Field List of the Birds of Essex County, Massachusetts 7th & 8th Edition, 2002, 2023
ECOC Checklist – 8th Edition Introduction – pdf (as below)
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The ECOC is dedicated to keeping a current Essex County checklist online from now on for the convenience of all birders, both local and visiting. The last formal revision of the checklist was the 6th edition, printed in 1988. A thorough review and overhaul, with new species added and seasonal abundance updated based on the monthly sightings published in Bird Observer, has been underway for several years and should be online and perhaps printed as well sometime in 2008. The 1988 list is too outdated to place online; what you see here is a partial revision completed in 2002. It is not up to date but is more current than the 1988 list and will suffice until the 7th edition is completed. Your comments on the list, including content, format, and ease of use, are welcome and may be directed to the webmaster.
This seventh edition of the Field List is an attempt to update and continue to fully represent the diversity of birds visiting or residing in Essex County, Massachusetts. Every effort has been made to reflect, as accurately as possible, the occurrence of birds during any given week of the year by means of bar graphs. Your critique and your contributions are welcome for the benefit of future editions. It is planned to keep this list up to date electronically so that a current version is always available on a website.
The process to list the birds of Essex County began with Dr. Charles Wendell Townsend, who published the first annotated list, The Birds of Essex County, Massachusetts, in book form in 1905, and a supplement thereto in 1920. It was from these lists that S. Gilbert Emilio and Arthur P. Stubbs began to develop pocket-sized field lists to be published by the Essex County Ornithological Club. The first came out in 1921, with subsequent revisions by Gil Emilio up to 1940. In 1952, Stuart Harris edited the fourth edition. Sarah P. Ingalls, then Curator of Natural History at the Peabody Museum in Salem (now the Peabody-Essex Museum), continued the tradition with the fifth edition in 1975. The sixth edition, put together by several individuals in 1988, was a major reformatting and depended more heavily on documented sight records, whereas the older lists were based primarily on specimens.
Since the sixth edition, over 20 new species have been documented in the county. In addition, the taxonomic order and nomenclature of the American Ornithologists’ Union (AOU) has changed significantly, based on both field studies and genetic research. In this seventh edition we have incorporated these changes–mainly splits–but have dropped escaped birds that may have acclimated but have yet to breed in the wild within the county. These are Monk Parakeet [are we deleting this one or not?], Canary-winged Parakeet, and European Goldfinch. Whooper Swan, on the other hand, has escaped into the wild, has bred since 1996, and is included on the list as an introduced species.
In the sixth edition 398 species were listed: 316 in the regular list and 82 in the appendix (the accidental species). The list now totals 418 species [number needs to be checked] that have been collected or reliably reported in the county. Of these, 335 species [check number] have been recorded more than ten times and are displayed in chart form on the regular list with abundance codes for the various seasons (see below). An additional 83 “accidental” species [check number] are again listed in an appendix, with dates and locations of the few documented specimens or sight records.
“Brewster’s” and “Lawrence’s” Warblers are not included in the list as they are hybrids and not species. With regard to subspecies, many (e.g., “Oregon” Junco and several races of Canada Goose, some of which may eventually be recognized by the AOU as full species) deserve to be treated in the list, but space limitations make this difficult and the current pace of taxonomic changes makes it unwise in a list that is updated every decade or two. Any taxonomic revisions will of course be accounted for in the next edition of this Field List.
New species for the county since 1988, or which were overlooked in the sixth edition, are Anhinga, Little Egret, Ross’s Goose [add to appendix or not?], Cinnamon Teal, Mississippi Kite, Pacific Golden Plover, Terek Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Little Stint, California Gull, Bridled Tern, Ancient Murrelet, , Townsend’s Solitaire, Spotted Towhee, MacGillivray’s Warbler, Townsend’s Warbler, Smith’s Longspur, Painted Bunting, Brewer’s Blackbird, Boat-tailed/Great-tailed Grackle, and Brambling. In addition, many more species have been seen enough times now to elevate them from the appendix to the regular list: Pacific Loon, Eared Grebe, Western Grebe, Yellow Rail, Sandhill Crane, American Oystercatcher, Franklin’s Gull, Mew Gull, Atlantic Puffin, Fish Crow, Common Raven, Northern Wheatear, Varied Thrush, Western Tanager, Lark Bunting, and Hoary Redpoll. (Black-backed Woodpecker has been reported more than ten times, but most sightings are very old, and the authors felt that placing it in the main list would give a false sense that it is regularly found. Thus it remains in the appendix as an accidental. For the same reason, Western Meadowlark was actually removed from the main list and returned to the appendix.)
Due to taxonomic splits, Bicknell’s Thrush, Nelson’s Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and Bullock’s Oriole are separated from Gray-cheeked Thrush, Saltmarsh Sharp-tailed Sparrow, and Baltimore Oriole, respectively. However, because records of the two thrushes are generally inseparable and the two species very difficult to distinguish, they are treated, for the time being, as one entry in the list, “Bicknell’s/Gray-cheeked Thrush.” The Eskimo Curlew remains on the list; it may well be extinct, but there is still hope that it isn’t. (Long-extinct species have not been included on the list since Townsend’s time.) Finally, the re-introduction of the Wild Turkey in Essex County beginning in 1988 has been a phenomenal success, and the species is a welcome addition to the list following its extirpation two centuries ago.
There has been a growing dependence on sight records to establish occurrence over the last few decades. Sight records of rare birds listed here were reported in the journal Bird Observer, in Veit and Petersen’s Birds of Massachusetts (1993), or in Griscom and Snyder’s The Birds of Massachusetts: An Annotated and Revised Check List (1955). The nomenclature and taxonomic order follow the seventh edition of the AOU’s Check-list of North American Birds (1998).
The chart format is repeated from earlier editions of the Field List and has been adapted to facilitate future updates. The opposite pages with columns for keeping lists, however, have been deleted to save space, as the Field List is rarely used to keep daily records. Each month is divided into quarters to represent the four weeks, with the last week extending through the end of the month. The bar character designates occurrence and relative abundance of the species for that particular week of the year. We have tried to accurately represent your potential for seeing a given species as a major criterion in defining the codes. The codes are adapted from Peter Vickery’s “Annotated Checklist of Maine Birds” (1978), but were redefined by the authors of this Field List.
Thick bar: Common to abundant; large numbers reported every year. An easy species to find in the proper habitat. For breeding birds: during the breeding season, present in such numbers that one may find them easily in the proper habitat, and the habitat itself is widespread.
Medium bar: Uncommon; small numbers reported every year. Less easy to find, but regular in the proper habitat. For breeding birds: during the breeding season one may find a few in the correct habitat, or a concentration of birds in only a few particular localities where the habitat is limited or the species is on or near the edge of its breeding range.
Thin bar: Rare, averaging only one or very few reports per year, whether breeding or not. Not necessarily reported every year and sometimes unreported for several years in a row.
The numerals “1” and “2” in place of a bar signify that only one or two reports exist for that week of the year. These are used primarily when sightings occur at odd times, not contiguous with the normal period of a species’ presence. The symbol “+” is substituted for the bar for irruptive species (Bohemian Waxwing and winter finches) whose numbers can vary wildly from year to year, and for which bars indicating abundance have little meaning. Breeding species are boldfaced, and annotated with parentheses ( ) along the bar graph to indicate the known period between egg-laying and young fledging. These breeding chronologies are not always well known and can be improved with more nesting-season observations and reports.
A code has been added next to the names of those species listed by the Massachusetts Natural Heritage Program of the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife as endangered (e), threatened (t), or of special concern (sc) in the state. Sightings of these birds should be reported, particularly during the nesting season. Please call the State Ornithologist at 508-792-7270, or one of the authors of this Field List. In addition, trend codes are added where populations have been in flux, in an attempt to predict the likelihood of seeing a species in the future. These are based on the perceived local population trends of the various species in the most recent past. These codes are printed at the bottom of every page of the regular list, as follows:
“e” means the species is federally or state-endangered.
“t” means the species is federally or state-threatened.
“sc” means a species of special concern (i.e., in trouble, but not yet officially threatened).
“d” means the species has recently been declining in the county.
“i” means the species has recently been increasing in the county.
“f” means the species formerly nested but is not known to have nested recently.
“n” means the species is a relatively new breeder in the county.
“o” means the species nests occasionally, but records are few and evidence is hard to find.
“*” means the species is not native to the area but has been introduced. In the case of the Northern Bob-white, the species was native a century and more ago, but was extirpated; any birds since then have been from introduced stock.
The pages of the appendix (the accidental species) are annotated with a different set of codes. “A” [or whatever we use] means the report has been accepted as valid by the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC). “‡” [or whatever we use] means the report was not accepted by the MARC. (Such records may still be valid, and many are included in the appendix on that basis, or in some cases for their historical interest.) Records not annotated either way were not considered by the MARC, either because they were too old, or because documentation was never submitted to it.
Numbers in the “Habitat” column refer to the following different habitats in which each species may be found. The first number, where more than one is given, represents the most typical habitat.
0. Records too few to indicate habitat
1. Open sea east to Jeffreys Ledge and Stellwagen Bank
2. Coastal sea
3. Rocky shores and stone jetties
4. Beaches and dunes
5. Tidal flats and salt marshes
6. Bays and harbors
7. Rivers and streams
8. Fresh-water lakes, ponds, and impoundments
9. Fresh-water marshes and flooded fields
10. Swamps and/or bogs
11. Open fields and pastures
12. Thickets, hedgerows, edges, brushy fields, and orchards
13. Deciduous forest
14. Mixed deciduous/coniferous forest
15. Towns, gardens, parks, cemeteries, and yards
16. Throughout the county
17. Local hotspots during migration
The information presented here is the work of many individuals. Those most actively involved were Jim Berry, Ipswich; Jim Brown, Boxford; the late Richard Forster; Steve Haydock, Parker River National Wildlife Refuge; Richard Heil, Peabody; Lawrence Jodrey, Rockport; Jim MacDougall, Topsfield; Wayne Petersen, Massachusetts Audubon Society; Jan Smith, Marblehead; Jerry Soucy, Rockport; and Tom Young, formerly of Essex.