What should I do to report a rare bird?
April 1, 2009
If you are fortunate enough to see a rare bird, you should take careful notes about what you see, describing plumage color patterns, beak shape, eye color, behavior, habitat, vocalizations, and any other features that will aid in identification. Draw a sketch of the bird noting any distinctive characteristics or, better yet, try to take a photograph or video of the bird in action. If you’re inexperienced at documenting rare birds, you might want to call a trusted, more experienced birder to see if she or he can confirm your sighting. Your careful documentation of this bird will help you build your skills and also ensure that your report becomes part of the scientific record.
Once you’re absolutely certain of its identification and have written down your documenting description, Report it to your local bird club, Rare Bird Alert, or Audubon chapter, and make sure to report it on eBird. Don’t feel defensive if you’re questioned about all the details. It is essential for official records to be accurate, and the overall feeling is that it’s best to leave out some legitimate sightings that aren’t well-enough documented than to include some inaccurate ones. Virtually every birder has had at least one sighting rejected by a state organization. This is not a commentary on your birding skills or a judgment of what you’ve really seen, but simply a conclusion, usually by a committee, that there is at least a remote chance that your bird may have been something else. Usually their findings will be very helpful in teaching receptive birders (and not just the one whose report was rejected!) what features to look more closely at, and what other possibilities to take into account when documenting a rare bird.