The Massachusetts Avian Records Committee (MARC) was formed in 1989 for the purposes of evaluating, analyzing, archiving and sharing evidence supporting current and historical records of birds rare to the Commonwealth.
Current MARC Members are Nick Block, Marshall Iliff, Jessica Johnson (Chair), Wayne Petersen, Ryan Schain, David Sibley, Jim Sweeney, Larry Therrien, and Maili Waters. Sean Williams is Secretary and the person to contact with any submissions or questions.
We hope this website will be a valuable resource to fellow enthusiasts of bird distribution, as well as a fun place to rehash great finds and twitches or to catch up on what you’ve missed. And we’d love to inspire you to find and document some more rare birds—and let us know when you do!
A special thank-you to the Massachusetts Natural Heritage and Endangered Species Program of MassWildlife for providing the funding to maintain this website. The NHESP plays a most critical role in the conservation of hundreds of non-game species and the habitats in which they live, throughout Massachusetts.
2019 members of the MARC. 22 September 2019, College of the Holy Cross, Worcester.
Pictured left to right: Nick Block, Marshall Iliff, Jessica Johnson, Wayne Petersen, Jim Sweeney, Tim Spahr (Chair), and Sean Williams (Secretary). Not pictured: Ryan Schain, David Sibley, and Larry Therrien.
Data collection policy
MARC’s goal is to collect, archive and share information and analysis regarding rare birds in Massachusetts. We seek out information from publicly available sources, such as Massbird and websites, including photo-sharing sites and blogs. We also depend on members of the vast birding community to submit photos, sketches, videos, audio clips, field notes, analysis and other information about rare-bird observations, and indeed encourage submissions even where information about a particular record is publicly available.
We may publish the information submitted or otherwise collected on MARC’s website or in other publications, such as our Annual Report published in Bird Observer or any print or electronic publication MARC may choose to publish. For accepted records, we credit the source of the information whenever possible. We generally do not identify the observers of or publish evidence related to records that MARC has not accepted.
All submissions should be made by contacting the MARC Secretary, whose information is found on the “Submit Sighting” page.
Bylaws of the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee
The name of the organization shall be the Massachusetts Avian Records Committee, hereafter referred to as the “Committee.”
A. To evaluate documented records of unusual occurrences of birds in Massachusetts and adjacent ocean.
B. To maintain permanently the original bird records and all Committee votes and comments for future reference.
C. To publish at least minimal data on all records receiving a decision, to provide a means by which sight records can gain acceptance as valuable scientific data, and to educate and encourage the birding community in observing, recording and reporting birds.
D. To establish procedures for submitting records to the Committee.
E. To establish and maintain an official Massachusetts state bird list.
F. To produce a list of species or types of records for which documentation is required.
A. Composition. The Committee shall consist of nine “Voting Members.” One of these members must be the “Chair.” One of these members may be the “Secretary.” If the Secretary is a non-voting member, the committee will consist of ten members: nine Voting Members, one of whom is the Chair, and the non-voting Secretary. In their role as a Voting Member, a Secretary elected as a Voting Member shall adhere to all restrictions as required by the bylaws including term limits. This individual’s role as Secretary shall continue to follow term limit requirements as defined in the bylaws. Each Voting Member shall have one vote.
B. Qualifications. Anyone is eligible who has demonstrated an ability in and knowledge of field identification of birds.
C. Voting Members
1. Election and Term of Office
(a) The nine Voting Members shall be elected on a staggered basis, each for a term of three years, so that three shall be elected each year. Election shall be by vote of a quorum present in person or represented by written ballot at the Annual Meeting of the Committee. An absent Voting Member may vote by indicating the choice(s) to the Secretary in writing prior to the meeting. Each Voting Member shall have the same number of votes as open positions to be filled. The three candidates receiving the largest number of votes shall be elected; if necessary, ties shall be decided by an additional ballot(s) listing only those persons tied.
(b) Voting Members take office at the close of the Annual meeting at which they were elected, and serve until the close of the third Annual meeting after their election or until their successors are elected.
(c) Voting Members must retire after two consecutive full terms, and must wait until the next Annual Meeting before they may be considered for reelection unless there is a Special Election, in which case he or she may be considered prior to the next Annual Meeting.
2. Nominations: Nominations for Voting Members should be made only by Voting Members and only in writing to the Secretary at least 30 days prior to the Annual Meeting. It is the responsibility of the nominator to obtain willingness to serve from the nominee he/she submits. If the total number of nominees is not sufficient to fill the vacant seats, it is the responsibility of the Chair to make additional nominations.
1. Election and Term of Office
(a) The Chair shall be elected from among the Voting Members for a term of one year, and may serve an unlimited number of terms except as provided in the Bylaws controlling the number of terms a Voting Member may serve.
(b) Election shall be by a vote of a quorum of at least seven Voting Members present in person at the Annual Meeting of the Committee. The candidate receiving the largest number of votes shall be elected.
(c) The Chair takes office at the close of the Annual meeting at which elected and serves until the close of the next Annual Meeting or until a successor is elected.
(d) The Chair must notify the Secretary by mail at least three weeks in advance of the Annual Meeting of a willingness to continue in office or an intention to retire.
2. Nominations: Nominations for the Chair are to be made by Voting Members to the Secretary at any time prior to the Annual Meeting.
(a) Call and preside at Committee meetings.
(b) Ensure the proper application of the Bylaws.
(c) With approval of the Committee, appoint a Secretary.
(d) Procure additional data on records when deemed desirable, especially when a record is to come up for a discussion at a meeting of the Committee. Prior to a meeting, to furnish the Secretary with a list of records and/or topics to be discussed.
(e) With approval of the Committee, appoint chairs of subcommittees when deemed appropriate.
(f) Furnish or cause to be furnished to anyone upon request, a current Review List, and copies of all appropriate evidence, including Committee comments concerning an accepted or rejected bird record.
1. Qualifications: Anyone with an interest in birding, and a willingness to serve is eligible.
2. Appointment and Term of Office
(a) The Secretary will be appointed by the Chair with the approval of the Committee.
(b) The Secretary may serve an unlimited number of one-year terms.
(c) The Secretary takes office at the close of the Annual Meeting at which appointed and serves until the close of the next Annual Meeting or until a successor is appointed.
(a) Keep or cause to keep the minutes of the Committee meetings.
(b) Receive, circulate, recirculate and file all bird records and supporting data submitted to the Committee.
(c) Furnish ballots to Voting Members and tabulate results of all votes of the Committee.
(d) Keep current a master copy of these Bylaws.
F. Removals: The Committee may remove, with cause, any Voting Member or the Secretary, who is delinquent in his/her duties, or acts in a manner that reflects poorly on the Committee. Such action requires a vote of the majority of all Voting Members, not merely a quorum. A removal must be accomplished at a meeting of the Committee.
G. Vacancies and Special Elections: If the Committee loses a Voting Member during mid-term, the Chair shall immediately conduct an election, termed a Special Election. A Special Election may be conducted at a meeting or by individual contact, whichever is most expedient in the opinion of the Chair. The person elected to fill the vacancy shall serve the unexpired term of the person replaced, and subsequently shall be eligible to serve two additional consecutive full terms.
A. Annual Meeting: An Annual Meeting of the Committee shall be held at a time and place set by the Chair, for the purpose of conducting elections and for transacting such other business as may be brought before the Committee. An agenda and list of nominees for Voting Members shall be provided at least three weeks prior to the Annual Meeting.
B. Special Meetings: Special Meetings of the Committee may be called by the Chair, or by agreement of any six or more Voting Members. Whoever calls the meeting must notify and provide an agenda to each Voting Member prior to the meeting.
C. Quorum: Seven Voting Members shall constitute a quorum for any meeting of the Committee.
A. Formation: All Bylaws and other procedures of the Committee are to be determined by, and only by, the Committee.
B. Review: The Bylaws shall be reviewed regularly, at least once every five years, by the Committee.
C Amendments: These Bylaws may be amended by an affirmative vote of all or all but one of a quorum at any Committee meeting.
D. Other decisions: All Committee decisions which are not treated elsewhere in the Bylaws shall be made by a majority vote by at least a quorum of the Members.
VI. Bird Records
A. Definitions: For the purposes of this Committee and these Bylaws, a “record” is considered to be documentation submitted to or obtained by the Committee as proof of the identity of a sighted, heard, collected, banded, or photographed bird. The “Review List” is that most recent list of species that will be accepted for review by the Committee.
B. Records Treated:
1. Records only from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts and adjacent ocean will be treated. “Adjacent ocean” is herein defined as oceanic waters within the United States territorial waters (i.e., south of the Hague line) and closer to Massachusetts than any other state, up to 200 nautical miles offshore.
2. Any species that would represent a first Massachusetts record.
3. Any record of a species on the Review List and substantiated with any or all forms of documentation will be evaluated by the Committee. Primary consideration for such evaluation will be the adequacy of the documentation, and proof that the documentation, in fact, pertains to a bird reported from Massachusetts or adjacent ocean. The Review List includes:
(a) Any species recorded in Massachusetts fewer than 10 times overall or fewer than 5 times in the last 20 years.
(b) Any rare and/or difficult to identify species as designated by the Committee.
4. Records of species or other taxa (e.g., subspecies, genera) that are geographically or temporally rare will be evaluated at the discretion of the Committee.
5. Records based on specimens or banding will be treated in the same manner as other records.
C. Submission. Records may be submitted in any form, including written, photographic, digital image, video, audio recording, drawing, or specimen. However, each record should be accompanied by written details that include, at minimum, the species being reported, the name(s) of the evidence provider(s), initial finder(s)/identifier(s) (if known), the location, and the date(s) of the observation; additionally, a written description of the bird should be strongly encouraged.
1. A record that has received a final Committee decision, whether accepted or rejected, may be resubmitted at the discretion of the Committee, by a majority vote of Committee members. Such a record shall be resubmitted and circulated following the same procedure as new submissions, except that it should be accompanied by all previous votes and comments of the Committee and all new evidence marked as such.
2. Resubmissions will be subject to the same evaluation process, except that previously accepted records must receive a majority of reject votes to reverse the previous decision; otherwise they remain accepted.
1. Receipt by Secretary: upon receipt of a record, the Secretary, upon consultation with the Chair, should:
(a) Check the description for completeness and clarity and, if deemed desirable, request additional information from the reporter or other observers. Details thus acquired must be clearly marked as such.
(b) Affix to it a unique number, consisting of the year of the sighting, followed by a hyphen, then the next available number, starting with “1” for that year. If a record is represented by documentation from more than one observer, each description should receive the same number.
(c) Record in a master file organized by record number the taxon, name of the evidence provider(s), initial finder(s)/identifier(s) (if known), date range and location for each record.
(d) Create for each record a ballot containing the record number, taxon, number of birds being evaluated with the record, name of the evidence provider(s), initial finder(s)/identifier(s) (if known), date range and location; the date range and location should be supported by evidence in the record where possible.
(e) Convey the record(s) to the Voting Members along with a cover sheet indicating the number(s) included in the package.
2. Receipt by a Voting Member: Upon receipt of a record(s), the Voting Member shall:
(a) Evaluate the record,vote and, as governed by VI-F-4 below, comment.
(b) Convey the completed ballot to the Secretary promptly.
(a) If a decision is not received after the first vote, the record shall by recirculated together with the comments of every Voting Member.
(b) If after a second vote the record has not received a decision vote, comments of every member will be circulated and a decision will be postponed until it can be discussed at a Committee meeting.
(c) After said discussion Voting Members shall vote for a final decision.
1. Ballot. The vote of each Voting Member, together with comments, if any, must be submitted on an official Ballot.
2. Voting categories.
i. identification not established
ii. natural occurrence questionable
iii. establishment of introduced population questionable
(c) Same bird issues and record details.
3. Abstentions. Voting Members may not abstain from voting.
4. Comments. On the first circulation, a reject vote must be supported by appropriate comments. On subsequent circulations, either a reject or accept vote shall be supported by comments. On any circulation, when voting to accept, each Voting Member shall clearly state in comments if he or she believes the bird(s) being voted on most likely pertains to the same bird(s) treated in another record. If he or she disagrees with any of the details in the ballot (e.g., date range, evidence providers, location and number of birds) this will be made clear in the comments.
5. Consultations. During the evaluation process Voting Members may solicit information from anyone having particular knowledge of the species or the individual bird(s) in question. Any such information shall be shared with all Voting Members as early in the process as possible.
(a) If all Voting Members accept the proposed identification of a submitted record, that record is accepted; if all Voting Members reject the proposed identification of a submitted record, that record is rejected.
(b) If the first round of voting yields any ratio of votes other than those stated above, the record will be recirculated.
(c) If in subsequent rounds all, or all but one, Voting Members concur with the proposed identification of a submitted record, that record is accepted; if fewer than two of the Voting Members concur with the proposed identification of a submitted record, that record is rejected; if neither of these events occur, the record will be brought before a meeting of the Committee for discussion, and voted on again.
(d) Unless this final vote yields acceptance as defined in VI-F-6-(c) above, the record is rejected. (e) If a record is rejected on the basis of natural occurrence questionable, and it is not yet on the state list, it shall be brought to the next annual meeting where a majority vote will be needed to place it on the supplemental list.
(f) If the majority of Voting Members of an accepted record commented that the record most likely pertains to the same bird(s) that were subject of a separate accepted record, those records shall be linked together in any published data to reflect this. At the discretion of the Secretary and Chair, accepted records may be recirculated or brought to a meeting to address comments pertaining to minority positions in same bird issues.
(g) The committee may have a process for expedited review using a compatible bird record review system (e.g., eBird) for judging certain records such that they are presumed accepted if they have passed that process. However, prior to publication in the annual report any committee member can require a record to go through the full voting procedure outlined in (c)-(f) above.
7. Change of Voting Member. A ballot in progress at the time a new Voting Member is elected should be completed by the retiring Voting Member. Subsequent circulations of that ballot should be completed by the new Voting Member. Record circulations should be timed to avoid this to the extent possible.
8. Voting Members will have 30 days to return their ballots and rationales to the Secretary from the first day members receive ballots and documentation. If ballots from eight or more Voting Members are received in that time, the Secretary shall use those ballots to tally the votes. If ballots from seven or fewer members are received, the Secretary shall wait until eight ballots from Voting Members are received.
1. The decisions of the Committee shall be published annually, under the authorship of the Chair and/or others, in the form of an Annual Report.
2. The published data for accepted records will include at least the name of the bird, date(s) of observation, locality, evidence provider(s), and the initial finder(s)/identifier(s) (if known). Other data may be added at the discretion of the authors. The authors have discretion to adjust date range and precise location from those listed on a record’s ballot, based on Committee Member comments or additional evidence.
3. Rejected records should also be published, with the above data, except that the observer’s name(s) should not be included in the record. In publication, the term unaccepted should be used instead of rejected.
4. The Committee will publish an official Massachusetts State List.