Saturday, May 23, 2009

Do you eBird? - Open Thread

Based on recent research we've learned that roughly 70,000 people use eBird more than 50 times a year to gather information on birds. Most surprising to us was the fact that just 10,000 people entered data into eBird at least once, and even more remarkable is that just 2500 people entered more than 50 eBird checklists last year. What this tells us is that there is a large community of people out there using eBird as an information source, but a relative few actually contribute data. We want to better understand what drives our users, and ultimately participation in eBird. Why people submit data, why they don't, what's good and bad about eBird? Helping us answer these questions will make eBird a better tool for birders, and ultimately put more data into the hands of scientists and conservationists. With that, we ask you, the eBird community how we can be better...


  1. I guess the question was how you can make Ebird better,easier for users to use, right?

    For backgroung, I am a Highscool Junior, currently in Chiapas, Mexico. I am the only regular Ebirder in the state which is cool, kind of.

    I found Ebird about late november last year, doing a google search for Birds and Data. I was hooked instantly and have been submiting Data daily to weekly from a Urban-suburban area. I enjoy being able to submit data and being able to see my records online. I also enjoy searching the Ranges, # of species in the area and making checklist.

    As for how to make it better, I think as users, we should actively promote it with family and friends, birding friends, etc and encourage them to submit constantly. I would enjoy seeing more post about Birds, how to's on the main ebird site, and general information that might help people become better birders, etc.

  2. eBird is easy to use. Over the last several years, you folks at eBird keeps making it easier and more powerful. I use it to learn more about the birds to expect in places I plan to visit. I contribute lots of data from lots of (mostly) "ordinary" locations, a task that I suspect "serious" birders would find laughable. I returned to birding after 25-years of not birding at all because eBird was an easy and useful way to contribute to science. In my opinion birding without contributing data is a waste of time. Contributing data to eBird is a way to leave a lasting legacy. I believe strongly that we all have a duty to leave a legacy of some kind.

    I find it rather appalling that I am one of the largest contributors of data (stated in terms of numbers of complete checklists) to eBird. Where's everybody else? I don't understand why greater numbers of "serious" birders don't contribute data. But, I suppose like most things, most people can't be "bothered" -- don't want to make a tiny amount of "extra" effort.

    Just my opinion.

  3. This is an incredible site. When I first discovered it, I was thrilled to be able to view what I could possibly find at all of my favorite hotspots, as well as to post what I'd found there. Later, I began to use the databases to help me locate places I wanted to go in order to find a certain bird at a specific time. I think that while there are many birders like myself out there who tend to go it alone, I would encourage you to post any/all of your lists. Go back and find old ones and submit them too. Maybe you have a method of keeping personal lists that suits you fine, but I've not found a better or more economical one.

    For those who bird but maybe are unsure about counts, or who aren't sure about what it was they just saw, just submit what you are sure about, and give your best estimates. I have found a few spots that only have data reported for one or two visits/people, and yet they are considered hotspots. That kind of data actually can be counter productive, as when I find a spot like that, I usually decide it isn't worth my time (Unless you are trying to keep a secret hotspot your secret hotspot).

  4. Ebird is very useful. It helps you find birds at specific locations, which is cool. I like that we're able to see every checkist we ever submitted along with county lists, state lists and much more.

  5. I firt started listing and contibuting data with the GBBC and Project Feederwatch about 10 years ago. I did check eBird out about 5 years ago, but it seemed too complicated and time consuming then. A year and a half ago a fellow blogger encouraged me to use eBird when he challenged all of us to do a Big January count. Since then I have been hooked. I like how eBird keeps track of all my lists for me. I like contributing data that will help the birds. I really like the new Top 100 site you have created because it helps me to see where you need people to count birds. I am learning more everyday and it makes me feel good to know that I am not just tallying a Life List but I am actually doing someting that will hopefully help the birds in the long run. I especially like the recent articles you have posted about how to collect data and how to submit it. Keep up the good work! I hope my listing obsession helps your research! I hope it helps preserve bird habitat and birds!

    As for getting others involved, I try to encourage my bird friends and blogging buddies to get out there and submit their counts. I know some of my birding friends already keep bird lists on their own programs and they don't seem interested in submitting to eBird. I don't know why. They participate in the Adubon IBA Survey with me but they don't seem to see the point in submitting to eBird.

    AS for me, I count birds wherever and when ever I can; at the Dunkin Donuts when we go out for coffee or the vacant lot behind ACE Harware. I count in the National Parks and in my own neighborhood. Birds are everywhere and I like watching and counting all of them!

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. Delete Comment From: Chip Notes - eBird Buzz

    Blogger movermyer said...

    I love knowing my lists are in one place, and that like Kathiesbirds said it's helping out with conservation. There are so many different ways to use the data on ebird. I love seeing who has the top sightings in the state/county/etc. It's also nice to know when something is rare or an especially good sighting. As a new birder, it has helped me learn to document my sightings.

    I honestly can't think of any improvements that would help make it better. I love it!

  8. apparently something funky happened with that last post---sorry!

  9. I'm sure that the eBird folks must be working on it but what I want to see is for eBird to go world wide. Sure, I love being able to enter my western hemisphere data (and I guess if I ever get to New Zealand I'll be all set) but it is very frustrating that eBird does not include Europe, Africa, or Asia. If more users are wanted, well, that is a huge chunk of the world's population excluded from eBird right there.

  10. Tell us where you need ebird data from! I'm sure some of those 70,000 people have some vacation time to use :)

  11. eBird is what prompted me to begin being an active birder while going out with my wife; birding was something she wanted to do as a result of a class of her adviser's she took while working on her Masters/PhD. I randomly came across eBird late December/early January, (my first submittal was January 1 of this year), and my wife eventually went back and submitted some past lists she had from when we had gone birding. I find myself being alert for birds more often than I was before, and I sometimes record small everyday trip sightings around the area I work (BGSU); eBird made me a birder.

    One thing I'm looking forward to is some sort of feed for my recent submittals; this is something that could be useful to allowing others to show their information. Right now, in order to post the sightings to my website, I need to send myself an e-mail of the report and then copy/paste it into my blog. My website is currently running the equivalent of a self-hosted FriendFeed, and if I could just get a feed instead of manually entering the info, I would be happy. That's one way I would expect people to use a feed: tie it into their social networking applications, which might allow for people to share information better.

    Since I'm pretty new to birding, I haven't had much of a chance to speak with others and thus haven't mentioned eBird. I personally enjoy the recording of my sightings and submitting them, knowing that my data, no matter how trivial or common it might seem to an experienced birder, will be used to understand more about the birds themselves.

  12. When I first discovered eBird years ago, I lost interest in it pretty quickly because I saw it more as a way of learning about birds than as a way of contributing to knowledge about birds, and there just wasn't much data in eBird yet. I wish I had realized that even the little knowledge I had was valuable and started using eBird right away. I think it would have helped me to more quickly develop the necessary skills to be a good birder and I might have become a steady eBird contributor much sooner. Thus, I think you should do as much as possible to convince beginners and casual birders that they can make a meaningful contribution. The many articles on how to use eBird and be an effective birder are a good start, but certainly we could use more. For example, an article on publication bias as it relates to eBird might convince some beginners they have something to offer as well as improve the contributions of more seasoned eBirders.

    I think the social and competitive aspects of eBird also appeal to beginners and enable the rest of us to encourage them more. For example, I have used the list sharing feature to help beginngers get started and I love to keep tabs on my friends' lists using the Top 100. I'd like to see more features along those lines.

    Another thing that kept me from committing to using eBird consistently was that I didn't like the idea of my eBird data being incomplete. I didn't want to have to go through the trouble of entering my old data and some of my old data was not complete enough to enter at all. The data importing feature got me over the hump. Making this feature as visible and easy to use as possible could bring a lot more users. For example, you might consider a message board where people could volunteer to help others import their data. Many people with their data in spreadsheets or some other electronic form probably don't realize how quickly and easily an Excel macro and the import feature could bring their eBird lists up-to-date.

    Also, I think you should at least consider making it possible to submit lists of birds with little or no additional info including even date. Perhaps the data won't be of much scientific use, but if it gets listers to start using eBird then it is a net gain. Using eBird you quickly realize that it is the easiest way to keep tons of lists simultaneously. Using pen and paper, a spreadsheet, or even a homemade database, it is much more labor intensive to tabulate specialized lists such as for a specific location or a particular month. (Perhaps birding specific software can do this, but eBird is much cheaper). Getting listers to realize this is key and more improvement should be made. It is still difficult for me to find my BIGBY list or my county close out list. Even being able to generate a list based on a text search of the comments field would be a big improvement. It would also be neat to be able to assign each checklist to multiple abstract "locations" such as "BIGBY."

    Of course not all birders are listers or beginners. One thing that might motivate everyone is some success stories about how scientists and conservationists actually use eBird. Also, any additional information about how scientists actually use eBird data could give users valuable insight and help them become better eBirders as well as enable them to contribute more ideas to improve eBird.

    One simple idea that might motivate ebirders in general is to display a targetted message requesting data everytime someone makes a query that doesn't result in much. I know when I look at bar charts for a hot spot and see nothing, I move on to the next location. Instead I should see it as an opportunity to contribute.

    OK, perhaps that is enough for now. Sorry for the long comment, but I have been waiting for a good forum to voice my ideas about eBird. This blog is definitely a good idea.

  13. I agree with what Michael posted.

    I came back to add one thing to a way to make things better: being able to see the lists of other birders. This would be nice, especially when looking at the Top 100 lists, incase you want to see where that sighting was (a park, a preserve, random chance, etc) or if that sighting was nearby. Sure, privacy restrictions would be needed (or requested later) to either completely lock and protect your profile or only allow people on your friends list.

  14. I agree with most of what Claire said but not with her statement that birding without contributing data is a waste of time. I enjoyed birding before eBird existed. I had a great time. Getting out in nature and looking for birds is rewarding in and of itself. It's the best part of birding... not typing numbers into a computer. That said, I submit data to eBird all the time and I enjoy doing so. It's great fun to check out where birds are being seen and by whom and to know that my sightings are are contributing in some small part to science. And eBird keeps improving its features all the time. Like, Claire, I wish that more serious birdrs would contribute more data; some do but many do not.

  15. I know that many frequent birders in Minnesota do not enter their sightings on eBird. The ones I've talked to have all said that it takes too long and the process is not very conducive to birders who bird 3 or 4 different areas (maybe even different counties) in a day. They can't keep track of what time they started, how far they drove or walked, and how many of each bird species they saw. They just want to keep track of which birds in which counties were seen and that level of information seems to be looked down upon at eBird even though it would be better than nothing and would possibly help these frequent birders to start entering better data later on.

    Also, what about having a state or regional data coordinator who is responsible for gathering information off of the birding listservs in their area and entering the data?

  16. Those are very interesting usage statistics.

    It seems like the ebird developers have a strategy of adding more social features. This seems like the right idea for getting more users. The "top 100" is a clever way to get more competitive people to submit their checklists. The checklist sharing feature also seems like a good way to get new people hooked.

    Continuing on those lines - maybe discussion boards tied to various regions or hot spots would be good - though perhaps too moderator-intensive. Are there other lessons to learn from popular social networking websites?

  17. All,

    These are EXCELLENT comments. This is exactly the kind of information we're looking for. As you can imagine there are lots of things we'd like to do in terms of development with eBird. We are still trying to reach critical mass in terms of engaging the existing birding community to use eBird, and feedback like this will help steer us in the right direction. Keep it coming!


  18. I just adore ebird!! The way it keeps track of my life list, county list, and allows me to see latest sightings in different areas is wonderful! I even use the Google add on that posts rare ebird sightings in my state right to the Google page! I have to admit, I do check the 'top 100' every once in a while, too!!! ;)

    One suggestion I have is to have a means of keeping track of who we have already shared our ebird lists with. Sharing lists is great, but sometimes when I look at my lists later, I wonder, "Did I already share them or not? And with whom?" I haven't located a feature that allows me to do that, yet. I know I can see who has shared lists with me. Perhaps it is already there and I don't know where to find it.

    Anyways, thanks e-bird team! You're doing a great job!

    Jennifer Wenzel
    Racine Co.

  19. We enjoy eBirding very much.

    Not long ago I took a look at the new "Top 100" feature and noticed we were the number 1 contributors in every catagory! Of course, we were the only contributors!

    We need competition!

    Since then I have gotten a neighbor involved, so now there will be two contributors.

    I have thought about putting a classified AD in the local paper to encourage others to join eBird, but have hesitated to do so for many reasons.

  20. Over the several years of my Ebird usage I have been very pleased. Following is one reason why.

    Six years ago, I happened upon a pond in Orange County, NY. At the time, I observed a mere 6 Canada Geese and never envisioned seeing much more than that. However, since my initial visit in 2003, I have encountered 62 species of birds at various times of the day and year at that location. Without the convenience of E-birds, I would not have been able to have a readily available listing of all those birds and other details of my observations, such as inclusion of the weather for the time of day which I glean from NOAA. It has only reinforced my usage of Ebird for all my avian observations.

    One question for Ebird technicians, I find that some of my observations when submitted get placed with other like species observations but out of chronological order. Is there a reason for that?

    Thanks for a great website.

  21. Seems most of the comments ahve been that people have found it and left it and then refound it and become Fans, or they found it recently. I find it shocking that only 2500 people submitted more than 50 checklist in a year. I started very late last year and this year have like 3 times that many. It seems that most birders bird´pretty regularly during fall and spring and slow down during the summer. I was thinking maybe having a REAL active forum for Ebird, NestWatch, etc, all the related projects, a forum, where people can have profiles, locations if they wish, and can post to topics, etc.

  22. I can't think of one thing I dislike about eBird. Over the past five years I have become an obsessive birder and even more obsessed about ebirding all of my data. I find that contributing to has forced me to make a positive identification for fear that I may be submitting incorrect information. This has made me a better bird watcher.

    The tools in ebird are very interesting and I was extremely happy when checklist sharing became an option. However, I wish there was an option to send multiple lists at a time. My wife and I have been birding together for all of our relationship and sending her each individual checklist was quite a hassle. For instance, we just got back from our honeymoon in Costa Rica and I made 30+ different checklists. It would have been easier to create a box next to each checklist in: Manage my Observations and send them all at once rather than clicking on each one individually.

    I greatly anticipate the expansion of eBird to include the rest of the world as I feel I can not travel outside of the Americas until this is done, just joking! Keep up the great work and keep adding new tools and articles because we enjoy exploring your site.

  23. My immediate thought about why there might be so many people inputting only 1 or 2 times on ebird and then not returning might actually be showing you how a lot of the public does birding. I think a lot of them are not 'birders' in the way we think of birders, but are just people who happened to see a bird they find interesting, went searching online about it, and ran across ebird and thought to check out the site and input that one interesting bird. I think the real challenge is getting the public as a whole interested in birding to begin with, which I myself have found is no easy task, since there's stereotypes that it's only for the retired and is an "uncool" hobby.

    I also think integrating the site with social networking sites, especially facebook, might draw some attention. I do know there's an ebird group on there. But maybe having it where when you input ebird data, it shows up on your News Feed? I actually think ebird needs more visibility online and offline. It never popped up in my Google searches about birds, but when I put in something like "birding" into the Facebook search box, I found the group and that's how I found out about it.

    I also saw someone else here mention having profiles. I think that is a really great idea. To actually possibly be able to interact with the other local users directly through the site could potentially be a positive thing.

    Other than that, the site is awesome. It's so easy to use, I like the rather basic layout of it (not tons of distracting things), the articles on collecting data are so useful, and I actuall like watching myself rise in rank on the Top 100 lists. Also, the information about how to do the different count types is GREAT. My data collection was rather sub-par before I read that info. I like being able to search for hotspots and to see the species amounts by months - I've used this to figure out when to look for certain migrants. That info is hard to find elsewhere - most field guides don't even mention the dates of return for migrants! Also, being emailed my data every time is invaluable. I don't keep my field notes organized very well in the long-run, but having print-outs of the emails is the best.

    Another thing I do, which makes me love ebird, is to Google the names of the top birders in my area. Whether that sounds stalkerish, the reason I've done that is that sometimes finding local online resources about birding can be a chore. Quite a few of the Top birders are people who work in environmental fields and are extremely active in multiple birding opportunities or are field trip leaders. I have found all sorts of nice environmental and birding newsletters this way that I might have overlooked otherwise. I've also found a birder who leads walks, just by doing this.

  24. One reason some birders may not be using it is like me they track regional sub-species where it is possible to do so. Many programs you can buy now allow you to use the full Clement's checklist for species and sub-species. Ebird doesn't quite support this yet.
    For this reason I am looking to purchase software to track this, though I'll still eBird and I recommend it every time I do a presentation on birds or guide a group of birders. I want to be able to in a click or 2 see my Florida year total from 2007 with out selecting every location, my biggest birding day ever, my month totals from Lake County in 2008-2009, the location I've seen the most birds, how many of the world's families and things have I seen. This is advanced users stuff and would complicate ebird for beginners.
    One thing I noticed when I was looking for data on Mexico is that I can pull up locations where a species was seen but can't click and say show all other species seen at this location. Often the location wasn't a hotspot so it was frustrating and slow. Example there are multiple checklist for the hotels along beaches near Cancun but none are hotspots, so you pull up a Quintana Roo histograph and then select each species to see where it was seen, note the locations the interest you and go to the next species, why can I just right click and say show me all species seen here?
    Still love eBird and will continue to advise people on using it and add my data to it, even after I re-enter all of it into the software I've selected for more functionality.
    Gallus Quigley

  25. Hi,

    I'm an avid birder (and lister, though listing is not all I do), and I've enjoying converting from Word and Excel to eBird this year for my listing/birding diary purposes. I have 2 improvements I'd really like to see:

    1 - ( already been alluded to in other posts): the ability to make just one list for a birding trip to multiple locations. At the end of a long day, I often like to tally up my sightings, and even though I know it's most valuable to enter the data by site, that's often too much extra work, and I will resort to making a single list for a county or even a state.

    I suspect the reason this hasn't already been done is because it might be difficult to design how to do this. But I wonder if it could be worked in on the "comments" page. First you could enter in raw total #s just as you do now, and then in the comments page you could have an additional box that would let you select location(s) for each of the species you entered on your list.

    A second comment is that you should increase the time before you get an error message saying you've been inactive for too long. I did a recent long day trip in which I learned a lot, and I wanted to type in some of the things I learned in the comments boxes for each species. By the time I finished that page (probably about 30-45 minutes of typing), I got the "inactive too long" error message, and lost the entire post that I had created. That was so frustrating I almost didn't re-do the data entry.

    Overall, I am really enjoying all of the features of eBird, and these are just the things I'd like to see improved. I also really enjoy the articles - the one on Red Crossbills was particularly cool.

    Evan Houston

  26. I found Ebird when I participated in the 2008 Great Backyard Birdcount. I enjoy having a place to record what we see from our diningroom windows where we can see most of the yard and the dozen+ feeders of various types we have hanging on shepred hooks near the house or in the semi dwarf apple trees down the lawn.
    Ebird also gives me insentive to watch the birds who visit our yard more often,and we have seen some spectacular sights- like the 20 Cardinals (10 male, 10 female) that used our yard as a sanctuary during a january snowstorm, or the Hordes of Pine Siskins, along with a high number of Goldfinches, that ate us out of house and home thistlewise this past winter, or the 35+ Baltimore orioles that created a magical few days in early May in 2007, or the 3-4 pairs of Rose-breasted Grosbeaks that make home here in the summer!
    I as pleased to see a blog where we can converse and share info and birding experiences!

  27. I really enjoy eBird.

    I wish I could tell you why more people don't submmit lists but I haven't a clue. I think many experienced birders already submit lists to other organizations.

  28. I enjoyed reading all the comments. I posted earlier, as RiaSP57, but decided to ask a question of those of you who also feed birds. Is there anything on Earth that Starlings will not eat???
    When they come in hordes or in spring with their huge broods, they scare off other birds! Even the Mockingbirds and Blue Jays let them raid the food sources!
    I have altered the feeders making it harder for them to inhale suet and seed, but they still try. If anyone knows of a Starling deterent-I am all ears and eyes!
    Marie Phillips
    Watertown, CT

  29. I would like to be able to have "ebird buddies."
    These would be people for whom I share lists, can see their list totals (if they permit it) and other various ways of seeing information. I have gotten three people to start using ebird. Since they live in different states I can't see if they are still using it or not. By being able to see look at their accounts I could stay on them to continue posting to ebird.

    The Top 100 shows who has the largest list in an area, but I would love to see the species on their list. Having the ability to make one's list public to everyone or "buddies" would be a nice option.

  30. I have a suggestion for Evan as to how to avoid getting timed out. If you are making a long post with many comments, you can go ahead and submit it before you're finished and then go back into the post and edit it to add more comments. It's a little more work but could save you haveing to start over from scratch.

  31. I joined because it was a free way to track my sightings. It was getting difficult remembering exactly when and where I saw a specific bird and this helps keep things orderly. I really only use Ebird to keep my own records straight, some bird reference, such as songs, and for interesting news from the birding world.

  32. I am also fairly new to eBird, and really enjoy using it. My only suggestion beyond what has been mentioned would be being able to enter information about weather conditions along with observations.

    Also, the usage statistics (indicating that few people contribute the most information) actually parallels the usage of other very successful crowd-sourced projects, such as wikipedia. In his book "Here Comes Everybody," Clay Shirky describes this as a power law differential, where few people make the most contributions, and most people make very few contributions. So the usage for eBird might actually be somewhat "normal" for crowd-sourced digital projects.

  33. I started using eBird in Feb. 2005. I've posted 375 checklists. I really like eBird and know that using it has made me a better birder. I've wondered why others don't make the effort to record their birding into eBird. I think one issue is that the early eBird was hard to use. Also, I think usage reflects the way many hobby birders go birding. It seems to me that many birders visit the same areas over and over that have the highest probability of sighting the most birds. I think the idea of big lists has contributed to this being the style of birding for most people. Personally I like the idea of birding in areas that most people don't. I like the challenge of finding new "birdy" places and then being able to record the data in eBird so that it has some usefulness. I think articles in birding publications that would encourage people to find their own "places" and report them, in the value of consistently reporting a local area that they can monitor regularly, etc - to help people see birding as more than the highest number of species on a given day. Ebird can encourage this and encouraging it would help more people to eBird. I think clubs should have an "ebird help" night. Laptops could be brought to a hotspot such as the local library and people who know how to use eBird could help others get started and to set up their favorite locations.

    One problem for me now is that I have so many locations that I can't pick from the list. I wish I could organize my locations into sub-categories.

    I also wish I could print out a checklist based on my eBird form for my area, something to make entry easier when I got home.

    another idea is that clubs could have eBird counting days and use it as a way to help people understand how to count and make reasonable entries.

    Also helpful would be how to record sessions when we find ourselves in an area just full of birds - just make it casual? hard to figure out.

    Enough for now. I enjoy using eBird. Thanks to those who put so much effort into creating it.


  34. This is a suggestion to LG Price. I organize all the locations I have mapped by giving them all a prefix (except Hotspots and other 'shared' locations like less specific generic "city, state"). The nature of the prefix varies.

    I use state level prefixes by using postal codes, like OH, WI-, PA- (etc.) for states I visit infrequently. For my home state, I have county level prefixes based on the county name (such as Alx-, Arl-, Fx- (etc.). This scheme organizes my locations in the drop down menu for "Select from My Locations" in a logical way so what I want is easy to find when submitting observations.

    I use the "hide" function which is part of "Manage My Locations" to temporarily hide those locations I don't need on a day-to-day basis.

    This approach has worked well for me (700+ locations)

  35. I don't agree with the idea of going to a full-day checklist, or multiple locations in one checklist idea.

    To start off: Yes, It's time consuming to do it, and can get boring after like you birded in 10 locations that day, but the whole point of Ebird is to provide data at a extremely local area,(that piece by piece gives a better view of bird distribution density and range)

    You submit data that shows the kinds of birds to be expected, Veery and tanagers in a wooded area, Meadowlarks in a field. By adding all your locations into one, all day, checklist, you have not helped any localized view of birds. You might as well submit something for an entire county if you are going to do that.

    I would like to see a map on the main site, showing a map of the americas, showing the 100x100km squares marking where people birded for the week,month,season, year, etc. Also I would like that it show BIRDER density, how many people, how many hours, how many checklist.

    I like the idea of submitting weather info. I know you get your data alreadt, but it would be neat if we could see it displayed on checklist, something small even, like a picture display of a sun, sun covered by a cloud or cloud with rain, snow, etc.

    Just random ideas I have been thinking of.

  36. One thing that I think will make this a useful way to get feedback woudl be to address some of the points raised in the comments of this post and at least try and answer why something is done a certain way or if there are issues with doing something differently (such as large are counts, which is common theme above). This way people commenting don't feel they are being ignored or overlooked. Each could posisbly be a seperate post; it'd give you more content anyway. :)

    One post I'd like to see is a "useful tools" post for submitting other tools (websites, etc) used to make submitting easier or less of a chore.

  37. Sean et al.

    We are here and listening for sure. I plan to respond to various posts tomorrow in one message. There are a lot of good comments and suggestions coming in, as well as some things that can be quickly clarified. I'll post more tomorrow!


  38. One thing that hit me when I started to learn about birding is that there exists an incredible amount of organized and well researched data already extant. Here is a link to the Maryland Breeding Bird Survey.

    There has to be hundreds of organizations with similar surveys. Why can't the birding world organize this data on a national basis?

  39. I found out about ebird in 2007 when I read about it in my National Geographic field guide, I was hooked and have been doing it ever since. It has definitely made me a better birder and I became aware of birds that I never knew lived in my area. One addition that I think would be cool is maybe a top 10 or something like that for hotspots. A feature to look at your overall lists for a day would be nice as well.

  40. A couple of things I'd like to see are these:

    1. When viewing bar-graph frequency data from various hotspots, I'd like to see a small box at the top of the page that lists how many total lists/reports and how many total birders those reports come from. Ex: Montlake Fill-1452 reports, 32 individuals.

    2. Have a means (and I've not really figured out how this can be done yet) to view and report additional information for specific sites, such as time, more specific location (some hotspots are quite large, but can't be sub-divided in a report). This comes out a bit in the mapping tool for locating a specific species, but not if I'm looking at the overall diversity of a site by viewing the bar graph data.

  41. One thing I've been doing is putting the statement "I'm an eBirder. Are you?" at the end of my posts to local and state listservs. I also put links to eBird on my birding blog.

    I did create a facebook page for fans and users of eBird. I hope you don't mind. I am happy to relinquish full control over this social networking site to the real staff at eBird.

  42. It would be nice to be able to view the hotspot data from a map view. not sure if you are working on something similar and not sure if I have showed you all this before

    Also it would be great if you had some list comparison tool. Some automated way of telling me which birds I got last year but don't have this year (or county, etc).

  43. When we suggest a location as a hotspot, who makes the decision as to whether it becomes a hotspot or not?

  44. Oriole has a good question, who is in charge of the decision?

  45. Robert,

    It's great that you created a Facebook group for eBirders! We're happy to have you continue to manage that, and we should talk offline about ways to get more eBird info shown there.


  46. Jared,

    Your hotspot maps are really cool! I hope you continue to update those pages. We have toyed with the idea of creating something similar in eBird, it just hasn't risen to the top of our priority list just yet. It will, as we are aware that there's lots more that we can do with hotspots.

  47. Oriole and Dave

    Hotspots are an ongoing issue at eBird, mostly because the system we have in place is suffering from success! The concept is a great one, and we've got lots of hotspots in the database now, just over 30,000. The concept was pioneering at the time, 2002, to let eBirders create hotspots. Where we have a problem is actually finding the time to go in and approve all the hotspot suggestions. That job falls to Chris, Marshall and me, and despite trying to keep up with it we have fallen behind. Right now there are about 5,000 pending! The only reason we don't approve a hotspot request is if it already exists (a common problem) or if the place is a personal location like someone's backyard. In any case, there are many requests languishing, and that means that we have to change the process.

    In some states people have stepped up to become hotspot editors. They essentially manage all the hotspot requests for the state and merge, move and rename existing hotspots. In places like California, Texas, and North Carolina we have people actively managing hotspots and the process goes smoothly. We need help elsewhere though! So, if anyone out there wants to help manage hotspots for their state, please get in touch with us. After an initial bit of work, it probably would take about 10 minutes per week.


  48. I've been using eBird for a few years now and love it. I have two comments:

    1. I've noted that although eBird has an ABA area listing function, birds that are not countable in the ABA area can still show up on the list. For example, Trumpeter Swans were introduced to Ohio and are not countable, but they will show up on my state list and ABA area lists if I include a sighting of a Trumpeter Swan. This ends up throwing off my list count, so I end up not counting the birds when I do see them. In some other states such as Florida, birds on the state list aren't on the ABA list, but they will show up in my ABA area list nonetheless. Are there plans to address this issue?

    2: Often when I am trying to enter data, I will hit the "Continue" button and get a screen that says I have navigated back too far and all of my data is lost, forcing me to resubmit the entire data set. Is there any reason this happens, and can I do something to fix it on my end?


  49. Thanks for creating a blog with a news feed which I'll follow. I have used eBird sporadically while cruising by land/sea, but now I'm settled in Alaska I use it more.

  50. Howdy EBird Team,

    Thanks for all the hard work you do to provide such a wonderful opportunity for citizen science to happen. Most of my lists come from bird walks I do with school kids (a few thousand kids a year) that stay overnight at our facility. I know the lists aren't as useful as they could be since I just can't do a proper count as I teach but I'm thrilled that you still include the data. It helps that I can tell the kids that we are doing real science instead of lame, example-only science like they get in scool all to often.

    One of my goals is to get more kids into birding so I'm curious if you have any plans to create a kid friendly interface? I'd love to be able to direct my school kids to a webpage that would allow them to easily look up "their" list and do some basic queries of our (or whatever) hotspot location. EBird is simple to use for grown-ups but still beyond the average 5th grader. Some of the teachers would be more inclined to use the kid-friendly interface as well since they generally aren't into birds (yet!).

    I also invite you to check out a new (Beta stage) site called It's a social networking site like Twitter (which I found to be less than useful) but geared towards birders. The CT team is hopefully already working on a way to get our sightings into EBird so maybe there's a way you can help them to sort out the logisitcs.

    Thanks again!

  51. Hello folks at eBird,

    I very much enjoy the eBird website. I've learned a lot, and enjoy looking at the data for my local area -- to see when certain birds historically come and go etc. Very useful and interesting! I've been entering checklists for just over a year, starting as a rank beginner. Looking back I'm amazed at how much I have learned and how many more species I am now able to identify than when I started.

    I was surprised to learn that so few of eBirds users actually enter check lists. That's a real shame! It doesn't take that long to do, and eBird makes it fairly easy to do. I will offer one comment on something that totally intimidated me when I first started -- and that I learned I had been doing wrong for many months:

    -- The first question that you have to answer when you start your actual check list is "Are you listing all the birds that you saw or heard?" As a beginner my reaction was always a discouraged but resounding "NO!" and so that is what I always put down. I finally emailed eBird to ask about this, and was reassured that actually that question just meant "to the best of my ability at the time" and that I should always say "yes" in that circumstance, since otherwise my data would not count as much for scientific purposes (which was the reason I was taking the time to record all that information in the first place!). I had to go back and edit many months of my entries to say "yes" instead of "no". But this "to the best of your ability" is not made at all clear with the question. I am sure that I am not the only one who has been confused or intimidated by this first crucial choice. So...I would strongly recommend rewording that question so that it is more clear (and beginners can say "yes" without massive guilt).

    -- One other choice that I still am not sure I am doing correctly is the "location". How general or specific should a location be? How does eBird (or the scientific birding community) use location in collecting and organizing data? For instance: my husband and I go kayaking on Hoover Reservoir, which is very long and straddles two counties. In my eBird locations I have many "Hoover" locations that are very specific, such as "Hoover Reservoir west shore opposite Baldridge Boat Ramp" or "Hoover Reservoir islands near OxBow Road". Is this too specific? I use these specific locations so that I can remember where I saw certain species. But would it be better for scientific data gathering if I just put "Hoover Reservoir" for all my birding there??? It might be helpful to have a brief explanation about this next to that choice on the site.

    -- A final comment on a totally different subject. I am curious why there is no where on the checklists to list sightings of domesticated birds seen in the wild? I would think that scientists would want to track this kind of information since domesticated birds in the wild interact with wild birds in the habitats they share. For instance, there is a small flock of mixed Greylag and white domesticated geese that returns to a particular area of the reservoir each year, as well as a confirmed domesticated Snow Goose. But there has been no way for me to record these birds except in the comments area of the check list. Is there a reason that eBird does not collect this kind of data?

    But a wonderful website. It has given me much enjoyment and knowledge. Here's hoping more birders step up and submit check lists!


  52. Hyla - there IS a way to record such birds as domestic Muscovy Ducks or Greylags. First you have to check the box at the top of the checklist to include "Rare Specis" (although it is not a rare species you wish to list); this will make a box appear that allows you to "Add a species". Simly start typing in the name of the species you wish to add and the domesticated bird you wish to list will probably appear.

  53. I don't know if anyone is still monitoring this thread, I hope so. I recommend one of the moderators post an "open thread" each day for two reasons. One is that I just came upon this blog and I don't know if I'm posting to a "dead" thread since it was originally posted 14 days ago. I'm not sure if anyone will see this post. The second reason is that users will begin to interact with each other and that will make the blog more appealing to users, which will draw more users.

    I love the way you've made the site more user friendly. It's a wonderful resource and it's very easy to submit checklists. I have two concerns. One is specific, but I'm sure it's a situation that happens in other areas. My concern is that Rufous Hummingbirds and Calliope Hummingbirds come to my area every year, yet they are listed as "rare." The other issue, along the same lines, is that it's very frustrating to count a "rare" bird, or an unusually high number of birds, because you get a message that says what a great sighting that is, and "are you sure?" That's not the frustrating part, that's very nice. What's frustrating is that those sightings have to be verified by you before they "count," and so far I've never been contacted for verification. Maybe, in addition to recruiting help to identify hot spots, you could also recruit helpers to verify unusual sightings. If you don't "count" unusual sightings until they're verified, and you never verify them, how will you know when the norm has changed?

    Anyway, thank you for providing this site and this forum!

  54. ShanNM,

    Sometimes it does take a while to get the unusual sightings verified; it seems to depend on who the reviewer is and how busy he or she is. Just make sure to include in the notes section some details about the sighting so that the reviewer will have the information needed to verify the sighting.

  55. Hyla,

    You can add any species from the eBird Taxonomy to any checklist by doing as Oriole says, go to the 'rare species' link in blue at the top of the checklist page and then type the species name in the 'Add a species' box. This function then searches the eBird taxonomy for a match. If you type in 'Goose' it will show you a list of all the Geese not on the current checklist that you're viewing, and you can then select and add one. In reality though, many of the standard exotics SHOULD be on the eBird checklists, but just haven't been added yet. They will in time. If you submit data in California you'll see more complete checklists with spuhs, hybrids, exotics etc.


  56. Hyla

    Being as precise as possible with your locations always adds value to your checklists. While using hotspots is good, often they are too broad, and it's always best to report the birds from the area where you were actually birding. This helps us link the birds with the habitat on the ground. Look for a post on this topic shortly.


  57. Chris

    Check out Birdsleuth for a version of eBird geared to school kids. Here is the Facebook link

    RE Chirptracker. We'll be talking with them about potential collaboration. Part of the problem with collaborating with this and other groups gathering similar types of observations is that there is no effort information associated with the observation, and it is a single bird in space and time instead of a checklist of birds, the latter being more useful for scientific analysis. These kinds of observations would come into eBird as 'Casual Observations', exactly the kinds of observations we really discourage our users from making because they are less valuable for analysis in the long run. That said, there might be a way to work with Chirptracker to bring their observations into eBird, where we could then encourage users to submit a complete checklist to go along with the highlight bird report. We'll see how it goes. I'm optimistic!


  58. ShanNM

    The review process is something that we're proud of at eBird, but it is not without its flaws. It can be inconsistent across regions because reviewers change, loose interest, etc., and then we need to find new ones. In some places reviewers are very active and in others they only review records sporadically. It's kind of strange. Unless there are lots of people entering data, it's hard to engage the reviewers. On the other hand, users like yourself might get frustrated because it takes a long time for records to be reviewed, hence they are not inspired to enter data! It's a work in progress. Tell me where you are and I'll try to light a fire under the reviewer. You should ideally be contacted within a few days for any sighting that requires further details. Often, reviewers can simply 'accept' your records because they might be of early or late migrants, or of a known rarity. If more info is required, you should get an email requesting photos etc. This entire process is something we're always improving and growing, and it's something that we're currently trying to put under the microscope and rework.


  59. ShanNM

    A question from a rookie blogger: how do I keep an "Open Thread" in Blogger? Do you just label it as such or is there a setting? I'm new to this!


  60. Gosh, There are a lot of comments! So one of my favorite thing to do after i enter a rare bird is to see if others have seen it in the area that I am in (Northwestern Mexico). I would love to be able to see all the check list entered in an area in the past , say, 2 weeks, and see what they saw. Also I really like Jack Siler's ebird map. It would be nice to add other areas (mexico, central america, Canada) to that map!

  61. I would like to suggest that a facility/thread/side content be established where folks could share their excel spreadshet templates (or other spreadsheets).

    There is much to being able to download data off of eBird (ones own data as well as from database in general).

    The challenge comes is being able to manipulate the data in a meaningful way. There are many folks with deep spreadsheets skills, who no doubt, have created templates that they use.

    Just wishing I had the skills but do not, do hoping that others would share.

    Just an idea.

    Thanks...this is a good idea (the blog).

  62. Suggestion:
    I became an "online reporter" in eBird through participating in the GBBC, which is a great way to get birders and non-birders involved in reporting online. One feature I like on the GBBC submission page is that all the species are listed _in one column_. None of this "reading across" as in eBird, which is more time consuming. Why did you pick listing species in three columns instead of one? I actually find it really irritating, and it slows the submission process down. I would much prefer to read a really long single-column of species.

    I love the many improvements and features that have been added each year to eBird. Keep up the good work!

    -Andrea Wuenschel
    Seattle, WA

  63. Andrea

    One column might be a good 'user preference' to include. I happen to like the three! Makes for less scrolling.


  64. Ebird staff:
    Thanks so much for a great tool. I just got into birding last October, I have always been interested in Nature and with photography birding became a natural progression from trying to identify the species I had photographed or seen. My problem with birding in the past had been the starts and stops of making a paper list, updating a few times, and then losing it in short order and having to start over. Finding Ebird obviously solved that issue.
    Beyond the always "on" functionality, as a developing birder I love the regional common/rare lists. As I find a bird I don't recognise and photograph it I find that I can get close in the taxonomic common species list, and then narrow down the likely candidates from there. This has left me to only "nag" more experienced birders when I suspect a rarity, and has also made me learn so much more by puzzling through potential species on my own, rather than being frustrated by how easily a 40 year veteran can spit out a name.
    Ebird has really been helpful and I am glad to be able to submit my checklists to a place where I can keep track of my county and state year lists with zero additional effort.
    My question of the moment, (I didn't see it above), is do the regional common/rare lists update summer to winter, and if so is it just twice a year? Is the county list the smallest individual region list? Just curious, I think I remember the lists growing before spring, but may have been mistaken.

  65. The one thing that I don't recall seeing eBird guidance on is this: In adding age comments, when to choose juvenile and when to choose immature. I know that gulls and eagles and perhaps other species remain immature a couple years before they are fully adult. I find myself uncertain with other species since I don't know where to draw the line, if there is one, between juvenile and immature. Nestlings are juveniles; what about fluffy goslings like those I saw today paddling after their Mama? Are they still juveniles since they are not fully grown or independent?

    I like the 3-column format, and the fact that I can choose alpha or taxonomic order.

  66. Brian, in answer to your questions...

    I'm in New Mexico, Socorro County. The Calliope and Rufous Hummingbirds haven't gotten here, probably at the end of the month, but they do come here every year. I'm not having problems with rare birds so much right now as numbers, although I did put in a Baltimore Oriole from last spring and was never contacted for verification. As I said, the problem seems with the number of birds I'm counting. The past couple of years I've been inundated with hordes of Bullock's and Scott's Orioles (more than 70) in May. This year I was ready for them and put out 10 oriole feeders instead of the usual 8. I counted very conservatively and many of my counts were so "great" they needed to be verified. If someone local were going to verify it, it's too late, the majority of orioles have moved on and, although I do have photographs of individuals and groups, it's impossible to photograph them all at the same time.

    As far as your second question about an open thread. This thread is getting monstrous, and is probably getting ready to scroll off the page. What I would do is post a thread each morning with a title like (Date) eBird Questions and Comments. In the text just use a standard blurb asking people for their questions and comments about eBird. That way people will be posting on a new thread, so you don't have to keep coming back to check this one, and so people have a place to make comments that don't pertain to your topic of the day.

    I do have one other question. One of the Orioles I spotted this year was a hybrid. I entered it as a Bullock's because it was obviously a Bullock's hybrid. Would it be permissible to enter Bullock's Hybrid as a species? Does eBird try to track the hybrids? Or should I just continue to count any oriole hybrid as the species it gets its predominant markings from?

    Thanks for taking the time to answer. I really appreciate it!

  67. Claire

    Adding age is a tricky thing. We almost left it as simple as "Immature" and "Adult", but opted to add the "Juvenile" category as well. Juveniles are birds that have not yet molted out of juvenile plumage. It's complicated because for some species (e.g., sparrows) juvenile (sometimes called juvenal) plumage is held very briefly, often for only a month after leaving the nest. This means you almost never see juvenile sparrows. But for larger birds (e.g., hawks) many retain juvenile plumage for the first 9 months or so of life! So, I'd say use 'Immature' to be safe, and 'juvenile' only when it's appropriate and known to be one. 'Immature' is safe because all juveniles are also immature. Confusing!


  68. ShanNM

    You can enter any 'hybrid' in the eBird taxonomy by going to 'Rare species' on the checklist page, then searching the 'Add a species' window for say, in this case 'oriole'. It will return all the options for orioles not on the current checklist, including hybrids etc. You should definitely report hybrids as such.



  69. I went birding last month and decided to try my best to report EVERY SINGLE bird I heard or saw, even recording the sex if that was possible. I ended up spending as much time looking down at my notebook as I did looking around me. It was stressful, not enjoyable. I wanted to provide as much high-quality data as possible, but sometimes that comes at the expense of enjoying nature. Birding is not the same as data collection.

    I feel bad if I only report a species list or just estimate species numbers, but actually doing the hard work of providing sterling data is stressful.

  70. Anon

    Birding has to be fun first, we can't loose sight of that. The more you try to estimate numbers on your birding walks the better you get at it and the easier it becomes. It's a skill like anything else. You'll improve with time if you keep at it, you just have to ENJOY counting the birds too! I really enjoy counting birds and trying to look more closely at what's around me. In the end it's more rewarding for me as a birder. I suspect you'll find the same to be true if you keep at it.


  71. I eBird sorta regularly and use the "Well, look on to see what's here ..." much more regularly. Birders know about the site, but counting for most is not part of what they enjoy. They know of the data and use it, but for species and locations and densities and dates. Why contribute when you don't have to? (Public Broadcasting Syndrome) I don't care if they do or don't as long as there are enough that do. Statistics is all that matters.

  72. After reading the post on the eBird site about county counts, I wondered: is there a way for us to see the counts ourselves? If so, I just need to find it, otherwise, that would be a great addition to the site. I can think of a way to slowly find the information (running a Top 100 for each county) but that's not easy, so most people wouldn't do it.