Recording Standards and Ethics Committee

Welcome to the website of the American Birding Association’s Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (RSEC)! Here you should be able to find answers to most of your questions regarding birding ethics and bird “countability”. Please find below several links to information produced by and/or related to the RSEC. If you don’t find an answer to your birding question, please let us know! We would like to be as accessible to the ABA membership as possible, and we encourage your feedback on issues under our purview. Our email is

Mission Statement and Purpose
The Recording Standards and Ethics Committee (RSEC) shall establish and amend the rules and procedures for the submission to, and publication by, the American Birding Association (ABA), of bird life lists, Big Year Reports, Big Day Reports, and defined listing regions, and shall be responsible for the dissemination, utility, and respect of the ABA Code of Birding Ethics, and will address policy concerns regarding issues of birding ethics as they apply to the ABA.

RSEC Bylaws – Created in 2014, this is our guiding document and includes information on membership nomination, our voting process, etc.

Committee Members – An introduction to the Committee’s current members.

Communications – Blog posts, annual reports, and other communiqués from the Committee.

Code of Birding Ethics – These are the principles that all birders are asked to follow when in the field. All species submitted on official lists to the ABA must have been encountered in accordance with this Code. Please share this ethical Code with your birding friends! If you have any questions or concerns regarding the Code of Ethics, please do not hesitate to contact us.

Recording Rules and Interpretations – Updated in 2014, these Rules and interpretations should answer most questions you might have about the countability of a particular bird you observed. If your particular scenario is not addressed here, please don’t hesitate to contact us! We are happy to help clarify things and make any necessary updates to the Rule interpretations. We will generate a FAQ page if certain questions continue to pop up.

Big Year Rules – Created in 2014, these rules establish official standards for Big Years. Any ABA Area Big Year lists submitted to the ABA must be in accordance with these rules.

Big Day Rules – Any Big Day Count lists submitted to the ABA must be in accordance with these rules. These rules are currently in the process of being updated.

Votes – Committee voting results for various proposals, rule changes, etc.

Proposing a Change to the Code of Ethics or the Recording Rules and Interpretations
In an effort to make the RSEC more accessible and transparent, the Committee Bylaws (see Section E) stipulate that anyone may submit a relevant question or proposal requesting a change to the existing Code of Ethics and/or Recording Rules. Changes proposed are welcome to range from a small, clarifying edit/addition to a Rule interpretation to sweeping alterations to the ethical Code. Ideally, the language of the submitted proposal should make it such that the RSEC can give Yes or No votes on the issue. ABA members may submit their questions and/or proposals to us at We look forward to hearing from you!

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