After being banished from the British List in 1999, Hooded Merganser has now been reinstated to category A by the British Ornithologists' Union. The record in question was of an immature or female at Oban Trumisgarry on North Uist in the Outer Hebrides, in October/November 2000. The BOURC's announcement accepts that this decision was not straightforward. It was acknowledged that there are large numbers in captivity and known escapes have occurred, and the BOURC states that it remains of the opinion that the majority of birds in Britain and Ireland are derived from a captive origin. Conversely, numbers of the species in the Nearctic are increasing, and there have been several recent records from the Azores, implying that transatlantic vagrancy is certainly a possibility. Weather conditions in autumn 2000 also appeared conducive to natural vagrancy, and the bird arrived at the same time as a number of other Nearctic ducks.
BUBO Listing has now added Hooded Merganser to the BOU authority list. However, the next question is which individuals should British birders feel able to tick? Obviously, anyone who saw this bird on North Uist will be happy, but there are a number of other recent records which might also be reasonably considered as wild birds. In particular, the BOURC news announcement makes mention of the birds at Newbiggin, Northumberland, in March 2002 and at Haroldswick, Shetland, in April/May 2006. These two individuals have been published by the British Birds Rarities Committee previously as acceptable category D records, and so it would seem reasonable to allow listers to include these birds also.
Some birders may wish to count other individuals. For example, up to four birds were at large in the 1996/97 winter. The way BUBO Listing operates, British birders can add any Hooded Merganser to their list if they wish to do so. Some will wish to wait for the BBRC to pass judgement on a record before counting it. Others may feel that any bird that doesn't display obvious signs of captive origin is acceptable. It's up to you. Remember, however, that your record will be open to scrutiny to any other birders, so make sure you feel you can argue its case!