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ABA FRS Committee Recommendations Brief Summary:


In May the ABA formed a 10 person committee to come up with a set of recommendations for FRS radio usage for birding.

The following are the primary recommendations:

• States/Provinces should adopt and publicize a standard
FRS channel/subcode for birding communications.

- The ABA recommends the adoption of channel 11 & subcode 22
(11/22) to try to achieve a continent-wide standard.

• Radio communications should be considerate of other birders,
non-birders, and the birds.

The full recommendations document is included at the end of this email and can also be viewed at:

ABA FRS Committee Formation and Process:
(The full committee background text can be found at:

In April 2001 a conversation developed on the BIRDCHAT mailing list around the idea of a single standard to simplify figuring out what FRS radio channel and subcode was in use in a particular geographic region. (FRS radios are relatively inexpensive "walkie talkies" that allow two-way communications between users within a range of up to two miles.) This discussion finally settled on the goal of proposing a single channel and subcode for birding.

In May the American Birding Association (ABA) was approached about forming a committee to look into this issue. The ABA then enlisted 10 birders with an interest and experience with FRS radios to form a committee. Members were chosen to provide representation across the ABA area (U.S. and Canada). The charge to the group was to decide on a standard channel and subcode that ABA would recommend to others.

The committee initially discussed issues around basic technology and other factors to consider in the selection of one or more channel/subcode combinations. Based on the results of these conversations a small number of channel/subcodes were then selected as candidates for the standard channel/code. Each committee member then polled birders in their region about their channel/subcode preferences. What was most impressive about the polling results was the desire by a vast majority that a continent-wide standard be adopted whatever the actual channel/subcode was. After this polling and further conversations the committee took a final vote and decided on channel 11 and subcode 22 as the FRS standard ABA would recommend to others.

A number of important issues came up in the committee's conversations and through the regional polling that needed to be
addressed in an FRS recommendation. These included topics such as what actual communications should take place over the standard channel and what to do when non-birders were using the channel. These issues and the continent channel and subcode standard were then brought together in the general FRS recommendation document that follows.

We hope these recommendations will be seriously considered by all birders using FRS radios and adopted wherever possible. The committee would like to thank all those who contributed their ideas and opinions throughout this process. We are interested in hearing back from people about the recommendations and about experiences in implementing them. Send correspondence to a committee member near you.

ABA FRS Committee:
Paul Green <> from Colorado
Don Crockett <> from Massachusetts
Ralph M. Eiseman <> from Illinois
Bob Hinkle <> from Ohio
Gail Mackiernan <> from Maryland
Barbara Mann <> from Ontario
David Sarkozi <> from Texas
Steve Sosensky <> from California
Jack Stephens <> from Washington
Noel Wamer <> from Florida


FRS Overview
FRS radios are increasingly being used by birders who come together (either planned or unplanned) to communicate the
location of interesting birds and to coordinate groups. They are used in car caravans, at birding hot spots, and often at "chase sites". These two-way radios are small, handy, and effective for communications for about a two-mile range.

ABA FRS Recommendations
In an effort to improve communication of birders using FRS radios in North America, the ABA is making the following

1) States/Provinces should adopt and publicize a standard FRS channel/subcode for birding communications.

a) The ABA recommends the adoption of channel 11 & subcode 22 (11/22) to try to achieve a continent-wide standard.

i) States/Provinces without a standard are encouraged to adopt 11/22 rather than coming up with their own
conflicting standard.

ii) States/Provinces with an existing standard other than 11/22 are encouraged to switch to the 11/22 standard.

b) The FRS standard chosen by a state/province should be publicized through any FRS birding directories that are
created, through any RBA transcripts for the region, and through any other relevant birding publications.

2) Radio communications on the standard channel/subcode should be limited to:

a) Requests and reports about the location of rare and interesting birds.

b) Coordination between birding groups/parties.

Examples of acceptable communications:
* "This is John Doe. Are there any birders here?"
* "Where are you and what have you seen?"
* "We're at Z. We saw a Y at X and a W at V."
* "Has anybody seen the X?"
* "I've relocated the X. It's at Z."
* "The ABA tour is now leaving X and heading to Y."
* "Let's meet on 10/22 to discuss lunch."

Examples of unacceptable communications:
* "So, he said..., then she said..."
* "Did you watch the game last night?"
* Any and all signals not made with human voice.
* Any conversations not germane to the bird or location
at hand.

3) Radio communications should be considerate of other birders, non-birders, and the birds.

a) Radio users should be sensitive to the disturbance the volume of their radio and their speaking voice can have on others and adjust accordingly. In some situations it may be inappropriate to use FRS radios.

b) When using a standard birding channel you are sharing the airways with other birders. If you need to converse frequently with people in your group, switch to a different channel/subcode.

c) Radio communications should take into account the potential impact on birds and habitat. For general guidelines see the "ABA Code of Birding Ethics".

4) FRS radio feature recommendations:

a) Radios with 14 channels and 38 subcodes

b) No radios that have "over/roger" tones that can't be disabled. These tones should always be disabled when in the field.

Frequently Asked Questions

1) Q: What do I do if I have a radio that doesn't have 14 channels?
A: Chances are that your radio will not be compatible with the 11/22 standard or other 14/38 compatible standards. You will have to purchase another radio if you wish to communicate with birders using these standards.

2) Q: What do I do if I have a radio without 38 subcodes?
A: If you have a radio with the same channel as the local channel/subcode you will be able to listen in on communications from birders using the standard but you will not be able to send a transmission that they can hear.

3) Q: What do I do if non-birders are already using 11/22?
A: Birders' use of 11/22 has no priority over non-birders' use if they are already using it when you arrive at a location. The best that can be done is to inform the non-birders that 11/22 is being used nationwide before switching your radio's subcode to 21, 20, etc.

A suggested scenario is given below:

S1) Birder: Arrives at location, radio set at 11/22.
"Hi this John Doe, any birders in the area?"
S2) Non-birder:
"Hey dude, we're already using this subcode!"
S3) Birder: "(in a polite voice) Sorry, this is the subcode
birders are using nationwide. We'll move to
subcode 21. If other birders contact you can
you tell them we're on code 21?"
S4) Non-birder:
a) "Sure. Thanks for moving." GOTO S5
b) "Dude, get off our code." GOTO S6
c) "That's too much trouble. It's easier
for us to move."
S6) Birder: "Can you also contact us on 21 when you leave
so we can switch back to 11/22?"
S7) Try subcodes 21, 20, etc. for a usable subcode, if it
isn't 21 recontact Non-birder on 22 with update if they
responded favorably above.

4) Q: What do I do if transmissions are being blocked by other users of channel 11 or by other interference?
A: Switch to 10/22 and then 9/22 to see if those channels are usable.

5) Q: What do I do if I hear birders overusing the channel?
A: By cooperating with the usage recommendations birders can make the standard channel as useful as possible. Unrelevant communications will cause people to switch channels or turn off their radios, limiting communication. The usage recommendations are not regulations to be enforced however. Birders should not take on the role of "channel police". Birders can make polite requests if they feel that the channel is being overused.

A suggested scenario is given below:

Birder 1: Arrives at location and other birders are
chitchatting away on 11/22.
Birder 1: "Hi this is John Doe, are there any birders here?"
Other Birders:
Hopefully, realizing that others are listening, the other birders quit chitchatting.
But if they persist...

Birder 1: "(in a polite voice) Can you guys limit transmissions on 11/22 to bird sightings and location info, it's pretty noisy listening in on this end."
If they persist, switch temporarily to subcode 21 or some other usable channel/subcode.

6) Q: Should 11/22 be used to coordinate birding groups (caravans, etc.)?
A: Internal communications of a large group can easily overwhelm 11/22 and make it unusable for others. Large groups should choose a different channel/code for logistical discussions. Separate radios can be set to monitor and report interesting findings on 11/22, or radios with scanning features can be used to monitor both channels.

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