ORB: Online Rare Birds


Answer all of your rarity questions instantly!

ORB: Online Rare Birds, part of our Bird News Extra service, enables you to look up ALL historical records of British and Irish rarities accepted up to the end of 2015 — from a database of over 32000 records.

At the click of your mouse you can find out the status of 340 rare species (and forms) in Britain and Ireland. No more rummaging through old reports, no more cross-referencing from different sources, ALL the information is now on this online database as part of our Bird News Extra service.

Just how many Red-flanked Bluetails have there been, and where? How many Lanceolated Warblers have there been on Shetland? When was the Varied Thrush in Cornwall? How many different species of rarity have there been in the West Midlands?

Access to this area is available to Bird News Extra subscribers for as long as their subscription lasts.


This area is designed to complement both Bird News Extra AND the CD-ROM Guide to Rarer British Birds, and includes the following features:

  • complete lists of British and Irish records of species considered by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC) and Irish Rare Birds Committee (IRBC) — over 32000 records in total
  • graphs and maps derived from this data (now incorporated into Species pages in Bird News Extra)
  • facilities to search this data

Access to the Online Guide to Rarer British Birds

Access to this area is available to Bird News Extra subscribers for as long as their subscription lasts.

Species included

ORB: Online Rare Birds includes all species that are considered by BBRC, IRBC and other committees up to the end of 2015.

Interpreting the lists of reports

The lists of records are ordered as in the British Birds Rarities Report, that is by year (and within each year alphabetically by county), with the most recent sighting first. In general there is one report for each bird or group of birds in each county in which it appears and for each year the bird or birds return. So a bird considered to be the same individual which is recorded in two counties in one year, and again in one of the same counties the following year, will appear 3 times in total.

Accepted records are listed first, with the following columns of information:

  • the year the bird was first sighted (birds that stay for more than one year are generally listed separately for each year, with cross references)
  • where necessary, the second column lists the county or recording area (as identified in British Birds) in which the bird appeared. This usually, but not always, refers to the modern county - if the site fell within a different administrative area at the time of the occurrence this is generally noted in the notes in the next column. The same bird or birds occurring in several counties will usually be listed once for each county in each year, with cross-references where appropriate.
  • the notes from the British Birds Rarities Report
  • references to the listing in British Birds and other text sources where available

Records listed as "No longer accepted" are those that have at some stage been accepted by the BBRC, but later reviewed and found to be unacceptable. For these records there is an additional column, containing references or explanations as to why the report is considered unacceptable. Reports that have never been accepted by the BBRC are not listed.

In a few cases the BBRC and IRBC consider reports of birds that have not been identified to species level (namely Albatross sp., Frigatebird sp., Pratincole sp., American/Pacific Golden Plover, Dowitcher sp., Semipalmated/Western Sandpiper, Royal/Lesser Crested Tern, Sandgrouse sp., Bonelli's Warbler ssp., Dusky/Radde's Warbler). Such records are listed separately, but are also duplicated under the relevant species. For example, "Pratincole sp." records are listed separately under that name, but also appear under the reports of Oriental, Black-winged and Collared Pratincole. These non-specifically identified records do not, however, appear in the graphs and maps for the main species.

With over 32000 reports processed in the production of this product, some errors are likely to have been made - some in transcription and some in the original data published in British Birds and elsewhere. We would be glad to receive information on any errors or inconsistencies you notice.

Interpreting graphs and maps

The following are available for each species:

  • a map showing the number of accepted records in each bird recording area as used by British Birds. The size of the dots indicates the number of records (as shown in the accompanying key) and does not reflect multiple records (e.g. a record of a flock of 20 will appear as a single record). The dots are centrally placed within the area they represent and do not reflect the actual location of the observations within that area. Where possible we have endeavoured to eliminate "multiple counting" of birds occurring year after year. "At sea" records are omitted from these maps.
  • a bar chart showing the number of records accepted in each year from 1950 to 2015. We have endeavoured to prevent multiple records of the same bird(s) from counting more than once.
  • a bar chart showing the number of records from each month. Birds that stay for more than a month register only in the month in which they first occurred. As with the annual charts, we have endeavoured to prevent multiple records from counting more than once in the monthly charts.
  • A pie chart showing the breakdown of records by age, as identified in the Rarities Report.
  • A pie chart showing the breakdown of records by sex, as noted in the Rarities Report.

The difficulties of identifying duplicates among the 32000+ records processed mean that all graphs should be treated as illustrative only. For definitive information see the record lists.


If you ever get "lost", clicking the ORB logo at the top of the right-hand menu will take you back to the beginning.

Credits and Acknowledgements

Software and database design: Dave Dunford (BirdGuides) and John Cromie (Skylark Associates, www.skylark.ie)

Data entry and analysis: Keith Naylor, with assistance from Diane Harrison

Original data from British Birds magazine (www.britishbirds.co.uk)

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