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: Chickadees in the hybrid zone  ( 3898 )

Rich Laramore

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Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« : February 02, 2014, 03:42:03 PM »
I often go birding at Ramsey Lake in Fayette Co. It lies within the hybrid zone documented by Enstrom & Bollinger  in their study. Most birds that I have taken the time to study appear to be Black-capped to me, but I have been questioned when entering them that way. I have more or less given up ID'ing Chickadees at this site because I don't have the patience to take the time to study them carefully enough or wait for them to vocalize (I have bad hearing anyway) so I can defend my identification. I get both on my year list regardless. If I worked on ID'ing them I would miss other species due to time constraints. It is just not worth it to me.

My question is how does eBird want me to report the Chickadees I see that I do not ID to species? The two options that make sense to me are either chickadee sp. or Carolina/Black-capped Chickadee. Neither of these are on the site list where you enter your sightings and have to be added. When either are added they are flagged as rare and must be confirmed. Is there a way to get the proper one added to the site list?

Maybe when things slow down this summer I will take the time to record some of the birds from there, along with taking notes on the plumage details of the birds making the vocalizations, so that I can work out for myself what is really going on at this site.

Thanks
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Andrew Aldrich

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #1 : February 02, 2014, 05:25:10 PM »
Hi, Rich!  Excellent timing with your post.  eBird reviewers are currently working on addressing the issue of Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee contact zones, but it may be a while before we are able to get to all of the individual county filters in place. 

Given how frequently birds seem to learn the "wrong" song, vocalizations alone should not be used to ID to species.  Given how subtle the physical field marks are and how variable they can be, it's also probably not safe to ID on visuals alone.  Ideally, seeing chickadees well and hearing the song would be the best way to ID to species.  Embedding audio and/or photos into checklists is also encouraged!

As you said, it's often difficult to devote this much time to every chickadee you encounter, and it really requires a concentrated effort.  If you are in an area where one is not more prevalent than the other, and have not made the effort to ID, the best option is Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee.  While chickadee sp is not inaccurate, we are dealing with only those 2 species and potential hybrids so the BCCH/CACH option is preferred.  Although not currently on the list, Black-capped/Carolina will be added to all of the appropriate counties and will not flag as "rare" in the near future.  We can use this thread to keep track of changes and to hear input from others more familiar with the region. 

In addition to the study you cited, Sibley's write-up on identification and distribution of both Chickadees is essential reading on the topic: http://www.sibleyguides.com/bird-info/black-capped-chickadee/black-capped-carolina-chickadee/.  The INHS Breeding Bird Atlas is also helpful: http://www.inhs.uiuc.edu/animals_plants/birds/breeding.php?species=215

RLShonkwiler

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #2 : February 03, 2014, 08:10:23 AM »
Well, this will change my life list for some counties in Ohio where I grew up :(  although I've only heard Carolina Chickadee songs there this can't be relied upon.  Although none were flagged by Ebird but I guess I'll have to go back and change them when the new check box for Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee is added.  I haven't had a chance to head to southern Illinois for my state lifer Carolina.

Randy

Andrew Aldrich

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #3 : February 03, 2014, 08:53:02 AM »
Well, this will change my life list for some counties in Ohio where I grew up :(  although I've only heard Carolina Chickadee songs there this can't be relied upon.  Although none were flagged by Ebird but I guess I'll have to go back and change them when the new check box for Black-capped/Carolina Chickadee is added.  I haven't had a chance to head to southern Illinois for my state lifer Carolina.

Randy

Any changes Illinois reviewers make are in Illinois only, and this will only pertain to a handful of counties.  How you report the species is entirely up to you.  Your personal checklists are just that, personal.  Reviewers can make determinations as to whether or not something should be visible in the public database, based on the evidence provided.  I do not know how this issue is handled in other states, but will ask around. 

Benjamin Murphy

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #4 : February 03, 2014, 09:10:14 AM »
So where can you go in the state and know that you are looking at a Carolina Chickadee?  Is there a map of the state that shows the areas that have Carolina and the ones that have Black-capped?

Fran Morel

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #5 : February 03, 2014, 09:11:17 AM »
Given how frequently birds seem to learn the "wrong" song, vocalizations alone should not be used to ID to species.

This is true for certain species, but not all, from what I've read.  Is there documentation on chickadees supporting your statement that vocalizations for this species are not diagnostic?

Fran

Andrew Aldrich

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #6 : February 03, 2014, 09:21:12 AM »
Given how frequently birds seem to learn the "wrong" song, vocalizations alone should not be used to ID to species.

This is true for certain species, but not all, from what I've read.  Is there documentation on chickadees supporting your statement that vocalizations for this species are not diagnostic?

Fran

From Sibley's Article:

Laboratory experiments by Donald Kroodsma (Smith 1991) have shown that the song is learned, not innate, and field observations show that chickadees in the contact zone respond to playback of recorded songs of both species (Merritt 1978). Many individuals in and near the contact zone sing typical songs of both species, or sing the wrong song or abnormal songs (Merritt 1978; Wade Wander pers. comm.. Frank Gill pers. comm., Curry). For example, at a study site in Pennsylvania all birds sing Black-capped songs, and about 60% of those same birds also sing Carolina songs, even though genetic tests indicate all of these birds are hybrids and Carolinas (Curry). Thus, contrary to many published reports, song is of little value for identification within the contact zone, since a young chickadee there has the opportunity to learn both songs, or to incorporate elements of both songs into a “hybrid” song.

Ben: I've attached a map showing a study from 2009.  Any county south and east of any county with a contact zone can safely be called Carolina.

Matthew Cvetas

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #7 : February 03, 2014, 09:58:39 AM »
You need to really be cautious in places like Champaign and Fayette Counties, where both chickadees occur. The area in which Rich is birding is right in the thick of it.
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Steve Gent

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #8 : February 03, 2014, 10:16:39 AM »
I would add that a competitor species will respond t other calls.  I have seen the same in Europe with competing Tit species.  Makes IDing these species somewhat problematic.  What if the zone is getting wider?   is anyone doing studies on movements of these species?

Matthew Cvetas

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #9 : February 03, 2014, 10:41:55 AM »
Is anyone doing studies on movements of these species?

The map Andrew posted shows results of a study in 2009 compared with one from 1963.
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Benjamin Murphy

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #10 : February 03, 2014, 10:54:13 AM »
Looks like Danville would be my best bet.  Anybody know a good place to bird near I-74 in Vermilion County?

Matthew Cvetas

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #11 : February 03, 2014, 11:05:57 AM »
Kennekuk County Park and Kickapoo State Park
Nobody loves me but my mother, and she could be jivin' too.
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Fran Morel

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #12 : February 03, 2014, 11:13:51 AM »
Andrew,

Thanks!  I guess you more than answered my question!

Fran

Craig Taylor

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #13 : February 03, 2014, 02:25:37 PM »
From 2004 IL Breeding Bird Atlas  For reference...

I use the more up to date Enstrom & Bollinger map.
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shac1234

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Re: Chickadees in the hybrid zone
« #14 : February 04, 2014, 09:16:45 AM »
I have been at my place in Troy, in Madison County for 6 years and have only heard and "seen" Carolina Chickadees, even though it looks like it is very close to the border.
I sometimes find it hard to believe the Black-capped Chickadee sightings that are in e-bird that are close to where I live. I also often wonder how far I would need to go north to be sure it is a Black-capped Chickadee.
Here are some pics from today, now of course I could be wrong and these are Black-capped  :) but for sure I have never heard a Black-capped at my house.

Carolina Chickadee by shac1234, on Flickr

Carolina Chickadee by shac1234, on Flickr

Carolina Chickadee by shac1234, on Flickr

 

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