eBird’s slogan is “Birding in the 21st Century”, and a review of its goals and features demonstrates that it is true to it’s motto! It is the website of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, long respected as one of the nations finest scientific programs for the study of bird life. With the advent of the web, and electronic communication, the researchers at Cornell quickly realized the value of enlisting the help of the millions of ardent birders as “citizen scientists” in collecting valuable data on bird life throughout the country. In exchange for the efforts of birders to report the birds they find, Cornell has developed fabulous tools available to all of us to use this data in practical and rewarding ways.
Why Should I eBird?
Very simply, eBird exists to encourage us to report all the birds we find with date, location, and notes. They then tabulate and organize the data so that their scientists have a dramatically broader picture of species abundance and dispersion. We are rewarded because we not only have access to the broad data trends, but have the ability to tailor reports of daily sightings in our favorite parks or counties.
Developed by birders, for birders, the site has all the features you might imagine. These include:
- storing your many bird lists,
- research articles on many birding topics,
- access to bird reports from any area you wish to visit in your travels,
- alerts of rare birds in your area,
- maps and graphs of bird abundance and movement,
- photos and quizzes about birding, and more.
- sharing data and lists with others.
How do I enter data?
- the comfort of your home.
- eBird APP for smart phones so reports can be made instantly from the field.
Create an Account via My eBird tab on home page.
To enter your data into eBird:
- Go to ‘Submit Observations’.
- Click the ‘Find it on a map’ option.
- Enter your country, state, or county (if relevant) to help zoom the initial map extent.
- Use the ‘search’ option at the top of the map to find a more specific location. You can type your address in here to zoom in on your house, or you can enter coordinates from a GPS, and you can even search for other landmarks of interest. You can also just use the controls on the map to pan, and zoom in or out. To quickly zoom in on an area hold your shift key down and then draw a box on the map with your mouse.
- Once you are zoomed in to the area where you made your observations, you can click on the map to create a new location, or if there is an eBird hostpot marker very close by, choose that for data entry by clicking on it. eBird ‘Hotspots’ are simply existing public locations where many birders are entering data. You can use these if they represent the location where you were birding, or you can create a more specific new personal location. If you create a new location, give it a sensible name and then click ‘Continue’. If your new location should be an eBird Hotspot, select the ‘suggest as birding hotspot’ box, but make sure not to duplicate a hotspot that already exists on the map.
- Now tell us ‘How’ you went birding. In other words, were you walking a trail, sitting in one place, etc. Most birders are performing some kind of ‘traveling count’; in many cases very short ones. A walk around the block in your neighborhood is a ‘traveling count’ of .5 miles. Also pay attention to duration, i.e., the time you spent birding in the field. These things matter for analysis. There is a big difference between covering 10 miles in 10 hours and seeing 10 Black-capped Chickadees, than there is in covering 1 mile in 1 hour and seeing 10! This information helps us analyze your data, and it really adds value to your observations. More information about protocols and how to make your checklists more meaningful can be found here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/about/how-to-make-your-checklists-more-meaningful.
- The next step is the checklist page. Here you can use the “Jump to Species” box to quickly type and find the birds you’d like to report. You can type in species common names, and you can even put in things like ‘Empidonax sp.’ if you were unsure of a bird’s identity. If you can’t find the species you’re looking for on the checklist, use the ‘Add a species’ box to search our taxonomy. Ideally you report estimated counts for each species, but some people prefer to put ‘X’ to indicate ‘present’. There are many reasons why counts are better, and those are elucidated here: (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/trouble_with_X). More data entry tips can be found here: (http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/ebird-tricks-and-tips).
- At the bottom right there is a very important question: “Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?”. We want to find out whether you are reporting all the birds you were able to identify to the best of your ability. Answer “Yes” to this question when you record every species present that you found; not just the highlights. We realize that all birds are not identifiable and user abilities vary. You should always answer ‘Yes’ to this question unless you are purposefully excluding some species (e.g., European Starlings) from your checklist. You do not need to count all the individuals present to answer ‘Yes’ to this question (you can enter ‘x’ for species you observed but did not count). Please do try to report all species; it improves our ability to analyze your data. More discussion about this information is here: http://ebird.org/content/ebird/news/are-you-reporting-all-species-heres-why-its-important.
The key to the success of eBird is simple. The more each of us takes a little time to report what birds we are seeing, the more useful data can be accumulated to foster birding and our own enjoyment of it. Jump on the site and give it a try!