OFO's Email Listservs: Ontbirds and Birdnews

ONTBIRDS has been upgraded

Our listserv software was recently upgraded. If you want to change your subscription preferences or just want more details, see ONTBIRDS Upgrade.

What's the difference between Ontbirds and Birdnews?

Ontbirds is for provincially rare bird sightings only.

Ontbirds is for sharing sightings of provincially rare birds – Rare Bird Alerts (RBAs) which Ontario birders will wish to see. Messages are timely so birders are quickly alerted to the presence of rarities. Ontbirds is not a chat or discussion group. Please review the Ontbirds Posting Guidelines before posting a message.

Birdnews is for everything else.

Birdnews is for news, announcements, location summaries such as Hawk Watch reports, Christmas Bird Count reports, first of year sightings and trip reports. Please review the Birdnews Posting Guidelines before posting a message.

Other provincial and regional rare bird alerts are listed under Finding Birds - Rare Bird Alerts and News.

You can view the Ontbirds message archive at https://ontbirds.ca/empathy/list/birdalert.ontbirds.ca or the Birdnews message archive at https://ontbirds.ca/empathy/list/birdnews.ontbirds.ca.

Subscribing, Unsubscribing, and Managing your Preferences

Subscribing and Unsubscribing

To subscribe, unsubscribe or manage your preferences, visit the Ontbirds list page. Use the 3 vertical dots on the right hand side of the screen.

Daily Digest Option

You can choose to receive Ontbirds and/or Birdnews messages as a daily digest. To select this option, go to the Ontbirds list page. Login with your email, then use the 3 vertical dots to select Change preferences. From the Delivery Mode pulldown menu, select one of the Digest options. You can change your preference at anytime.

Sending Messages

Note that when you send a message, you will not receive a copy in your inbox.

Ontbirds: Send an email birdalert@ontbirds.ca.

Birdnews: Send an email to birdnews@ontbirds.ca.

Posting Rules

The posting rules are the same for Ontbirds and Birdnews. These rules are intended to ensure a safe and collegial forum which welcomes appropriate contributions from all subscribers.

Messages which do not adhere to rules will be blocked at the discretion of the Moderators. Subscribers who do not abide by the posting rules may be denied access.

  • Messages should be short, to the point and factual. The Listservs are discussion forums. Attacks, rudeness, and sarcasm are not acceptable.

  • Messages containing racist, sexist, or other discriminatory comments or opinions will not be tolerated.

  • If you wish to reply to a post, please reply to the sender only, privately, and politely.

  • Subscribers are entitled to their opinion about the validity of a post, but they are not entitled to attack the sender. If you believe that a post should not have been allowed, please express your views only to the Ontbirds Moderators or the Birdnews Moderators.

  • If you receive a message in response to a post which contains inappropriate content, forward a copy in full to the Ontbirds Moderators or the Birdnews Moderators.

Ontbirds Posting Guidelines

Ontbirds is for provincially rare bird sightings only.

Consider the interest and excitement that the sighting would generate in the birding community, and if it is one that birders would consider travelling out of their way to see. Do not post regionally rare sightings.

A quick rule of thumb is: "If I see X bird in place Y, is that significant enough that people in place Z would be interested enough to come and look for it?" If you can answer "yes" to this question, you should post your sighting.

If you have a question about whether or not to post your observation, email the Ontbirds Moderators.

Information to Include in your Message

Include the species' common name and general location in the subject of the message. The body of the message should include the date and time of the sighting, the location, and any other pertinent details. Any doubt about the identification should be clearly stated.

Note that we want it to be quick and easy to send a message -- detailed directions to the sighting location are nice to have, but no longer mandatory. Please feel free to include a dropped pin location.

Rarity Posting Criteria

Birds posted to the Ontbirds RBA Listserv should meet one of the following criteria:

Regional review lists:




  • Subspecies on the Ontario review list or new subspecies for the province: http://www.ofo.ca/site/page/view/checklist.subspecies

  • Provincially significant rarities that occur in the province approximately less than 10 times per year over most of the province outside of known nesting areas, and those that have been removed from the OBRC review list in recent years. Local exceptions indicated in parentheses.

Eurasian Wigeon, Barrow's Goldeneye (outside of Ottawa), Eared Grebe, White-winged Dove, Eurasian Collared-Dove, Yellow Rail*, American Avocet, Piping Plover*, Hudsonian Godwit, Marbled Godwit*, Purple Sandpiper, Red Knot, Buff-breasted Sandpiper, Willet, , Red Phalarope, Long-tailed Jaeger, Black-legged Kittiwake, Sabine's Gull, Franklin's Gull (outside of NW Ontario), Laughing Gull, Arctic Tern (outside of Ottawa), Pacific Loon, American White Pelican (outside of NW Ontario), Snowy Egret, Cattle Egret, Glossy Ibis, Black Vulture (outside of Niagara), Swainson's Hawk, Gyrfalcon, Townsend's Solitaire, Varied Thrush, Lark Sparrow, Harris's Sparrow (outside of NW Ontario), LeConte's Sparrow*, Western Meadowlark (outside NW Ontario), Yellow-headed Blackbird*, Worm-eating Warbler, Kirtland's Warbler*, Yellow-throated Warbler, Connecticut Warbler*, Kentucky Warbler, Prairie Warbler*, Yellow-breasted Chat*, Dickcissel*.

*migration only

  • Exceptionally out of season or "out of place" birds. Hardy species that overwinter in low but consistent numbers each year such as Hermit Thrush, Yellow-rumped Warbler, Yellow-bellied Sapsucker, and blackbirds should not be reported even if they may trip a regional eBird filter. Inland jaegers or Fish Crows, a Spruce Grouse south of the shield, etc. would qualify as significantly out of place.

Note: Uncommon species that otherwise occur reasonably regularly in the province at a predictable time of year in appropriate habitat should generally be kept to regional reporting channels. For example: Golden Eagle, King Eider, Harlequin Duck, Summer Tanager, Nelson's Sparrow.

Long-staying Rarities

Updates on the status of continuing rarities are helpful, but after a bird has been present for a week or two, daily or hourly updates are not usually necessary; instead please only report to Ontbirds if there is important new information or a significant change in status. Birders should check eBird for up-to-date information in these situations.

Prohibited Sightings

The following sighting should not be posted because of the species sensitivity or presence on private property. Posts will not be allowed by the Ontbirds Moderators.

  • Owls of any species.
  • Species at risk in appropriate habitat during the breeding season.
  • Birds on or only visible from private property where permission or other special arrangements have not been established.

Birdnews Posting Guidelines

What to Post

Birdnews is intended as a quick and convenient way to share birding news, announcements, and reports of interest to Ontario birders. Ontbirds is reserved for provincially rare bird sightings.

You must email the Birdnews Moderators to clear your message with them before posting announcements or information from organizations or private companies. Such posts (unless time sensitive) will be held for posting on Tuesdays only. Solicitations or product advertisements are not allowed.

Examples of acceptable messages include:

  • Christmas Bird Count regional summaries
  • Count results from the Lake Ontario Waterfowl Count or other citizen science counts
  • Summaries of significant Birding Competition reports. Include only highlights, number of species, count conditions, number of observers, missed birds, etc.
  • Concise OFO trip reports
  • First of year sightings
  • Location reports from hotspots such as Cranberry Marsh.
  • Hawk watch summaries

If you have a question about whether a posting is appropriate, please email the Birdnews Moderators privately.