American Birding Association

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American Birding Association
American Birding Association logo.gif
Abbreviation ABA
Formation 1968
Type Non-profit organization
Purpose "Inspiring all people to enjoy and protect wild birds"
Headquarters Colorado Springs, CO
Region served North America
President Jeffrey A. Gordon
Main organ Board of Directors

The American Birding Association (ABA) is a non-profit organization of people interested in birding. Begun in 1968, the ABA is the only organization in North America that specifically caters to recreational birders. Membership is open to all. Originally formed as an organization to focus entirely on birding for fun and for its own sake, many of its publications and programs were aimed at birders interested in difficult field identifications and finding rare species. It has been called "the standard-bearer for serious birding in North America."[1] In more recent years, the ABA membership has drawn more broadly from the entire range of birders and the topics in its publications have become equally diverse.


In its early years, the history of the organization was congruent with that of its single publication. In December 1968, Jim Tucker sent out the first issue (volume 0, number 0) of The Birdwatcher's Digest to a dozen friends, suggesting a group to exchange birding information and publish their list totals.[2][3] He proposed the "American Birdwatchers' Association" as a name for the group.[3] At that point in time, there were few birdfinding guide books available, and birders' information-sharing networks were scattered and undeveloped.[2]

At the suggestion of Stuart Keith, the newsletter's name was changed to Birding for the next issue (volume 1, number 1) for January/February 1969; it included a statement of intentions and objectives and three pages of lists: the names of the birders with the top ten American Ornithologists Union (AOU) area lists, the top ten world lists, and others.[2] With issue number 2, the organization was named the American Birding Association.[3] The organization's initial focus was on the hobby and sport of birding, leaving contributions to the scientific literature and conservation advocacy to other groups.[2] The ABA and Birding served to connect avid birders, establish ground rules for listing, and keep them updated on the latest identification techniques; articles in the early issues discussed heard-only species, exotics seen in the Pribilof Islands, and birdfinding information on Swainson's warbler.[3]

An elective membership policy was established, similar to that of the AOU, and remained in place for 20 years. The number of elective members was limited to 150, and a candidate for this level of membership was required to have an ABA Area list of 500 species or a state or province list with 70 percent of the official total. Only an elective member could vote for or become a director of the ABA.[2] By the tenth issue (1970), the organization comprised more than 500 members.[2]

The first officers included Keith as president, Arnold Small as vice-president, and Tucker as secretary and treasurer. Shortly thereafter, Joseph W. Taylor became treasurer, and Bob Smart joined as second vice-president. Benton Basham became membership chairman in 1971, and was responsible for much of the organization's growth.[2]

For volume 3 (1971), Birding was redesigned as a magazine, and the page count increased to 258, up from 96 in the previous year.[3] The last issue of the volume displayed the organization's new full-color logo, designed by Guy Tudor, featuring an image of a red-billed tropicbird.[2][4]

The ABA held its first convention in 1973, in Kenmare, North Dakota[3] and its second in Leamington, Ontario.[5]

Subsequent presidents of the organization[6] included Arnold Small (1976-1979),[7] Joseph W. (Joe) Taylor (1979-1983),[8] Lawrence G. (Larry) Balch (1983-1989),[9] Allan Keith (1989-1993; 1997-1999),[10] and Daniel T. (Dan) Williams (1993-1997).[11]

Membership numbers rose to 6,500 by October 1986[9] and exceeded 10,000 in October 1992.[10] In 2001, the organization had 22,000 members,[12] but this number had declined to 15,000 in 2009.[13]

The first issue of a monthly newsletter, Winging It, was dated January 1989.[10] In 1998, the ABA took over publication of the National Audubon Society's journal Field Notes, subsequently renaming it as North American Birds.[11]

In 2000, the ABA assumed management of the Institute for Field Ornithology workshops from Charles Duncan at the University of Maine at Machias.[14]

Towards the turn of the century, the ABA began to expand its scope to support various conservation and research efforts, beginning with a partnership with Birders' Exchange.[11][15] Conservation-oriented content began to appear more frequently in Birding with the 2001 volume.[16]


Along with the National Audubon Society, the American Birding Association is one of two nationwide organizations that serve the information and social interaction needs of American birders.[17]

Print publications[edit]

The ABA publishes Birding, its bimonthly magazine; North American Birds, a seasonal "journal of record" for North American birdlife; and Birder's Guide, a quarterly publication with each issue focused on a theme, such as travel, gear, or conservation.

Online publications[edit]

The ABA maintains a multi-authored blog in which a variety of perspectives are shared; posts do not necessarily represent the organization's official views.[18]

ABA's youth program encourages young birders by hosting The Eyrie, a youth-oriented blog.[19]

Supplementary materials for articles in Birding are made available online.[20]

ABA Checklist[edit]

The organization maintains and publishes a checklist of more than 950 bird species to be found in the ABA Area (roughly, North America north of Mexico).[21] Minor updates since the most recent print edition are available online.[22]

The Checklist provides the common names used by a recent edition of the Peterson field guide,[23] and it is one of the authorities consulted by the compilers of many popular bird identification guides in order to establish ranges and the status of populations.[24][25][26]

Birding lists[edit]

The ABA produces an annual publication of interested members' birding lists. The annual Big Day and List Report includes rankings of the total number of species ever recorded by an individual (a lifelist), as well as the number recorded over one calendar year (a big year), in one day (a big day), or for various regions.[27]

Birdfinding guides[edit]

The ABA has published birdfinding guides to the following regions: Alaska, Southeastern Arizona, Arkansas, Belize, Southern California, Churchill, Manitoba (out of print, ISBN 1-878788-07-8), Colorado (out of print, ISBN 1-878788-05-1), Florida, Idaho (out of print, ISBN 1-878788-14-0), Louisiana, Michigan, New Hampshire (out of print, ISBN 1-878788-11-6), the Rio Grande Valley in Texas, the Texas Coast, Virginia, Washington state, Wyoming (out of print, ISBN 1-878788-02-7), the Bahama Islands, metropolitan areas of North America, and a guide to planning North American trips.[28][29]


Over its 40-year history, the ABA has continued to develop a range of initiatives and events.

The ABA encourages birding among young people by offering birding camps, sponsoring youth teams in birding competitions, providing scholarships to birding camps, and by running an annual ABA Young Birder of the Year Contest.[30][31]

The organization promulgates a Code of Birding Ethics, guiding birders to protect birds, the environment, and the rights of others.[32]

In addition to offering ABA apparel, the organization has partnered with for-profit companies to sell such things as identification and birdfinding guides, binoculars, and articles related to conservation like shade-grown coffee.[33]

ABA is a partner with Birders' Exchange, a program whereby donated optics, field guides, and other materials are distributed to conservationists and educators in Latin America and the Caribbean.[15][34]

The ABA offers conferences and conventions, smaller-scale birding rallies, tours, and workshops (through the ABA Institute for Field Ornithology) at various hotspots throughout the Americas. These are geared towards studying and enjoying birds, making new friends, and becoming a better birder.[35] The IFO workshops, established with a goal of promoting cooperation between professional and amateur ornithologists, comprise a blend of classroom instruction and field study; each event is limited to 25 or fewer participants. Some offerings focus on a specific family of birds, while others are organized thematically around topics like migration or breeding ecology.[14]


The ABA presents several awards for promoting the cause of birding, advancing the state of ornithology, and making significant contributions to education and conservation. In 1980, it initiated the Ludlow Griscom Award to recognize "outstanding contributions to excellence in field birding;"[36] it is often called birding's highest honor.[37] In 2000, the awards program was expanded to include the Chandler Robbins Award for Education/Conservation, the Claudia Wilds Award for Distinguished Service, and the Roger Tory Peterson Award for Promoting the Cause of Birding. The Robert Ridgway Award for Publications in Field Ornithology was added in 2002, and today the Griscom award more specifically recognizes outstanding contributions to regional ornithology.[38]

In 2014, the ABA introduced the Betty Petersen Award for Conservation and Community, to honor "those who have made great strides in expanding, diversifying, and strengthening the birding community, and those who have worked to build a support network for conservation." The first recipient was Betty Petersen herself; the award was given posthumously, Petersen having died in June 2013.[39]


  1. ^ Weidensaul, Scott (2008). Of a Feather: A Brief History of American Birding. Orlando, Fla.: Harcourt, Inc. p. 262. ISBN 978-0156033558. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h Wilds, Claudia (February 1994). "The ABA from Hatching to Fledging". Birding 26 (1). Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Floyd, Ted (January–February 2006). "The History of Birding, Part I. 1968-1974". Birding 38 (1): 20–21. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "ABA Logo Change". Birding 41 (6): 23. November 2009. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  5. ^ Gill, Boyd (22 June 1975). "Club Promotes Hobby and Sport of Birding". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. p. 51. Retrieved 18 September 2012. 
  6. ^ "Past Presidents & Board Chairs". Birding 44 (4): 6. July 2012. 
  7. ^ Floyd, Ted (March–April 2006). "The History of Birding, Part II. 1975-1980". Birding 38 (2): 20–21. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  8. ^ "J. Taylor, 79, Lover of Birds". Philadelphia Inquirer. 30 September 1992. Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  9. ^ a b Floyd, Ted (May–June 2006). "The History of Birding, Part III. 1981-1987". Birding 38 (3): 18–19. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  10. ^ a b c Floyd, Ted (July–August 2006). "The History of Birding, Part IV. 1988-1993". Birding 38 (4): 18–19. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  11. ^ a b c Floyd, Ted (September–October 2006). "The History of Birding, Part V. 1994-2000". Birding 38 (5): 18–19. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  12. ^ Clines, Francis X. (4 February 2001). "Field Guide? Check. Binoculars? Check. Lobbyists? Soon.". New York Times. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  13. ^ Scott, David; Lee, Sunwoo; Lee Ji-Yeon (May 2009). "An Investigation of Behaviors and Opinions of Members of the American Birding Association" (Unpublished report ed.). Department of Recreation, Park, and Tourism Sciences, Texas A&M University. Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  14. ^ a b Petersen, Wayne R. (March–April 2007). "The ABA's Institute for Field Ornithology: A Brief History". Birding 39 (2): 22–25. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  15. ^ a b American Birding Association. "Birders' Exchange". Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  16. ^ Floyd, Ted (November–December 2006). "The History of Birding, Part VI. 2001-2006". Birding 38 (6): 18–19. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  17. ^ Dunne, Pete (2003). Pete Dunne on Bird Watching: The How-to, Where-to, and When-to of Birding. Boston, Mass.: Houghton Mifflin. pp. 129–130. ISBN 9780395906866. 
  18. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Blog". Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  19. ^ American Birding Association. "The Eyrie". Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  20. ^ American Birding Association. "Birding Archives". Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  21. ^ American Birding Association (2009). ABA Checklist: Birds of the Continental United States and Canada (7th ed.). p. 203. ISBN 1878788434. 
  22. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Checklist". Retrieved 25 September 2012. 
  23. ^ Peterson, Roger Tory (2008). Peterson Field Guide to Birds of North America. New York, N.Y.: Houghton Mifflin. p. 497. ISBN 978-0618966141. 
  24. ^ Dunn, Jon L.; Alderfer, Jonathan (2011). National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America (6th ed.). Washington, D.C.: National Geographic Society. p. 7. ISBN 978-1426208287. 
  25. ^ Floyd, Ted (2008). Smithsonian Field Guide to the Birds of North America. New York, N.Y.: HarperCollins. pp. 2–4, 499–504. ISBN 978-0061120404. 
  26. ^ Stokes, Donald; Stokes, Lillian (2010). The Stokes Field Guide to the Birds of North America. New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company. pp. xi–xii. ISBN 978-0316010504. 
  27. ^ American Birding Association (July 2012). "2011 ABA Big Day & ABA List Report". Birding 44 (4): Supplement. 
  28. ^ American Birding Association. "Birdfinding Guides". Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  29. ^ Buteo Books. "Publications of the American Birding Association". Retrieved 24 September 2012. 
  30. ^ American Birding Association. "Young Birders". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  31. ^ "Young Birder of the Year Honored with Roger Tory Peterson App and Apple iPad 2". 14 April 2011. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  32. ^ American Birding Association. "Principles of Birding Ethics". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  33. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Sales". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  34. ^ Tambopata Jacamars Bird Club. "Working with the Birders' Exchange, American Birding Association". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  35. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Events". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  36. ^ Davis, William E., Jr. (1994). Dean of the Birdwatchers: A Biography of Ludlow Griscom. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press. p. 198. ISBN 1-56098-310-8. 
  37. ^ "Expert birder starts playing the field: he sets his sight on common species". The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento, CA. November 20, 2000. p. B1. 
  38. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Award Recipients". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  39. ^ Gordon, Jeffrey A. (March–April 2014). "Birding Together". Birding 46 (2): 8–9. 

External links[edit]