As much as I’d like to claim the high-minded ideals of the altruistic
citizen scientist who is wholly uninterested in his own numbers, I can’t.
I’m very much a lister—at turns shamefully and shamelessly so. Numbers and
lists don’t motivate me; moments with the birds do. But numbers and lists
sure are cool to look at, and they’re nice to peruse when I’m not in the
field. I really, *really* like looking at my lists. There, I said it.

While I did start using eBird in 2013 to contribute to the big picture and
be a citizen scientist, the way the database presents and organizes my
personal data for me has further advanced my interest in that personal
data. Maybe too much so.

The Major Regions, Countries, States, and Counties tabs are very cool. The
introduction of the profile feature with its color-graded maps? The Target
Species feature? The “Hot 100” (Shai’s apt term, not mine)? These features
all serve to reinforce the likelihood that, for many, this site is a way to
record personal data. The usefulness of that data to science is, to many
users, secondary—a by-product of a birder’s desire to see how her 2017
compares to her 2016, and so on. Cornell definitely knows this.  They
continuent to attract users with ways to serve themselves and then, whether
incidentally or intentionally, to serve science and conservation at the
same time.

The site and the app have grown by such tremendous leaps and bounds lately.
I’ve no doubt there’s a way to make not-countable species not count even
when added to everyday checklists. And I’ve also got no doubt that there
are scads of birders who simply will not put Muscovy Ducks, Budgies, or
European Goldfinches on their lists if it means their numbers aren’t
“officially” correct—just as sure as I am that some people will count the
Virginia Rail regardless of how long ago the Wild Bird Fund released it in
the park.

Anyways, thanks for all the thoughtful and passionate discussion. There are
few groups of people of which I’m happier to count myself a member than
birders in general and NY State birders in particular. You guys are all


On Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 3:02 PM Shaibal Mitra <>

> I agree strongly with John and Angus. The consequences for the eBird Hot
> 100 are at most not very important and at least potentially amusing. I
> thought everybody knew they were supposed to keep track of their own lists,
> rather than to trust in the algorithms of strangers!
> More specifically, regarding European Goldfinches in the New York City
> area now, the numbers of birds present and the area occupied are large
> enough to suggest establishment. Perhaps not everybody is aware that this
> species established breeding populations on western Long Island for
> decades. It is even conceivable that these were never completely
> extirpated, and that today's birds derive at least in part from those
> naturalized populations (but they are certainly at least partly derived
> from recent escapes, as proven by the presence of plastic leg bands on
> some). The best argument against the hypothesis of demographic continuity
> between the period of establishment and the current resurgence in reported
> abundance is that very few or none were reported for several decades. But
> this is at best a weak argument from negative data that are known to be
> systematically biased against reporting.
> Monk Parakeets provide a parallel example that is very instructive. This
> species established breeding populations in the New York City/Long Island
> region that were fairly large and widespread by the early 1970s. These were
> subjected to eradication programs during the mid-1970s, and perceptions
> shifted to the extent that NYSARC acted (overly boldly in my opinion) to
> remove the species from the official New York State Checklist in 1982.
> Reports almost ceased during this period, but we know in this case that the
> gap in documented occurrence was an error arising from two sources: because
> backyard birders who liked the parakeets concealed their presence to
> protect them from destruction; but also because the remaining birds were
> perceived as "not countable" by competitive birders.
> Today's thread illustrates that under-reporting of "not countable" species
> has persisted in birding culture, to the detriment of our ability to infer
> the actual statuses of non-native species.
> Shai Mitra
> Bay Shore
> ________________________________________
> From: [
>] on behalf of John Laver [
> Sent: Tuesday, December 19, 2017 2:20 PM
> To: Angus Wilson
> Cc:
> Subject: Re: [nysbirds-l] Governors Island: European Goldfinch Flock
> (18-Dec)
> "Personally, I think tracking these potential colonizers is important and
> interesting. Simply invalidating them or discouraging reporting isn't a
> good solution."
> Agreed, particularly as range flux is likely to accelerate in ways we'll
> need to observe and measure as climate changes take hold.  We need to think
> about the Big Picture.
> John Laver
> Manhattan
> On Tue, Dec 19, 2017 at 1:50 PM, Angus Wilson <
> <>> wrote:
> For European Goldfinch I suspect 'domesticated' isn't an option. Same for
> other known or presumed escapes or deliberate releases that occur with
> regularity in NYS (e.g. Chukar and various non-domesticated waterfowl).
> Personally, I think tracking these potential colonizers is important and
> interesting. Simply invalidating them or discouraging reporting isn't a
> good solution. Issues with list purity can be a separate conversation,
> decoupled from the scientific uses of this information.
> Angus Wilson
> New York City, NY
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