A while back, a friend made a comment to me that he had “x” number of Code 1 birds left to see in the ABA area. That got me thinking that I had never really looked at my ABA list that way, and with no bugs to look for or much going on bird-wise, I took some time to add the codes to my spreadsheet and figure up what I was missing.
For those who aren’t familiar with it, the ABA is the American Birding Association. Among the ABA’s functions are maintaining the “ABA area” list and publishing listing results in many catogories (state lists, Big Days, Big Years, etc.). Generally, the list that most birders talk about is their ABA area life list. The ABA area basically includes North America north of Mexico. Hawaii, the Caribbean, Bermuda, and Greenland are not included. The ABA list includes every naturally occurring species in the area and those introduced or escaped species which have become successfully established. This list is in the high 900s last I checked, although many of these are species that have only occurred a handful of times and cannot be expected to occur in any given year. The ABA checklist includes a code system which ranks each species by how common or easy to find it is:
Code 1 and 2: Regular; code 2s being rarer or having restricted distributions
Code 3: Regular; occurs annually but in very small numbers
Code 4: Casual; not recorded annually but 6+ records with at least 3 in the last 30 years
Code 5: Accidental; 5 or less records or fewer than 3 in the last 30 years
Code 6: Extinct or extirpated in the ABA area (Eskimo Curlew, Bachman’s Warbler, etc.)
So, running down the list, it looks like I have 19 code 1 birds left:
- Mountain Quail
- Willow Ptarmigan
- Rock Ptarmigan
- Cory’s Shearwater
- Greater Shearwater
- Wilson’s Storm-Petrel
- Long-tailed Jaeger
- Thick-billed Murre
- Black Guillemot
- Atlantic Puffin
- Horned Puffin
- Western Screech-Owl
- Mexican Whip-poor-will
- Vaux’s Swift
- Black-chinned Hummingbird
- Grace’s Warbler
- Black-chinned Sparrow
- Saltmarsh Sparrow
Of those, 7 are western/southwestern species, 3 are Alaskan, 8 are east coast pelagics, and Long-tailed Jaeger is Alaskan/pelagic off both coasts.
Black-chinned Hummingbird is a really bizarre, even embarrassing, miss. However, looking back, all the time I spent in the west was just barely out of range in the summer or too late in the fall to see it. A well planned trip to the southwest in the summer should take care of it, along with Black-chinned Sparrow, Grace’s Warbler, Western Screech-Owl, Mexican Whip, and Vaux’s Swift. I consider the swift to be one of my two nemesis birds, meaning a species which I have been in its range and habitat at the right time of year and spent a good amount of time unsuccessfully searching for (the other being the code 2 Le Conte’s Thrasher).
The east coast birds would take a couple trips. One to get four alcids in the northeast and one to get the pelagics and Saltmarsh Sparrow in North Carolina.
Only one species on the list has been recorded in Iowa: Long-tailed Jaeger. This species is very rare but regular in fall on the western Great Plains, along the Rocky Mountain Front Range, and on the Great Lakes. That leaves a gap around the Missouri and Mississippi River valleys where it is much rarer. I assume I’ll eventually see this species at Saylorville Reservoir, but probably not before I see it off one of the coasts.
As for the other code categories, I’ve got a lot further to go: 2s = 86, 3s = 60, 4s = 89, and 5s = ~119.