Introduction and History

Welcome to the web pages of the Pennsylvania Ornithological Records Committee (PORC). The pages include the Official List of the Birds of Pennsylvania and the Review List of rare species requiring documentation for acceptance into the state’s ornithological record. Tips on documenting review species are offered, and for convenience a rare bird report form can be filled out online for submission to the committee. Other features are summaries of the committee’s history, purposes, policies and procedures, plus a gallery of rare bird photographs taken in Pennsylvania.

PORC began in 1988 when it was established under the auspices of the Pennsylvania Biological Survey, a nonprofit organization designed to “increase the knowledge of and foster the perpetuation of the natural biological diversity of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.” The Survey consists of scientists, representatives of state and federal agencies, major natural history museums and scientific institutions, and interested individuals.

Subcommittees of the Survey were appointed for various classes of flora and fauna. The panel for birds is the Ornithological Technical Committee, which in turn organized the Records Committee in November 1988 as a subcommittee of its own. In an article in Pennsylvania Birds (2:91-94) soon after PORC was established, the journal’s Co-editor Franklin C. Haas wrote with satisfaction, “Pennsylvania will finally have a clearing house for ornithological records.”

The Records Committee held its first meeting in April 1989, attended by inaugural members Ed Kwater, Chairman; Barbara M. Haas, Secretary; Franklin C. Haas, Robert C. Leberman, Gerald D. McWilliams, Steven J. Santner, and Paul Schwalbe. Members have included professional ornithologists and experienced amateur observers during the committee’s history. The members are volunteers who spend many hours evaluating a hundred or more reports each year. Their expenses for travel to meetings, postage, and materials were originally subsidized by the Pennsylvania Wild Resource Conservation Fund but PORC in 2012 joined with PSO who provides necessary funds.

The Official List is revised every five years for publication in the journal Pennsylvania Birds. The first edition in 1990 (PB 4:51-53) consisted of 353 species. In the third edition published in 2000 (PB 14:105-109) the list grew to 389 species plus 7 species on a Provisional List. The most recent edition brings the current list to 426, 8 of which are on the provisional list. (Provisional species are accepted on the basis of sight records, but are not placed on the Official List because they have not yet been documented by physical evidence such as a specimen, photograph, video or audio recording.)

In voting to accept or not to accept a record, members explain on individual ballots the reasons for their votes. The committee publishes an annual report in Pennsylvania Birds announcing its decisions for the previous year. The ballots containing members’ votes and comments are maintained permanently by the Secretary and are available for research.

If you have questions about any aspect of the Committee, contact the


Holly Merker

or the Secretary:
Ian Gardner