s you probably wouldn’t have thought so.  What are faunal lists for?  Of course the ecological impacts of Orange Bishops in California are far greater than the impact of the one Couch’s Kingbird ever encountered in the state.  However, we all agree faunal lists should encompass all “naturally-occurring” species.  The disagreement is to what extent they should also include the gamut of introduced species from a one-off escapee to a widespread, thriving, long-term set of populations of a very successful species.

            2.      As for “countability,” that’s not my strong suit, nor the CBRC’s concern.  If one is interested in one’s ABA list, one should probably follow ABA listing rules.  If one is into “competitive birding” and wants to compare lists on a level playing field, then simply not counting any introduced birds seems like the best way to go.  Maybe I’m sheltered, but I’ve never met the “list police,” and didn’t even know they existed.

            3.      One of the most persistent themes in the recent e-mail thread was the importance of monitoring ALL birds, including naturalized and potentially naturalizing species.  I hope we can all agree on this.  So how do we facilitate this?  First, large-scale data-gathering schemes have to accommodate and encourage data on all species occurring in a wild state, native or not.  I remember when we were not “allowed” to enter sightings of “Rock Doves” (domestic Rock Pigeons) on Christmas Bird Counts – until the 1973-4 count!  CBCs discouraged inclusion of any but a handful of introduced species (they didn’t “count” in the species total), but these CBCs should be one of our most thorough avenues for tracking exotics.  And eBird, far and away our largest source of bird distributional data, is an obvious venue for reporting and monitoring introduced species.  It’s my opinion that we should report all correctly-identified free-flying exotics “in the wild” on our eBird lists; even if these are invalidated by eBird regional reviewers, the records remain in the overall database and can be studied.  We may be clumsy about how we’re monitoring exotics, but birders have the potential to paint very accurate pictures of the patterns of establishment and population growth and spread of such species.

            4.      Finally, I, too, am a bit concerned about those who might be “champions” for non-native species.  The list of negative environmental impacts of introduced birds is too long for us to be advocates for introduced species.  On the other hand, relatively few introduced birds in North America are truly “invasive’ in the sense of having significant deleterious impacts to natural habitats and to native birds within those habitats.  There are culprits, to be sure (European Starling, Mute Swan, Wild Turkey, etc., and a great many more bird species in environmentally sensitive areas such as oceanic islands).  The impacts of invasive birds are absolutely miniscule compared to those of many insects, plants, marine invertebrates, freshwater fish, bullfrogs, crayfish, etc.  But there are impacts and potential impacts nevertheless, and bird conservationists should recognize that new introductions are best avoided, that some introductions might best require eradication efforts, and that all introductions, at any stage, should be monitored as closely as possible. 

             

            Kimball L. Garrett

            Ornithology Collections Manager

            Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County

            900 Exposition Blvd.

            Los Angeles, CA 90007 USA

            213-763-3368

            kgarrett@...

            http://www.nhm.org/site/research-collections/ornithology

             

            From: CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com [mailto:CALBIRDS@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Bill Noble
            Sent: Thursday, September 05, 2013 8:26 PM
            To: calbirds@yahoogroups.com
            Subject: [CALBIRDS] Introduced Species & Birders

             

            Elias in his 9/5/13 post in the "News from the  . . ." thread was the first in this discussion to bring up the impact of exotics. 

             

            I'd love to see some discussion of all this. What is our responsibility as amateur ornithologists?

             



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