Changes to the British List (12 Feb 2024)

The British Ornithologists’ Union Records Committee (BOURC) has made the following decisions with regards to the British List:

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New first record:

Taiga Flycatcher Ficedula albicilla
New first record: first calendar year, Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, 19 October 1976 (trapped, photographed), pre-dates the previously accepted first record of this species and is therefore accepted as the first British record (Ibis 148: 198–201).

Photo (right) © Niall Machin, Spurn Point, East Yorkshire, October 1976

The digital revolution in birding continues to leave its mark on the British List – in this case a digital scan of a near half-century old slide and its posting on social media led to a new first record of this Siberian species. Trapped during the routine workings of Spurn Bird Observatory and ringed at the time as a Red-breasted Flycatcher F. parva a new identification was posited as soon as images were posted online. The observer was encouraged to submit the record, and the BBRC and BOURC subsequently agreed on the identification.

Although it came at a time when escape risk of Asian passerines was higher than currently, the location, age of the bird, and timing match expectations for genuine vagrancy and there were no signs of a captive origin. Nor have there been other records suspected of pertaining to escapes before or since, with the species subsequently observed another five times in Britain and elsewhere in Western Europe.

Taiga Flycatcher was formerly treated as a subspecies of Red-breasted Flycatcher and was only elevated to specific status in 2004 following the identification of the first accepted record at Flamborough Head, East Yorkshire on 26–29 April 2003 (Ibis 146: 153–157, Ibis 148: 198–201). With the acceptance of this record from 1976 there are now six records in Britain (Brit. Birds 115: 551-612).

Taiga Flycatcher breeds east of c. 50°E from the Ural Mountains eastwards to eastern Siberia and winters in south-east Asia, from southern Nepal, eastern India, Bangladesh, Bhutan to south-east China.

Other decision:

A record of Trindade Petrel Pterodroma arminjoniana at Porthgwarra, Cornwall on 29 July 2018 was found to be not proven. The Committee could not reconcile inconsistencies between different descriptions in plumage characteristics, flight style and observation conditions which collectively did not permit ruling out other rare seabirds, including Herald Petrel P. heraldica and Tahiti Petrel Pseudobulweria rostrata. The latter species was for example recorded extralimitally (including in the North Atlantic) three times during 2018-2019. The record bore comparisons with a previous unaccepted record of this taxon (as ‘Herald Petrel’ P. arminjoniana) seen off Dungeness, Kent, in January 1998 (Brit. Birds 95: 156–165). In both cases though the committees felt that the observers had likely ‘seen an amazing seabird’ documentation was not strong enough for a British first. The record was returned to the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) for reconsideration

A correction:

In the BOURC 56th Report (Ibis 166: 348-352) the split of Tibetan Sand Plover Charadrius atrifrons from Siberian Sand Plover C. mongolus was described, but this additional species was not included in the British List species total.

These decisions will be published as part of the BOURC’s 57th report due to be published in Ibis in January 2025. The British List stands at 633 species (Category A = 615; Category B = 8; Category C = 10).

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