New York State
Ornithological Association

For the birders and birds of the Empire State


Central New York's Bird Box
A Tool for All New York State Birders

by Gerard Phillips

 This information is from an article published in the October 2001 issue of New York Birders, the NYSOA newsletter.

The Onondaga Audubon Society (OAS) installed their new Rare Bird Alert system, the Birdbox, in fall 2000. The Birdbox is a non-profit automated telephone RBA that is run by computer. The big difference between the Birdbox and “ordinary” telephone RBAs is that it allows you to listen to “live” reports of bird sightings and enables you to record/add your own report.

OAS is now encouraging birders to report sightings of rare birds from throughout New York State. As the latest reports come in, the old(est) ones are “dumped out”. Each report focuses attention to the specific location (directions when needed) within that report. So reports can potentially bounce back and forth between several regions. You have the option to skip reports when necessary. And it’s fun to use!

Here’s how it works. You call the Birdbox at (315) 637-0318. An announcement welcomes you “to the Upstate New York Birdbox sponsored by the OAS”. This is followed by a “time the latest report was filed at”. Next you hear the “Main Menu” which has four options— (1) Press 1 to listen to the reports in the Birdbox; (2) Press 3 to leave a new report; (3) Press 5 to leave a message for OAS or the systems administrator; and (4) Press 9 to exit the Birdbox. After you select one of the first three choices you are immediately put through to a “sub-menu” with more options. These will help facilitate and guide you through hearing and/or leaving a report.

All you need to do is listen carefully and select the commands as you go. It’s that simple. Once you become familiar with the system you can anticipate each prompt/option and thereby just “cut to the chase”. But what should you report? The Birdbox is intended to be used mostly by knowledgeable field ornithologists (birders and birdwatchers). Although all callers are welcome to use the Birdbox, novice reports are not encouraged (i.e., calls reporting common species that are new to your yard). These and/or any unequivocally bogus reports shall be promptly removed from the Birdbox when necessary. However, the Birdbox is not only for sightings of “mega-rarities”. All types of noteworthy sightings (migrations, etc.) are greatly encouraged! ......

Leaving reports. You have options to playback, pause, delete, or restart your report over (and over) if necessary. The date and time are automatically filed with each report, but you may find it necessary to give the time(s) when your sightings were originally made. Always start by identifying yourself first, then give the location(s) and your sightings.

Listening to reports. You have the options to replay, back up, or skip to the next report already stored in the Birdbox. Remember, once you are familiar with the system you can write down (or memorize) the number sequences necessary to hear and/or leave reports, without having to actually listen to all of the prompt (s) each time you call!

If the phone rings three times or more, it means no new reports have been filed within 24 hours and so you can save a toll! The Birdbox has enormous potential. Recent reports and frequent updates (by the minute if warranted), of all the good bird sightings from birders in New York State.

Please remember you must always exit the Birdbox by entering “9”. Should you exit by hanging up, this will delay the Birdbox’s readiness to receive the next incoming call or it may prevent your report from being saved! So please, follow the prompts and do not just hang up. Always Press “9” before exiting the Birdbox!

Call the Birdbox at (315) 637-0318. See that it makes a difference to our New York State birding community! Onondaga Audubon Society wishes you all “Good luck and good birding”.

Last Updated 11/16/01


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