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 Delaware City, Delaware
Region served
North America
Jeffrey A. Gordon
Main organ
Board of Directors

The American Birding Association (ABA) is a non-profit organization, founded in 1969, dedicated to recreational birding in Canada and the United States. It has been called "the standard-bearer for serious birding in North America."[1] Originally concentrated on finding, listing, and identifying rare birds, the ABA now seeks to serve all birders with a wide range of services and publications.


In December 1968, in the first issue (volume 0, number 0) of The Birdwatcher's Digest, Jim Tucker proposed the formation of a group to be known as the "American Birdwatchers' Association" for the exchange of information and the comparison of birding lists.[2][3]

On the suggestion of Stuart Keith, the next issue of Tucker's newsletter bore the name Birding (volume 1, number 1). This January/February 1969 issue included a statement of intentions and objectives and three pages of lists, including the birders with the top ten lists for the world and for the area then covered by the Check-list of the American Ornithologists' Union (AOU).[2] The organization was renamed the American Birding Association.[3] Expressly excluding conservation advocacy and ornithological research, the ABA's initial focus was on the hobby and sport of birding.[2] Through its publications and events, the early ABA sought to connect avid birders, establish rules for listing, and communicate the latest identification techniques.[3] By 1970, the organization had 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]

Beginning with volume 3 (1971), Birding was redesigned as a magazine; the annual page count increased to 258 from 96 in 1970.[3] The last issue of 1971 introduced a new full-color logo, designed by Guy Tudor, with the 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] have 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] Daniel T. (Dan) Williams (1993-1997), and Jeffrey Gordon (2008-present).[11]

Membership rose to 6,500 by October 1986[9] and first exceeded 10,000 in October 1992.[10] The ABA attained a high of 22,000 members in 2001.[12][13]

A monthly newsletter, Winging It, was published from 1989 to 2012.[10] In 1998, the ABA assumed responsibility for the publication of the National Audubon Society's journal Field Notes, subsequently renamed North American Birds.[11] The quarterly "Birder's Guide" first appeared in 2013.

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

The ABA's mission has expanded to support conservation and research efforts, beginning with its partnership with Birders' Exchange, a program supplying research equipment to young scientists in Central and South America.[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 a rotating schedule of themes.

Online publications[edit]

The ABA maintains a multi-authored blog.[18]

ABA's youth program hosts the blog The Eyrie.[19]

An increasing amount of content from "Birding" is also available on line.[20]

ABA Checklist[edit]

The ABA publishes a checklist of the more than 950 bird species found in the ABA Area (roughly, North America north of Mexico).[21] Updates to the most recent print edition are available on line.[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]

Members interested in bird listing share their totals at Listing Central.[27]

Bird-finding guides[edit]

The ABA has published bird-finding 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, and metropolitan areas of North America. There is also a guide to planning North American trips.[28][29]


The ABA offers birding camps, sponsors youth teams in birding competitions, provides scholarships, and conducts 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 identification and bird-finding guides, binoculars, and items related to conservation.[33]

The ABA offers birding rallies, tours, and workshops (through the ABA Institute for Field Ornithology) throughout the Americas.[34] The IFO workshops, established to foster cooperation between professional and amateur ornithologists, blend classroom instruction and field study.[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;"[35] it is often called birding's highest honor.[36] 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. The Griscom Award now specifically recognizes outstanding contributions to regional ornithology.[37]

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, posthumous recipient was Betty Petersen.[38] In 2015, the award was granted to Jack Siler.[39] Ann Nightingale received the award in 2016.[40]


  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 Wilds, Claudia (February 1994). "The ABA from Hatching to Fledging". Birding. 26 (1). Retrieved 4 September 2012. 
  3. ^ a b c d e Floyd, Ted (January–February 2006). "The History of Birding, Part I. 1968-1974" (PDF). Birding. 38 (1): 20–21. Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  4. ^ "ABA Logo Change" (PDF). 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" (PDF). 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" (PDF). 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" (PDF). 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" (PDF). 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" (PDF) (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" (PDF). Birding. 39 (2): 22–25. Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  15. ^ American Birding Association. "Birders' Exchange". Retrieved 11 September 2012. 
  16. ^ Floyd, Ted (November–December 2006). "The History of Birding, Part VI. 2001-2006" (PDF). 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. "Listing Central". Retrieved 25 April 2016. 
  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. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Events". Retrieved 22 October 2012. 
  35. ^ 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. 
  36. ^ "Expert birder starts playing the field: he sets his sight on common species". The Sacramento Bee. Sacramento, CA. November 20, 2000. p. B1. 
  37. ^ American Birding Association. "ABA Award Recipients". Retrieved 20 August 2012. 
  38. ^ Gordon, Jeffrey A. (March–April 2014). "Birding Together". Birding. 46 (2): 8–9. 
  39. ^ American Birding Association. "Announcing the American Birding Association 2015 Awards". Retrieved 30 June 2015. 
  40. ^ "Birds in the news: 10 important stories from the middle of February". BirdWatching. 23 February 2016. Retrieved 25 April 2016. 

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