Species on the Accidental/Hypothetical List for Grand Forks County
Records since 1950
List updated February 2006 by Dave Lambeth
As is true all across North America, rare and highly unexpected birds occur within Grand Forks County. The following list of 48 accidental/hypothetical species is accompanied by details that includes where, when, and by whom the species was observed, along with an indication of any existing evidence that supports the identification. The list includes species that have been observed since 1950; eventually we will post a similar list of species for which there are records before 1950 but have not been recorded or very rarely recorded since. Finding rarities is the major objective of many birders. When a birder finds a species that may be unusual, their first question inevitably is with regard to whether prior records exist. The purpose of this list is to answer that question.
Many “complete”checklists for an area will list species that are defined as being accidental or hypothetical. The definitions of these terms vary. Here we will arbitrarily define an “accidental” species as one that has occurred three or fewer times in the county with their being evidence (specimen, photo, field notes) that can be examined and judged to be acceptable. In some cases, sight records by multiple observers who agreed on the identification may be considered as sufficient for placing a species on the Accidental list. A “hypothetical” will be defined here as a species that has been reported as having been seen, but for which there is no evidence that can be evaluated. With hypotheticals, some judgment inevitably has to be made as to whether the observer has sufficient experience in bird identification to make a correct identification of that particular species. The list of “regular species” has been published separately (Feb 2006) and presently contains a total of 284 species. Using these definitions, it will be recognized that a few species have been observed as few as four times in 50 years. For most birders, this definition of “regular” may be a stretch. However, a different definition of regular might be based on the probability that a species occurs within the county each year, regardless of whether it is seen or not. The more observers there are, and the more time they spend in the field, the more likely that a given species will be regarded as regular.
Most states now have a “rare records committee” that votes on whether evidence supporting the report of a rare species is sufficient to include that species on the state list. In North Dakota, the North Dakota Birding Society has established the North Dakota Ornithological Records Committee. This committee has established a documentation form that they ask birders to use in reporting records. They also have a list of species that should be documented. The committee votes on the record after examining submitted documentation along with any photos or other evidence that may have been obtained. We will not try to separate classify each species reported below as Accidental or Hypothetical because we believe that should be done by a committee that does not contain any of the observers as a member. However, it should be recognized that the nature and quality of the evidence supporting the records included below varies widely, as will be apparent in examining the entries. It should be kept in mind that the bird itself, along with field conditions, largely determines the quality of evidence that can be obtained. Some of the questions that can be asked about any record include: (1) How easily is the species in question identified? (2) How well was the species seen and/or heard? (3) How good were the field conditions for observing? (4) How experienced is the observer with this and similar species? Eventually, we hope to make the supporting evidence available on this WEB site.
Many of the records listed have been cited in the Northern Great Plains reports in the journal that has been variously named as American Birds (abbreviated AB), Field Notes (FN) or North American Birds (NAB, the current name). This means that the Regional Editor for that season decided to include the record in his/her report. We have also indicated where photos have been published. We have attempted to list all citations, and will appreciate knowing of any that we have overlooked. Use of the term “Documented” means that documentation of the record is available. A number of the records will be or have been reviewed by the Ornithological Records Committee of the North Dakota Birding Society. Eventually this list will indicate the outcomes of such reviews.
Species that are candidates for the Accidental/Hypothetical List will continue to occur in Grand Forks County. Anyone out looking at birds may find such a species. When that happens, the observer should document the observation by taking field notes, and when possible, photos and/or sound recordings. They also should let others know immediately of the find so that they will have an opportunity to see the bird. Anyone reviewing this list who has an addition to make or a correction to note is asked to send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org