Sharing Bird Alerts with @mbalerter on Twitter

A New Hashtag is Born and an Old One is Clarified

Manhattan Bird Alert has enjoyed enormous growth in followers over the last two years. Most followers come for the excellent bird photography and videography and to get a general idea of what birds are being observed in Manhattan.

Among our followers is a smaller group, likely no more than 1,500 or so, of active Manhattan birders who want bird alerts! They may be happy to view photos of common birds during the off-hours, but when they are out in the park they primarily want to get alerts of rare or interesting birds that they can observe for themselves.

In the first few years of operation, Manhattan Bird Alert was an automated account and it had only bird alerts (hence the clever choice of name). In more recent years, it has ceased to be automated—I compose all tweets myself— and it has featured both, with the daytime generally (though not exclusively) being reserved for images of today’s noteworthy birds and the evening for a variety of images of both common and uncommon birds.

As the follower count has risen, so has the number of contributors, those who issue bird alerts or post images, particularly so in the last year as more people have taken up birding and nature photography.

An account that tweets eighty bird alerts per day might be great for active Manhattan birders, but it could be annoying to the other 97% of our followers. It also puts a strain on the account’s manager—that would be me—for whom re-wording and clarifying the alerts of others is time-consuming and distracting.

So, in September 2020, I created mbalerter, an entirely automated account that is much like what Manhattan Bird Alert was in its initial years. It natively retweets approved users who tweet with the #birdcp hashtag.

Since then, the account has been used for a variety of purposes, but going forward, with the intense birding activity of spring migration on the horizon, I want to limit its purpose, which is to say, the use of #birdcp, to the original intent: real-time (or nearly so) alerts of rare, uncommon, or otherwise interesting birds (and other wildlife, when appropriate).

For more on what is appropriate for #birdcp, see the Guidelines paragraph here.

Introducing a New Hashtag, #birdcpp

What about great photos of common birds? Or of rare birds, but posted hours or days later? Or alerts of common birds? For these, I am asking that contributors use #birdcpp.

By using #birdcpp, you will make your alerts and images easily searchable so that others can view them and so that I can find them and possibly retweet them from Manhattan Bird Alert.

You will also avoid triggering an automated alert from @mbalerter.

Let’s give this new hashtag a try and see if it can catch on. I think it will help to better organize birding posts so that followers can get what they want when they want it.

To summarize:


#birdcp: prompt alerts of rare or uncommon birds in Manhattan (including first arrivals of migrants), with or without photos or videos

#birdcpp: alerts and bird photos and videos in Manhattan of common birds, or of any birds NOT accompanying a prompt alert


Further Points

People can use hashtags any way they want on Twitter. We can’t control how #birdcp and #birdcpp are used.

This is true! All we can control is who is approved for automated retweeting. If you use these hashtags in ways inconsistent with our recommendations, we will not retweet you!

It does NOT help to mention @mbalerter in your tweets.

Just use the hashtag! If we see you tweeting well about birds, we eventually will approve your account. You can send us a direct message to speed up approval.

If you want all the bird alerts, we recommend following @mbalerter! As spring migration arrives, @mbalerter will have more alerts, most of which will not also be reported from Manhattan Bird Alert. Rarities and a selection of others along with great photos and videos will continue to be tweeted from Manhattan Bird Alert, of course.


Red-tailed Hawks are ALWAYS #birdcpp. They are around all year and are easy to find. The same goes for Great Blue Herons, Northern Cardinals, and Mallards.

Any warbler is #birdcp for the first few arrivals, even Yellow-rumped Warblers and American Redstarts. But these soon become #birdcpp as more are found and most birders have seen them.

Prothonotary Warblers are always #birdcp! So are Blue Grosbeaks. If you expect to see it only 0 to 3 times per year, it is a #birdcp bird.

Everyone likes to know when the first migrants arrive, even if they are species that eventually become common, like Eastern Phoebes, overall our most common flycatcher. So the first few days of Eastern Phoebes, maybe even the first week depending on numbers, get #birdcp.

Which to use is a judgement call! Reasonable birders can disagree. We are not going to get upset at your choices.

Just remember, the big difference is that #birdcp sends an automated alert to followers of @mbalerter.