Our knowledge of Ohio’s birds would be incomplete if we could not agree upon which birds rightfully belong on any list of these birds. All of us know the common species, but when it comes to the rare ones, opinions can differ in the absence of verified knowledge. Knowledge about the scarcer species is important: it may teach us about range changes among these birds, or provide the first warnings about threats to birds becoming harder to find locally or throughout their range. Similarly, evidence of unusual seasonal occurrences, nesting records, or noteworthy numbers of less common species is vital to monitoring their status in Ohio.
The nine-member Ohio Bird Records Committee exists to increase knowledge of Ohio’s bird life by validating records, maintaining public archives of rare occurrences of birds in the state, and establishing the official list of Ohio bird species. Currently the OBRC consists of: Paul Gardner, (Secretary), Bill Whan, Ed Pierce, Mike Busam, Rob Harlan, Sue Tackett, Jay Stenger, Rick Nirschl and Doug Vogus. OBRC also undertakes efforts to help field observers recognize and document significant records, and sponsors publications intended to define the status and distribution of all the state’s birds.
The Committee maintains the Review List, which includes all wild bird species encountered infrequently enough in the state that documentation (specimen, photo, sound recording, and/or full written description) is required for inclusion in the official record. Only records of rare birds with accepted documentation will be fully treated in The Ohio Cardinal, official checklists, and other publications about Ohio birds. Finally, the Committee offers a useful documentation form for sightings of Review species.
OBRC reviews documentations of bird sightings, not the sightings themselves. Thus, the Committee’s task is not to decide if a given species was seen, but something much more specific: that the documentation provided by observers verifies, for the historical record, the species’ occurrence at the time. As in all scientific determinations, the observer of a phenomenon must offer acceptable documentation of the observation to peer reviewers. Significant records include not only those of species rare in the state, but also rare nesting records of birds that usually are only migrants, or occurrences of birds well out of season.
Accepted records may be reopened for further consideration if significant new documentary evidence comes to light, and acceptance of other records may be withdrawn if new evidence warrants it. Every observer of a Review List species is urged to assemble and submit to the Committee the fullest possible documentation of the event. Without such information, vital references like the state Checklist, the major state monograph (Peterjohn, B.G. 2001. The Birds of Ohio. The Wooster Book Co., Wooster, OH), or the reports in The Ohio Cardinal would be impossible to compile.
Documentations, with Committee actions thereon, are archived for researchers. These records—with the exception of the identities of OBRC members on vote sheets—are available to the public on request of the Secretary of the Committee. The OBRC Bylaws govern this and all other aspects of the Committee’s functions; a copy of the bylaws can be found here.