23-B-09 "Thayer's" Iceland Gull
13-B-11 Lesser Black-backed Gull
35-B-06 White-winged Dove

HOW TO DOCUMENT RARE BIRDS


Tips For Documenting Significant Sightings

You’ve seen a rare bird. You are sure you know what species it is. Now, how do you document the sighting so it will be officially validated and accepted as accurate data on that species’ occurrence? A great starting point is the eBird help page on how to report and describe rarities:

eBird- Reporting Rarities

What does the IBRC consider when evaluating reports?

  • A good description of the bird is the most important part of a rare bird report. Try to note as many details as possible- key field marks and any other characteristics you see about the bird should be included.  More details will help reviewers assess how well a bird was observed, how well key characters were observed, and how consistent the observed characters were with the species at issue.
  • Don’t forget size, shape, and behavior. It is hard to measure size in the field, so comparisons to other nearby species are the most helpful. Behavior is an important aspect of the identification that committee members consider.
  • Include specific details about key field marks, for instance shape, how much of the bird’s head, wing, etc, a mark covered. Sketches of field marks can help make these descriptions clear for committee members.
  • Include photos if you have them. However, a good description is still needed. This article by David Irons explains why photos can sometimes be misleading and shouldn’t replace a good description.
    A Lost Art?: Writing Descriptions of Rare Birds
  • Avoid comments like: “compared with pictures,”  “all field marks observed,” or “sounded just like tape”. Committee members can’t look through your eyes and judge your interpretations of what you saw.  The solution is to describe what you actually saw or heard as completely as you can.

Here is an example of a thorough, well written Rare Bird Report:

Chestnut-sided Warbler 29-B-2016