Date: 12/6/18 12:10 pm
From: Ross Silcock <silcock...>
Subject: RE: [cobirds] Thoughts on rare bird communications - a conversation starter and a suggestion
Thanks Carl for the summary. I have questions about FB (I’m on it, but rarely look at it), but my main question is how can I know which groups there are, ie, is there a way to get a list of bird-related groups to see which ones I am interested in, as well as which new ones are being constantly added? Hopefully this can occur without having to plow through the annoying requests to sign up or re-sign up or re-set password etc from Microsoft Google, and FB.


Ross Silcock
Seasonal Reports Compiler
Nebraska Bird Review
Co-Author “Birds of Nebraska- Online”
Tabor, IA

From: <cobirds...> <cobirds...> On Behalf Of Carl Bendorf
Sent: Thursday, December 6, 2018 11:08 AM
To: Colorado Birds <cobirds...>
Subject: [cobirds] Thoughts on rare bird communications - a conversation starter and a suggestion

The current debate about rare bird communications in Colorado is very interesting. First, there is the current discussion related to the Larimer County Gyrfalcon. I'm fairly certain these exact same debates have taken place in nearly every state and province. Many of us have all seen the rise and fall of various technologies and communication systems (email chains, websites, listservs, text alerts, etc.) but the thorny issues of what to report and when to report remain. I doubt that technology will ever eliminate this aspect of the debate and it's important we continue discussing the ethics of reporting rare birds.

At the same time, there is a discussion underway about our methods of sharing information in a timely and efficient manner. When I started birding in Iowa the late 70's, we tried to create an organized phone tree with a paper chart showing who would call whom and so on. Of course, the communication chain often broke down when someone was out of town or just not at home to answer the phone. A lot of people didn't even have home answering machines back then and, of course, reporting a rare bird meant driving to the nearest pay phone and dropping in quarters to make a call. In the early 80s, we started a rare bird alert using an answering machine located in my parents' garage. Part of the trick was finding a machine that offered an extended outgoing message as many answering machines were limited to perhaps 30 seconds. We put the machine in my parents' garage because they lived in a small town where the local phone company offered a very low monthly phone bill for a second phone line. As technology changed, these recorded rare bird alerts using phone lines have essentially disappeared.

In my view, for many birders, Facebook has become the rare bird communication platform of choice since it offers features like the ability to quickly post photos/recordings, a role for a moderator(s), presence on both millions of smartphones, laptops, and desktops, and the fact that millions of people are already on their Facebook accounts every day.

A great example is the ABA Rare Bird Alert Facebook page ( which has grown tremendously (18,000 members.) It's amazing to watch as bird sightings are being updated in real time and you can even see groups of birders in the field using this page to communicate with each other in real time. The page has at least 7 administrators meaning the work of monitoring the flow of info is being shared and doesn't become a major burden. Heck, you can even livestream a video of your rare bird to the entire audience.

One of the features of the (very helpful) COBIRDS Google Group is that the content is generated from the individual submissions of contributors. I also really like the compiled RBA report but the downside there is it requires a compiler or compilers willing to put in the major effort of gathering, collating, typing up, and posting of a report. As we've seen, it's going to be increasingly hard to find someone who is willing to put in all that work. Also, the effort of collating and posting a compiled RBA inevitably adds a time-delay to reports.

This long missive is my suggestion that perhaps Colorado needs a dedicated Rare Bird Facebook Page with multiple moderators. Again, the ABA is using this model very successfully by having three separate Facebook pages. Each page has a different defined purpose (this is critical, I think):

1. A general Facebook page for the organization for non-urgent information and sharing of a general nature:

2. An extremely successful page for helping people identify birds--this page has a very clearly defined purpose and has nearly 34,000 members! And, I understand a number of extreme rarities have been “discovered” from the postings of photos from contributors who couldn’t identify what they had seen/photographed.

3. The above-mentioned ABA Rare Bird Alert with about 18,000 members:

I imagine one of the points of view on this issue will be that not everyone uses (or wants to use) Facebook. But this has been true of every form of communication through the years. I’m sure at one time there were those who preferred to communicate by letter and not by telephone followed by those who preferred to communicate about rare birds by land line telephone and felt left behind by the cell phone followed by those who were happy with a call on their cell phone but objected to needing a smart phone, and so on. Consider also how many local bird club newsletters used to include a compilation of recent rare bird sightings in a printed/mailed newsletter. You don’t see that so much anymore.

My suggestion to those who don’t wish to use Facebook is to recruit a Facebook-using birding friend who will give them a call when a rare bird is reported via Facebook. What do you want to bet that someday Facebook fades away as it’s replaced by yet another kind of technology.

In conclusion, I think a Colorado Rare Bird Alert Facebook page could work really well. A Facebook page offers all the latest options in terms of social communication, immediacy, widespread use. The content would be user-generated (and not require a volunteer compiler), and the moderating responsibilities can be shared among a group of volunteers.

Please don't think I am advocating for an end to either COBIRDS or the COBIRDS RBA report. Typically, where there are overlapping technologies and communication outlets, there is a lot of cross-posting across the platforms as a way to broaden the reach. And all of this is an evolution and not a revolution!

I hope this helps to advance the discussion about how we can improve our collaboration and sharing about Colorado's fantastic birding opportunities.

What do YOU think?

Carl Bendorf

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