The first available eBird Alert is called the "ABA Rarities Alert". This lets you view a list of all the national-level rarities recently reported in North America and Canada. These rarities are defined as birds having ABA Codes 3, 4, or 5 on the ABA Checklist (see below for an explanation) and will make sure to let you know about any US or Canadian mega-rarity from the caliber of Code 3 birds like Ruff, Curlew Sandpiper, Garganey, Rufous-backed Robin, up to even rarer (Code 4 or 5) birds like Pink-footed and Barnacle Geese, Little Stint, Bermuda Petrel, Fieldfare, or Greater Sand-Plover. With these alerts, you'll be sure to hear quickly about hot birds turning up nationwide!
or every alert, you have the option to subscribe hourly, daily, or just to visit the Alerts page and click to see the results from the past seven days. Since most Alerts will be drawing on your eBird data, you are required to log in to see them. Check out the article on subscribing and unsubscribing to Alerts for more information.
These alerts will not let you know about regional rarities. For example, even if a Brandt's Cormorant in Kansas is a first record for any state away from the immediate Pacific Coast, this won't appear on the ABA Rarities alert since it is an expected bird in California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia.
Fig. 1: When you view your ABA Alerts you get this screen, showing the species, count, date of report, location (with map link), state, county, observer, review status of record (confirmed or unconfirmed), and observer's comments. Each report to eBird is listed separately, so duplicate reports (especially from shared checklists) are possible.
Fig. 2: When you receive an ABA Alert email, you get the same information in the text of the email, including a link which will take you to a map of the sighting. Note that the species comments here provide helpful indications of the age of the bird, documentary photos, behavior, and a more specific location. In this case, be forewarned that we cannot vouch for the identification of birds that are listed "Unconfirmed". Our volunteer eBird editors work hard to review records, request documentation, and validate reports in a timely fashion, but sometimes it takes days or longer to get a response from an observer. For "confirmed" birds, we generally can trust the identification, but for "unconfirmed", you may have to judge for yourself whether you think an error is possible. Of course, this is where detailed species comments can be helpful for establishing a correct ID. "Unconfirmed" records reported by multiple observers, especially from different birding parties, are more likely to be correct.
ABA Area? ABA Codes?
The American Birding Association (ABA) maintains a checklist for the ABA Area. The ABA Area includes the 49 continental United States, Canada, the French islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon, and adjacent waters to a distance of 200 nautical miles from land or half the distance to a neighboring country, whichever is less. Greenland, Bermuda and Hawaii are NOT included.
Along with its checklist of the ABA Area, now in its seventh edition, the ABA has published ABA Codes. These codes are meant to describe how difficult a given bird is to find in the ABA Area, so that easy to find birds (e.g., American Crow, Northern Pintail, Red-tailed Hawk) are Code 1, locally distributed and harder to find birds are code 2 (e.g., Yellow-billed Loon, Red-faced Cormorant, Zone-tailed Hawk), and rarities are code 3, 4, or 5, in order of increasing difficulty.
For more information on the ABA Codes, including the complete list of species and their associated codes, please see our ABA Codes page. Please also consider purchasing the 7th edition of the ABA Checklist for a more complete discussion of the ABA Birding Codes, as well as much information on the history of rare species in the ABA Area. Contact ABA Sales for more information.
For more on Alerts, check out the All About: Alerts article.