Either/or Records

Published on 31 August 2001

The British Birds Rarities Committee decided to change the way it considers records of certain hard-to-identify species pairs at their AGM in March 2001.

Traditionally BBRC has accepted species pairs of some groups such as the praticoles Glareola and Bee-eaters Merops, that had previously been considered straight-forward in the generic identification but exceptionally tricky in the specific identification.

In addition they had also considered pairs which had, up till recently, been considered a single species, such as American and Pacific Golden Plovers Pluvialis dominica/fulva and Long & Short-billed Dowitchers Limnodromus scolopaceus/griseus.

Initially, these were considered and published in the rarities report to help explain vagrancy patterns but these are now much clearer and there seems no statistical reason for including birds that are not specifically identified. Given that, and the improvements in both identification literature and optical equipment that makes specific identification much easier, BBRC no longer feels this is a tenable position.

For the sake of consistency, we feel that we should only consider either/or species pairs where there is still considerable doubt as to the identification criteria. This currently means Frigatebirds Fregata, the Soft-plumaged Petrel complex Pteradroma mollis/fea/madeira and Bonelli’s Warblers Phylloscopus bonelli/orientalis.

Because of this, from the 1st January 2002 BBRC will no longer consider generic identifications of Albatross Diomedea, Pratincole, Lesser Golden Plover, Dowitcher and Bee-eater although ‘near-misses’ will continue to be mentioned in species comments and in a new feature that will appear on an annual basis in British Birds.