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Rare Bird Codes - Reconsidering the rare bird alert system

The American Birding Association has a list of rare bird "Checklist Codes" used to define how rare a species is within the ABA Area. Here, we flock those up.

Social Flycatcher
This Social Flycatcher is an ABA RBC 5, but under my newly proposed system is a FAC 5. Wait, is the new system even needed?

Note: This article was written solely for a laugh. Please do not take it seriously, as we are literally named Flocking Around. Laugh, then go enjoy some birds outside. Also, Mom (my mom, your mom, anyone's mom), please do not read this.


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Before I completely wreck, ruin, and replace the ABA rare bird codes, I'm going to offer quick definitions from the ABA on their defined area and codes. For the uninitiated, the ABA is the American Birding Association.


What is the ABA Area?

According to the ABA site, aba.org:


The ABA Area (sometimes referred to as the ABA Checklist Area) is essentially North America north of Mexico plus the Hawaiian Islands.


Specifically, the area encompassed is the 49 continental United States, the Hawaiian Islands, Canada, the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon, and adjacent waters to a distance of 200 miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less.


*Excluded by these boundaries are Bermuda, The Bahamas, and Greenland.


 

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Two of our favorite guides to the ABA area: The Crossley ID Guides!

 

Newly proposed counting area

First thought: Why is Mexico excluded? Mexico is part of North America and thusly should be included in the countable area. As such, in our new proposed countable area, the Flocking Around Countable Area (FACA), we will include all of North America except:

  • Delaware City, DE

  • Springfield, MO

  • The toilet where Elvis died.

  • That crack in the couch where all remotes are currently sitting.

  • Anywhere Betty White made you laugh. (For this is sacred ground.)

  • Bourbon Street

  • Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

  • Cabo Wabo

  • New Zealand

  • Room 2432 in Caesar's Palace

  • The SPAM Museum in Austin, MN

  • Any Señor Frogs

  • The restroom in the Chili's in Thornton, CO

  • Kansas

This great FACA will also include adjacent waters up to 200 miles from land. Except for the crotch of Florida. Get yourself together, Florida crotch, before you get the FACA beat out of you. Also, whichever lands of the FACA you are initially from shall henceforth be known as your mother FACA.


ABA Rare Bird Codes (RBC)

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
The Fork-tailed Flycatcher is an RBC 3, but in the new system, it is a FAC 2. Learn why below.

ABA Code-1 and Code-2:


Regularly occurring ABA Area avifauna. Includes regular breeding species and visitors. There is no firm designation between Code-1 and Code-2 species, except that logically Code-1 species are more widespread and are usually more numerous. Code-2 species have a restricted range in the ABA Area, are widespread but occur in lower densities, or are pretty secretive, which makes their detection often difficult. We readily acknowledge that some Code-2 species are harder to find than some species that have higher codes.


ABA Code-3:


Rare. Species that occur in very low numbers, but annually, in the ABA Area. This includes visitors and rare breeding residents.


ABA Code-4:


Casual. Species not recorded annually in the ABA Area but with six or more total records—including three or more in the past 30 years—reflecting some pattern of occurrence.


ABA Code-5:


Accidental. Species that are recorded five or fewer times in the ABA Area or fewer than three records in the past 30 years.


ABA Code-6:


Cannot be found. The species is probably or actually extinct or extirpated from the ABA Area, or all survivors are held in captivity (or releases are not yet naturally re-established).


Newly Proposed Rare Bird Codes

In this newly proposed rare bird code array, we will utilize a proprietary formula in our unique system, the Flocking Around Codes (FAC). Depending upon the rarity status and other factors, a species can be promoted or demoted within the FAC system, also termed as FAC up or FAC over. For example, if a species like the Evening Grosbeak becomes increasingly rare due to population loss (over 90% population loss since 1970), this species might go from FAC 1 to FAC 3, which is to say it is more rare or unique. This is a major FAC up. If a bird gets this FAC'd up, it is probably a bad signal.

European Starling
This European Starling is a FAC 0. Learn why, below.

As this FAC-ing list is proprietary, we cannot share the full reasons for certain species being listed within the system.


FAC 0


Extremely common, invasive, non-native

Species listed under this code have a low FAC-ing score. Public opinion of these FAC-ing species is often low, as species with a 0 FAC score are often invasive or, at minimum, non-native.


Example

Birder 1: I just saw a European Starling!

Birder 2: Who cares? I give 0 FACs.


FAC 1


Common, native, frequent backyard and park visitors

Species within this code are frequently seen by a majority of the North American populace; however, they are frequently underappreciated. FAC-ing appreciation can play a significant role within this system.


Example

Birder 1: There are a bunch of American Crows above your car!

Birder 2: If I find 1 more FAC-ing poop on my windshield, I will lose it!


FAC 2


Uncommon in most places

Species under this label are only found with some effort. Rarely are they found outside of their typical habitat, and even more rarely are they discovered in someone's backyard. They typically have a higher FAC-ing appreciation by those who put in some FAC-ing effort to see them.


Example

Birder 1: Why is this Golden-cheeked Warbler so hard to find?

Birder 2: It has 2 FAC-ing wings to help it fly around.


FAC 3


Peck-culiar or rare

Species recorded in the FACA less than three but no more than four times in a 30-year span. If the species is seen three times in 30 years, it will get FAC-d over to FAC 2 IF the number of colors in its plumage is equal to or lesser than the square of a pineapple.


Example

Birder 1: Whoa! Did you see that FAC 3 Steller's Sea Eagle?

Birder 2: FAC, no. It has been FAC'd over to a FAC 2 Steller's Sea Eagle since this is the fourth record in the mother FACA since 1992.


FAC 5


As Scarce as Hen's Teeth

This species should probably be seen less than once per decade, as the number of hens born with teeth should also be less than one per decade.


Example

Birder 1: Hey, are we going to see a Masked Tityara today?

Birder 2: Do hens have teeth?

Birder 1: No.

Birder 2: Then, no.


FAC 6


Whoopsie Dasiy

This species has never been observed in the FACA to date. Once it has been seen once, it gets FAC'd over to a FAC 5.


Example

Birder 1: What the FAC is that bird doing here?

Birder 2: FAC and Furious 6. Too FAC, too Furious.


FAC 7


No FAC-ing way

This bird is likely extinct. Also, are you tired of this FAC-ing joke yet?


Example

Neighbor: Hey, I saw that Ivory-billed Woodpecker again at my feeder today.

You: For the 7th FAC-ing time, Bob, it is a Pileated Woodpecker. The Ivory-billed Woodpecker is extinct. And we live in Oregon.


*FAC 4 was removed from this list just to FAC with people a little bit.


Show off your FAC-ing life list with this 3-pack of birding stickers!


A rare bird code system... improved

With these remarkable upgrades to the ABA Rare Bird Codes, we should see a marked improvement in the understanding of the rare bird coding system. Birders and wildlife lovers alike now have a simple yet robust coding system to share with their unique bird sightings. Please, share this new system with your friends, and then clear your browser history. Your employer will definitely be mad you read this FAC-ing article on company time.


The whole idea of a coding system is FAC-ing ridiculous. What did I even just do?

 

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