[Tweeters] Re: On the Subject/Status of Mute Swans

Teresa Michelsen teresa at avocetconsulting.com
Sat Jun 6 08:46:47 PDT 2015

I think there’s a difference between counting as providing important data, and people putting it on their various lists, which results in some desire to have that bird continue to exist. Reading between the lines of the agencies’ concerns, they are worried that Mute Swans could gain a positive following and if they went to actually eradicate them for some sound ecological reason, birders and other members of the public would object if they came to see them as “belonging”. It’s not an unfounded fear, given how the public and birders generally react whenever any bird control program is enacted (no judgment there, just a statement). Having it not countable serves as a reminder to the public that these birds are not actually benign and are subject to control.

But nothing is actually stopping any birder from physically counting them and providing that as useful data. Ideally, birders would not refuse to report data for a species simply because it was not officially countable.

The question is whether it’s a good idea (aside from whether they are in fact established) to consider them enough part of the landscape, as it were, to include on a bird list – which is more a personal recreational device than science. There’s an additional question as to why a bird should be “countable” if the plan is to remove it. Just as with the requirement that populations should be naturally established, the idea is that it should be foreseeable that a bird will remain around and self-breeding to be countable.

Scientist me vs. birder me talking here,

Teresa Michelsen

Olympia WA

From: tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu [mailto:tweeters-bounces at mailman1.u.washington.edu] On Behalf Of Jason Hernandez
Sent: Friday, June 05, 2015 9:49 PM
To: Tweet Ters
Subject: [Tweeters] Re: On the Subject/Status of Mute Swans

I fail to see how classing the Mute swan as a pest species subject to control programs would add up to its not being countable. Although I agree that the Starling, House Sparrow, and Rock Dove are unlikely to be successfully exterminated by the ongoing control programs directed against them, can we agree that monitoring the population of a pest species is important data? And that allowing birders to count it contributes data points?

I have in mind the Eurasian Collared Dove. It is an exotic species, yes, but do we know for sure whether it is a pest? I can remember when there weren't any in places where I now see them with some frequency; how can such invasions be tracked, if not by birders dispersed throughout the region, noticing new invaders when they first appear?

Jason Hernandez


jason.hernandez74 at yahoo.com

Date: Fri, 5 Jun 2015 08:41:23 -0700 (GMT-07:00)
From: Matt Bartels <mattxyz at earthlink.net>
Subject: Re: [Tweeters] On the Subject/Status of Mute Swans
To: TWEETERS <tweeters at u.washington.edu>
<12472492.1433518883560.JavaMail.root at elwamui-muscovy.atl.sa.earthlink.net>

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Hi all -
[read on at your own peril]

With respect to Mute Swans in the state, just wanted to clarify that Wayne's position is an opinion, not a statement of fact.
Likewise, the Washington Bird Records Committee [WBRC] has an opinion on this, as does the ABA.

Here's my take on the situation -
The WBRC keeps the official state list, and does not include Mute Swan on the state checklist. In the opinion of the WBRC, there is not evidence that any reports from the state of this species are part of an established wild population.

As Wayne mentioned, no one is required to abide by the local state BRC rulings in deciding whether or not to include a species on their state checklist. Even the ABA does not require this for lists submitted to them. However, the ABA does suggest that judgement on whether or not to count an exotic be based on the best available information -- and I'd suggest that local Bird Records Committees might be a very useful source of guidance when making such judgement calls. We can't all keep up to date on status of every species, vagrancy patterns and the like. If there's a group that is tasked with looking in to such things, I'd recommend relying on them as the default unless you've got a line of reasoning that convinces you otherwise.

Moving to the ABA side of things, here's a webpage with info on how to determine 'countability' of exotics

Take a look at criteria #3 on that list:
3) The population is not currently, and is not likely to be, the subject of a control program where eradication may be a management goal that is likely to succeed. Some exotics (e.g., Mute Swan) present a clear danger to native species or habitats, or to agriculture or commerce, in some areas, and listing these species as established may create a conflict between some birders and land management personnel.

To me, that seems to be a pretty clear statement that Mute Swan in WA [a bird subject to control programs] is not countable. To keep things needlessly complex though, the ABA also states that Mute Swan one of the established exotics 'grandfathered in' to the checklist at the ABA level, despite not meeting these criteria. Whether the same grandfathering does or does not apply to regional level decisions is still in limbo at the ABA level.

So, though no one is required to follow decisions of the WBRC for countability in WA, if the guidance is there, I'd recommend taking advantage of it unless you've got a solid reason for deciding otherwise.


Matt Bartels
Seattle WA
[also WBRC secretary, though the above is my own take on the situation]

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