31/01/2003
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Ascension Frigatebird Added to Category A of the British List

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Magnificent Frigatebird Removed from the British List

The British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) has added Ascension Frigatebird (Fregata aquila) to Category A of the British List following the reidentification of a bird found moribund on the island of Tiree, Inner Hebrides, Argyllshire, Scotland on 9 July 1953 (sight record, specimen) and originally identified as Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens). With no other records, Magnificent Frigatebird is therefore removed from the British List.

The bird, an immature female, was found exhausted on 9 July 1953 and died later the same day. The body was taken to the National Museum of Scotland where it remained for nearly fifty years, its identity as Magnificent Frigatebird unquestioned.

The record was recently reviewed by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) following a decision by the Association of European Rarities Committees (AERC) to bring European rarities committees into line with a standard date of 1950 for Category A records. Prior to this, the accepted date for Category A in Britain was 1958, the date when BBRC was formed. During the circulation, BBRC members Brian Small and Grahame Walbridge suspected a misidentification and undertook detailed research to confirm the identity as Ascension Frigatebird. Identification of immature frigatebirds is not straightforward and this research broke new ground.

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At the same time that Magnificent Frigatebird is removed from the British List, it is added to the Isle of Man List following the discovery of an exhausted bird at Scarlett Point, Castletown, on 22 December 1998. The bird, an adult female was taken into care, where it died 10 months later (October 1999). The detailed description plus photographs left no doubt that the bird was correctly identified, though unfortunately the corpse was not retained. Thankfully the original observers of the Tiree frigatebird sent the body to a museum, otherwise Ascension Frigatebird would have been denied its rightful place on the British List.

There will be a full paper appearing in British Birds outlining this remarkable event.

These changes mean that the British List remains on 565 species: (Category A = 542; Category B = 14; Category C = 9).

BRITISH ORNITHOLOGISTS' UNION

The Natural History Museum, Tring, Hertfordshire HP23 6AP, UK
Tel: +44 (0) 1 442 890 080
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7942 6150
Email: bou@bou.org.uk
Website: www.bou.org.uk/www.ibis.ac.uk

British Birds Rarities Committee

Bag End, Churchtown, Towednack, Cornwall TR26 3AZ.