Date: 9/27/19 10:06 pm From: Alex Lamoreaux <aslamoreaux...> Subject: [obol] Re: Those fall kingbirds
My statement that this species complex can’t be IDed without vocals is far
from ludicrous or dogmatic, it’s a simple fact. Accept that or not, it’s
The meadowlarks are easily separated by plumage given a decent view
(completely unlike the identical Tropical/Couch’s) and perhaps eBirders
*shouldn’t* blindly report meadowlarks as one or the other without
confirming them with the help of vocals and fieldmarks. Making IDs based
solely on range is strongly discouraged by eBird. If these kingbird IDs are
just going to be made off range, then all should just be Western Kingbird
according to the books, right?! Clearly not...
Any records of this species complex without vocalizations is immediately
called into question if they’ve been decided as Tropical based solely on
assumed probability and without vocal documentation. Vagrancy of the two
species to the east coast, where all sightings are only accepted to species
level with vocal confirmation, have proven that vastly higher (and
increasing) percentages are Couch’s.
In 2018 I had 240 confirmed Couch’s, 170 confirmed Tropical, with 150+
unidentified. You can be sure I’ve thought this species complex through,
and done the research.
To Alan’s points- sadly if it’s not in eBird it’s essentially of zero
importance, and will be lost to the dustbin of time. I’m only concerned
about accuracy of eBird records as that is the go-to for all bird status
and distribution moving forward, and those records will be preserved
indefinitely and assessable to all.
On Fri, Sep 27, 2019 at 9:00 PM Wayne Weber <> wrote:
> You are probably correct that non-vocalizing Tropical and Couch’s
> Kingbirds cannot usually be distinguished from each other under field
> conditions. However, geographic distribution is a major factor that should
> be considered in making bird identifications. Tropical Kingbird is a
> species which has a well-documented pattern of fall occurrence along the
> West Coast. There are records north to Alaska, and there are scores of
> sightings every fall in coastal BC, Washington, Oregon, and California. On
> the other hand, there is only one confirmed record of Couch’s Kingbird on
> the west coast (in 1998 in Orange County, California). Given these facts,
> it is a certainty that fewer than 1%, if any, of the Tropical/Couch’s type
> Kingbirds seen in Oregon are actually Couch’s. Observers should feel safe
> in reporting such birds as Tropical Kingbirds, with very little likelihood
> of error.
> Your statement that non-vocalizing birds MUST be recorded as
> Tropical/Couch’s is ludicrous. Using your standards, we would have to
> report all non-vocalizing meadowlarks seen in Oregon as Eastern/Western,
> because these two are very difficult to separate.
> Please do not bother to send any more of your dogmatic and bluntly-worded
> messages about bird identification to OBOL. Many of us have been birding
> much longer than you, are well aware of the various pitfalls in bird
> identification, and do not need to be lectured by you on how to report
> things in eBird. Thank you.
> Wayne C. Weber
> Delta, BC, Canada
> *From:* <obol-bounce...> [mailto:<obol-bounce...>] *On
> Behalf Of *Alex Lamoreaux
> *Sent:* Friday, September 27, 2019 4:38 PM
> *To:* Oregon Birders OnLine
> *Subject:* [obol] Re: Those fall kingbirds
> Similar to my rant on crossbills yesterday, without vocalizations Tropical
> and Couch’s Kingbirds are not identifiable under field conditions. Some
> variation in shape of the P4 on adult males, and other subtle in-hand
> features can separate them but otherwise they must be recorded as
> Tropical/Couch’s until vocals can confirm species. Current eBird records of
> this Newport bird make no mention of calls and the records should be
> changed to the dreaded ‘slash’.
> Tropical has shown a solid pattern of northward movement up the west coast
> in fall in recent years (and up the east coast to a lesser extent, with
> overwintering in Florida etc) but Couch’s Kingbird has also greatly
> increased its US population in the last 10 years and should be expected as
> a fall vagrant throughout the country. 4+ have been confirmed by vocals in
> the west, and many more in the northeast and Great Lakes.
> Alex Lamoreaux
> Naturalist and Senior Leader/North America Specialist for Wildside Nature
> https://wildsidenaturetours.com/team-member/alex-lamoreaux/ >
Naturalist and Senior Leader/North America Specialist for Wildside Nature