- "North America" has definite boundaries but birders try to stretch is all the time. If you are in a boat off the coast, are you still in North America? What if you are standing in Mexico along the Rio Grande river and see a bird on the U.S. side of the river? Can you count it? The ABA also changes it's rules from time to time. For instance, Hawaii was never included until last year.
- "Alive" is pretty straight forward. Or is it? What if you see a bird hanging out of the a cat's mouth? Is it countable? I think only if it wiggles. Gross.
- "Wild" is a tough one. Most are obvious but some birds in North America didn't start out as wild. Some were brought here as pets or as hunting targets. These birds escape and either die because they can't survive in our climate or they continue to live in their new "wild" home. The ABA changes rulings about these birds a lot. If the escaped birds establish successful breeding populations, they end up countable.
You can read the official rules here: http://listing.aba.org/aba-recording-rules/
The ABA has allowed a handful of game birds in the west to be counted. I joined a tour run by Tim Avery, a Utah guide to search for "Mountain West Most Wanted" to see some of these birds in addition to some others that I'll tell you about later. Tim took us to 3 states to get the birds. We started in Nevada to chase (I'm not kidding here) Himalayan Snowcocks. Yes, the birds are from the Himalayan mountains. You can imagine that they are quite comfortable in the high mountains and generally stay above 10,000 feet. To get to the right habitat, we had to start our day at 3:30 AM. We drove to a parking lot in the State Park at about 8,000 feet of elevation. We hiked for over an hour and climbed to about 9,800 feet - in the dark!
|Searching for Snowcocks|
|Heading down the mountain|
The last game bird that we wanted to see was Chukar. This is a bird that Connie and I saw back in the 1990's but never officially recorded on our list. Once again, we needed different habitat to search. Chukars like rocky fields with sage brush. We kept our eyes peeled every time we saw suitable habitat but didn't see any. On our last day, we headed to the quarry just outside of Salt Lake for a last ditch effort to find the birds. At the ninth hour, we spotted a Mom and a few babies! You can see the baby in the shade of the sage brush.
|Chukar with baby|