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How to document a rare bird sighting

Learn how to document a rare bird sighting for submission to rare bird committees and community science databases like eBird!

A Scissor-tailed Flycatcher sits on a fence in Wyoming.
Taking photographs of rare birds, like this Scissor-tailed Flycatcher, are a great way to document unusual bird sightings.

Finding and documenting a rare bird can be one of the most exciting moments for a birdwatcher! Learn more about finding rare birds and chasing birds in these linked articles!


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Why document a rare bird?

Documenting rare birds allows for an understanding of the true status of birds in that region that can be used in research projects by future ornithologists. A documented rare bird sighting can expand the data available for determining the range, habitat use, annual cycle, and extent of migration, or nesting, for birds for which there are currently little or incomplete data. Documenting a rare bird allows for objective evaluation of the field marks noted and helps to filter misidentified birds out of data collections.


How to document a rare bird

There are two main steps you should take when documenting a rare bird:

  1. Obtain physical documentation such as:

    1. a photo

    2. an audio recording

    3. a detailed field sketch

  2. Write a thorough description of the entire encounter

 

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Want a great camera for documenting rare birds? Try the 83x zoom of the Nikon Coolpix P1000!

 

Physical documentation of a rare bird

Photos, video, and audio recordings are the best documentation possible. Even poor-quality photos, video, or audio can conclusively establish an