Date: 9/5/20 8:32 am
From: Mike Patterson <celata...>
Subject: [obol] Re: Subspecies- on eBird, or anywhere
This is a fundamental problem with ALL subspecies designations on
eBird and iNaturalist. Yes, there are some subspecies that can be
ID'd by recognizable field marks, but most are ID'd using the same
suite of assumptions and circular reasoning that brought us
"Northwestern" Crow.

"That's the expected subspecies" is a huge assumption, especially
during migration. The underlying assumption that we KNOW the expected
subspecies with any kind of precision or that subspecies exist in
cleanly delineated, biologically discrete and sortable units or that
all taxonomists agree about whether some of these subspecies exist at
all is the exact opposite of what modern genetic taxonomy teaches us.

This practice has become fashion among birders. Most birders are
not biologists and it is unreasonable to expect them to think like
biologists. I don't really blame most birders. But there are some
out there who should know better...

If we choose to treat eBird as a mechanism for hobbyist to "collect"
species, then that's what they'll do and it genuinely doesn't matter
whether those hobbyist claim some observations to a granularity that
does not represent what they actually saw, but purely what they expected
to see (or wanted to see). There are those who would argue that eBird
already jumped that shark by focusing on the competitive aspects of
birding rather than other more passive and thoughtful aspects the
average birding hobbyist (like me and most of the bird-watchers I know)
practices. There are also those that would argue that the data miners
at eBird aren't paying any real attention to most of this subspecies
stuff. It (mostly) gets filtered out as chaff.

A Whooping Crane was reported on eBird from Pacific County yesterday.
I probably won't go chasing it.

Mike Patterson
Astoria, OR
What we can learn from the Northwestern Crow
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