For any serious birder, eBird is a must-have tool in one’s arsenal. Created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird is a free online database of bird observations from all over the world. Anyone can submit their observations to eBird through a checklist, which contains the birds you’ve observed, the total of each species, the amount of time spent birding, and the distance you’ve traveled. Checklists can be created whenever you are observing birds, even if birding isn’t your primary purpose. Below is five ways eBird will take your birding to the next level:
1. eBird Keeps Track of Your Lists
Most birders keep a list of what they observe. eBird not only helps you keep that list, but makes it interactive as well! It can display your entire life list or break it down by species observed in each state or county. eBird can also summarize your observations based on birds observed in a week, month, or year. You can even upload photography or audio recordings of birds to a checklist for others to see or hear. Also, if you are birding with friends, you can share your checklist with them. Finally, eBird recently created profiles for users, which features an interactive map where states and counties become darker based on the number of species seen.
2. eBird Tells You What Birds Are Being Observed
Have you always wanted to find a bird but don’t know where to look? eBird provides real-time data on where birds are being seen! Through “Species Maps,” users can search for a bird species and view others’ checklists to see where the species has been observed. Also, users have the ability to set up automated emails from eBird for rare bird alerts or “needs alerts”—birds on your list that you have yet to observe. Needs alerts can be set by country, state, and county. These alerts can be sent daily or even hourly if you are really hot to find something new and fun! Through these alerts, one can easily study not just what birds occur in your area but when they occur as well.
See also: A Beginner’s Guide to Birding
3. eBird Helps You Scout for Travel
Heading out of town? Use eBird before you go to see what birds are being observed at your destination! Using the “Explore Regions” feature, you can observe all the recent sightings in a state or county. Also, you can use the “Hotspots” tab to see the most active birding locations in a region. Use this feature to plan anything from a week-long trip devoted to birding or a quick birding detour. No matter the reason for travel, there is no better tool to plan your trip than the real-time data provided by eBird!
4. eBird Holds Birders Accountable
Birding requires careful study, as identification of species can be challenging. It also requires honesty about observations. Not every species requires documentation in the form of a photo, video, or audio recording. Therefore, birders must be diligent in making sure that their identification of species is not only correct but that their counts of each species totals are accurate. eBird will flag observations of exceptional species or species totals that are unusually high. Birders will then be required to provide documentation of their observation in order to maintain accurate identifications. Written descriptions of your observation should be included, but photos, videos, or audio recordings are most preferred.
Each state and county has their own eBird compiler to help maintain accuracy in observations. Other birders also help in making sure that observations are correct. If you report something exceptional to eBird, you will most likely hear from a compiler asking for more information if you do not provide sufficient documentation. Do not be offended if you receive such an email. It is part of the process to ensure the accuracy of the data being collected to eBird.
5. eBird Provides Scientific Data
Admittedly, the previous four reasons are rather self-serving to birders. But one must not forget that the primary purpose of eBird is to collect data for scientific study. Since anyone can submit to eBird, anyone can become a citizen scientist! The data collected by ordinary birders all around the world can help scientists study bird populations, migratory patterns, and unexpected phenomena. So although eBird can be helpful for birders, it can greatly benefit the birds we love and cherish by helping birders keep track of how they are doing!
eBird has many more awesome features, but I find these five to be the best reasons to use the platform. If any of the above sounds fun to you, visit www.eBird.org, make a free username, and start looking around! You can even download the free eBird app for iOS or Android to help you submit eBird data while you are in the field. No matter your level of birding experience, eBird is the ultimate research and learning tool for birders.