Reporting a Rare Bird

Reporting a Rare Bird 2017-12-02T21:06:56+00:00

by Ken Allison

All birders like to see new birds; most of us like to see rare birds. When you hear about an unusual sighting, you chase the rarity and see it (wow!). You add it to your list or lists (tick!) and that is the end of the process — or is it?

What about supplying documentary evidence of your record so that it will be available for study in the future? In this way your hobby can contribute to a better scientific understanding of bird distribution. Range and occurrence information in field guides and checklists is now based mostly on sight records, so it is vital that rare bird sightings be recorded in writing. If they are only recorded in the observers’ personal notes, they will ultimately be lost or forgotten. Every rarity needs to be documented in at least one detailed, written report. It is preferable to have more than one independent record. An undocumented record is no record at all.

Even if you are not the first person to see the bird, do not assume that someone else will have documented it. This is not necessarily so — the immature Little Blue Heron that hung around Hull and Ottawa for a week in 1998 was seen by many observers, including me, but nobody submitted a detailed written report to document the record. Even worse, I didn’t take enough notes at the time to submit a meaningful report when I became aware of the deficit. Mea culpa!

The OFNC Birds Committee encourages every birder to submit records of any rare species they see, even if the bird has been previously reported.

How do you know if a bird is rare enough to justify submitting a rare bird report?
Obviously, any species that does not appear in the Ottawa District Bird Checklist would automatically qualify (e.g., Bicknell’s Thrush), as would any species that is on the checklist, but only has dots displayed on the abundance bar graph (e.g., Glossy Ibis). There are some exceptions to this. For example, I wouldn’t fill out a rare bird report for a Yellow Rail in the Richmond Fen, where they are known to breed regularly, but I would if I found one at Ottawa Beach.

Remember that birds can be seasonally rare, as well as regionally rare. If you see a species that, according to the checklist, should not be present when you find it (e.g., Sandhill Crane in February), it is worthwhile to submit a report.

List of Rare Birds Seen Within 50 km radius of the Peace Tower that occasionally appear in our area is found at this link. These are the birds that we know about, but there are always new ones out there for you to find and document.