What & When to Report

Generally the most useful records of bird sightings are complete reports of all the birds you saw or heard at a given location over some period of time.  This is because such reports also give insight into what is sometimes the most useful information of all — the birds that are NOT present.  They also allow meaningful comparisons over time.  Complete records can be ad hoc, for example if you enter a checklist of birds you encounter on a walk, or they can be part of a systematic survey.

For different reasons, so-called incidental records of one species doing something interesting or in an unusual location or time of year are also valuable.

How do I know if something is really worth reporting?

Incidental records are very worthwhile in any of the following situations:

  • any indication of breeding, of any species common or rare, especially unseasonal breeding,
  • if you see more individuals of a species than usual, (e.g. more than 2 Grey Currawongs, more than 2 raptors of the same species, more than 10,000 starlings)
  • if you see a species that is unusual in a location, (e.g. Powerful Owl in the Botanic Gardens).
  • birds seen out of season (e.g. Rufous Songlark in winter; Flame Robin in the lowlands in summer)
  • the arrival of migrants in your area (but notice that departure of migrants will only be picked up through surveys and complete records from which their absence can be inferred).
  • threatened species or those known to be declining
  • vagrants and out-of-area birds.

BIRD INFO pages will help answer questions such as how unusual a bird is, when Koels arrive in Canberra, how commonly ‘summer migrants’ overwinter, how many hobbies are generally seen together, or how common is it to see Golden Whistlers breeding, and where.  In particular look for the column “Status in the ACT” and the fulsome and detailed statistical data accessed via the graph icon in the right hand column.  Also refer to the list of ‘unusual’ birds in the ACT.

If in doubt, please report your observation.

What should I do if I’m not sure about the identity of a bird?

If you see enough to be able to describe it reasonably well, especially if you have a photo, send details to the Rarities Panel rarities@canberrabirds.org.au – the Panel assists birders with identification as well as assessing reports of rarities. 

If you prefer, subscribe to the COG chat line and post your description (and photo if you have one) and experienced birders will offer their views.  There is also a Facebook group devoted to Australian bird identification.  Other Facebook groups that can help include Canberra Birders – Rare and Unusual Sightings and Australian Birds .

Where should I survey?

Anywhere in COG’s Area of Interest.  The easy-to-reach sites noted for their good variety of birds are heavily represented in COG’s database. Therefore we also encourage birders to submit observations for less often visited parts of the Canberra Nature Park and Namadgi National Park.

How often should I survey the same site?

If you walk through the same area on a daily basis, COG would be interested in a report, once per fortnight/month, supplemented by incidental records of unusual sightings on the other days.  If you have registered a formal BLA 2-ha site, please report quarterly (once each season).  If you are thinking of your own garden or surrounds, consider joining the Garden Bird Survey which you complete weekly.

I’ve been watching a nest – how often should I put in reports?

Once for each stage of the breeding process (nest building, on nest, feeding young etc).

How do I know which birds are unusual in the Canberra region?

COG’s Rarities Panel publishes a list of ‘unusual’ birds in the ACT.  Many birds that are designated ‘unusual’ in the ACT are quite common elsewhere.