Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Five more dyamic migration maps


We have posted five more dynamic migration maps on the "Occurrence Map" page. The new species are:

Willow Flycatcher
Eastern Bluebird
Blackpoll Warbler
White-throated Sparrow
Western Meadowlark

As before, comments are welcome below. Thanks to all for the comments on the first round of maps.

Marshall Iliff

Monday, December 6, 2010

eBird animated occurrence maps -- first batch


Spoiler alert: if you like quizzes, and want to figure out this map quiz before seeign a list of potential answers, go to our homepage story before reading on.

We are excited to announce our new "Occurrence Maps" feature, which you can find under the About eBird tab or through links from the new story on the homepage. We have released a few of these in the past, but thanks to a grant from TeraGrid and several years of research, we are finally able to start sharing more of these maps. These maps are really the heart and soul of eBird, since they showcase how your daily eBird submissions are being put to use for science. We are excited about the possibilities that these models hold and will continue to share results and news related to how these are being used.

Starting this week, we will be publishing these maps on the new eBird "Occurrence Maps" feature. Here we provide a short analysis of the patterns you can see, along with an invitation to comment on this blog. If you notice interesting things, have comments on our analysis, or have anything else to share, please post a message below!

This first batch includes ten species, and we will continue to publish five new ones each week. The following species are the ones in our first run:

Northern Cardinal
American Pipit
Brown-headed Nuthatch (not animated)
Red-headed Woodpecker
Western Tanager
Wood Thrush
Swainson's Hawk
Grasshopper Sparrow
Olive-sided Flycatcher

All of us at eBird think these maps are one of the coolest things we have seen in the bird world in a long time. Not all of them ae perfect, but some are very hard to find any fault with. We are confident that with more eBird data and continued research, these will continue to get more and more accurate.

Again, we invite your comments on these maps so please let us know what you think below!

Marshall Iliff for Team eBird

Monday, November 8, 2010

Sneak peek at new eBird data entry


We are working at the moment on a redesign of the online data entry forms. These pages have changed little since 2002, and we've found that a growing number of you want more flexibility in how to record the birds you see. The old process left little room for building in more options, so we're moving the whole process into a new and better (hopefully!) format.

One of the biggest visual changes will be moving from a three column format to a single column format. Internet research shows that it's tough for people to scan across the three column design, and that it's easier for folks to use the checklist if it's just in a single column. This will also improve eBird's usability on mobile devices.

In addition to this change, we're building in the ability to customize the checklist page with user defined preferences. These will include the ability to display comments boxes, age-sex info, breeding codes (a new addition), and a show/hide subspecies option. We feel strongly that the core processes of eBird need to remain simple for everyday birders, but that customization for experts is required. By building in this kind of flexibility, it paves the way for us to add increased data recording options in the future (e.g., heard only, count/don't count this bird, etc.).

So we're excited about this new development, and we're just now in the process of internally testing the new functionality. We would like to test the new data entry on a group of hardcore eBirders, as well as some beginners, to ensure we're on the right track. We hope to start that process sometime in December, or early in the new year.


Team eBird

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

"Summer" Bird Movements

We have recently had an interesting discussion of summer bird movements on our local birding list. People have noticed a number of birds showing up in their yards and birding patches. I thought this may have some interest to eBirders since eBird, and the eBird Site Survey in particular, provide a great way to gain insight into summer bird movements. Movements and discussion is focused on Tompkins County, New York, but are broadly applicable. Enjoy.

Many species move in significant numbers at this time of year -- far more than the modest level of birding activity suggests. While shorebirds are well known for July movements, many landbirds are also moving. By late July, many of these birds are southbound migrants (Least Flycatcher, Blue-gray Gnatcatcher, Yellow Warbler) and others are likely birds moving shorter distances to molt or gain mass prior to migration. Surprisingly little is known about these late summer movements. For me, they have become one of the most interesting aspects of bird distribution.

I've mentioned on cayugabirds and Chip Notes that I have been taking part in the eBird Site Survey where I try to do the same counts as often as I can. This means that I watch from my yard most mornings for thirty minutes and have spent most evenings on the deck. I also do a couple loops through Monkey Run at least once a week.

Here are some of the more interesting birds that Jessie and I have found at Monkey Run doing our eBird site surveys in the last couple of weeks. The list below includes species that we had not seen since the first week of June (along with the first date this "fall" that we detected them). This list does include a couple species that we had seen in another part of Monkey Run, but which we are sure these are "new" individuals (adults only).

Hooded Merganser (13 July)
Black-billed Cuckoo (14 July)
Solitary Sandpiper (15 July)
Chimney Swift (19 July)
Least Flycatcher (18 July)
Eastern Kingbird (18 July)
Blue-headed Vireo (18 July)
Blue-gray Gnatcatcher (27 July)
Yellow Warbler (15 July -- date first obvious new individual arrived)
Myrtle Warbler (24 July)
Louisiana Waterthrush (15 July)
Black-throated Green Warbler (27 July)
Blackburnian Warbler (28 July)
Canada Warbler (24 July)
Eastern Towhee (28 July)
Savannah Sparrow (27 July) -- probably detection issue at an area I don't check too often
Indigo Bunting (27 July)
Bobolink (15 July)

I also must mention the numbers of House Finches that have been flying over each morning since about five days ago--yesterday I had a flock of nine, but each morning there have been singles, and small flocks. Before that, we hadn't seen or heard one in the yard since early June.

The intent here is not to point out how great Monkey Run is, but to showcase how many interesting things we can find, literally in our own backyards by looking closely and taking note. There are some great natural areas that receive very little attention throughout the Americas. I'm certain that many of these would turn up equally interesting patterns (and rarities) with a similar level of effort.

It's amazing to think what we could learn if all every birder would pick a different spot and try to walk through there once a week (or more if you want). Then enter it in eBird, where everyone has access to the data and where there are a variety of tools to facilitate our ability to see these patterns, look at arrival dates and high counts--even at a very local level.

Find out more about the eBird Site Survey here:

Chris Wood

eBird & Neotropical Birds Project Leader
Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Global eBird -- assistance welcomed

We have been rather silent here, mostly because we have been furiously working on an ambitious new direction: Global eBird!! Our World Series effort mid-month was largely to raise additional money for this project, and we are pleased to say it was a great success. Thanks to everyone who contributed!

We are now nearing the finish line, which means that it will soon be possible to enter bird sightings from anywhere in the world in eBird. This will allow birders to track their world life list in eBird, to begin creating a useful data resources for every country on earth, and to truly store their complete birding histories within eBird. This has been a long term goal of ours, and we are excited to be able to release this.

However, it will be important to understand that Global eBird will be in beta form for a long time. Basic eBird functionality will be there: any entry will be tagged to country and state based on the point plotted; all bird species in Clements 6.4 will be available; and new listing options will be available (for all countries and states in the world, as well as new regions like Western Palearctic, Australasia, Africa, etc.).

However, it will likely be a long time before checklists are developed that will bring Global eBird out of beta form. As many of you know, it is thanks to hundreds of volunteers and thousands of hours of work that eBird data entry is so easy from most areas in the Americas. We now have state-specific checklists for most countries in North American and county-specific checklists for many USA states. These checklists quickly provide the most probable birds for these regions on the date that you enter, and this also guides our data quality process. These checklists fuel the "xxx is an excellent observation" messages, which can be cumbersome on the poorer checklists but are essential to prevent errors and educate our users about what sightings are rare or unusual. (We hope that most people love these messages, rather than dread them!) So much of eBird depends on these "filters" running in the background, that we can never consider eBird fully functional until we have top-notch filters in place.

With this in mind, we are here making a call for help. Our staff is limited and our expertise outside the Americas even more so. If you know a country or region in the Eastern Hemisphere, we would LOVE your help in creating a checklist filter. To volunteer and get additional information, contact Marshall Iliff ( Even if you are not an expert, a basic initial checklist would be really helpful to create a starting point, they can always be refined later.


Team eBird,

Marshall, Chris, and Brian

PS - This Global expansion will finally bring counties in for Canada -- something that has been on our wish list for a long time!

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

eBird Site Survey at Monkey Run

For the past few months I have been taking part in the eBird Site Survey. The idea behind the survey is to repeatedly count birds from the same location in the same way. Whether you do this every day or every week, the concept is to simply try to go birding the same way from one location and enter your sightings into eBird. You can do this from your backyard, a local patch, really anywhere you want. Before I moved, I did this at a local place called Myers Point--locally good for shorebirds, ducks and other goodies.

I've been doing the site survey about 5 out of 7 days each week this year. I count birds for 30 minutes from our backyard at Monkey Run 15 minutes after sunrise. Of course, I also enter other checklists from here at other times of day but I try to make sure to do this each day. I know that I have seen A LOT more birds because I want to get up each day and really keep track of what's there. This morning I saw my 67th species for the year from our yard (a Tree Swallow), had our first singing Purple Finch and a lot of other small discoveries that help make birding so enjoyable.

The dynamics of migration quickly become evident as you spent time watching and recording what you see. You begin to understand when the local birds breed, when the intensity of their singing peaks, and when they quiet down to be inconspicuous around a nest with young. But perhaps the best thing about entering these into eBird is that we can begin to understand bird populations with this granularity across a vast spatial scale. Imagine not just your backyard or local patch, but thousands of backyards and birding sites sewn together across the landscape providing a real-time snapshot of living bird communities--all available to scientists with the click of a button. This is the concept of the eBird Site Survey.

If you haven't used eBird in a while, or even if you use it all the time, I encourage you to give the site survey a try. Even if you are only standing in your yard and recording birds for five minutes a day, I think you'll be surprised at what you see, how much you learn, and how much fun you have. The site survey is a great way to start using eBird too. You don't need to be an expert. This is something all of us can do. If you have any questions, let me know and I'll be happy to try to help.

Below is a link to more information on the site survey:

Here is my checklist from this morning--direct from eBird.

Location: 31 Monkey Run Road
Observation date: 3/30/10
Notes: WEATHER: Overcast. 34F. North wind 7 - 12 mph.
Number of species: 27

Canada Goose 2
Hooded Merganser 2 A pair flying close together low over trees to the south.
Herring Gull (American) 1
Mourning Dove 3
Red-bellied Woodpecker 2
Downy Woodpecker 1
Hairy Woodpecker 1
Blue Jay 13 Up to 13 sitting up in the top of the conifers together at one time--it seemed as if there was one main group of 8 birds, a pair, and another group of 3.
American Crow 7
Tree Swallow 1 **NEW YARD BIRD. Single flyover fairly low over treetops. 67th species for the year.
Black-capped Chickadee 8
Tufted Titmouse 2
Red-breasted Nuthatch 4
White-breasted Nuthatch 3
Carolina Wren 2 Two singing.
American Robin 25 About 20 flyovers and 5 in trees or on ground.
European Starling 2
Cedar Waxwing 24 Perched along little creek to SE.
Fox Sparrow (Red) 2 One under feeders; the other singing.
Song Sparrow 6
White-throated Sparrow 1
Dark-eyed Junco (Slate-colored) 10
Northern Cardinal 4
Common Grackle 1 Flyover
Brown-headed Cowbird 1 Flyover.
Purple Finch 1 One singing persistently to the south for about 10 minutes. I've had a couple flyovers this year, but this was the first Purple Finch that I've heard singing.
American Goldfinch 1 Flyover.

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Science Pipes Contest

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned on the eBird Tech Talk forum that we are continuing to open up the ability for people to interact with the eBird database. As some of our most passionate users, we are making a announcement of an eBird Science Pipes contest first at Chip Notes and in eBird Tech Talk. We invite you to participate in the first ever Science Pipes eBird contest. We've conjured up this contest as a way to introduce the eBird community to Science Pipes. "What's Science Pipes" you ask? It's a way for you to play with and visualize eBird data by creating a "pipe" that defines the visualization. Look for an official an announcement on eBird sometime next week, but in the meantime, find out more on the Science Pipes web page.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Feedback on 'State Needs Alerts'


Yesterday we launched the next wave of eBird alerts--the State Needs Alerts. The goal of these alerts is to send you notification on birds being reported in a given state, that you have not yet personally reported to eBird--essentially comparing your lists with all the new reports being submitted on a daily basis. See news item here:

We'll be moving on to a county alert with similar functionality next, and would love to get your feedback on these state alerts before going forward. One of the big things, at least in California and a few other states with a lot of introduced species, is the fact that if I (or you) don't report the introduced exotics, they'll show up on your needs alert. So because I haven't reported all the parrots from LA County, those always show up on my alerts. Kind of annoying, but I can get around it. The alerts did drive me to finally go out and see the nearby Tufted Duck!

Brian and Team eBird

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

The grand plan for 'eBird Alerts'


We recently launched a new service called 'eBird Alerts'. The first alert we have available is the "ABA Rarities" alert, which lists all of the rarities reported in the ABA area of Code 3 and higher. This simple feed will keep you up to date on all the rare birds seen recently, like the Ivory Gull in Georgia (!) or the first North American record of Amazon Kingfisher from TX a few days ago.

We're soon going to launch another service called "State Needs Alert". This one will compare your list of birds in a given state against all the new reports coming into eBird for that state, and list the reports of species you have yet to see in that state. This tool will be great for people interested in keeping abreast of their state lists. Next iteration of this will be "County Needs Alert", as in some places (e.g., California) counties are huge, and people are really interested in things at this level.

My question to this group is, now that we've started heading in this direction, that is feeding data directly from eBird into your email inboxes (at your request only of course), what types of other feeds might you find interesting?


Team eBird

Brian, Chris, and Marshall

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Contest for free BirdsEye iPhone apps

Just in case you hadn't seen it, the eBird homepage is now featuring news of a contest we are running next week (24-31 Jan) which will award as a prize 20 versions of BirdsEye (the cool new app that draws on eBird data). All of us at Team eBird are big fans of this new application, which puts much of the best bird-finding info from eBird in the hands of the BirdsEye user. With a commitment to data entry coming down the pike too, we are hopeful that BirdsEye will become an even more useful tool for eBirders in the future.

The full story on the eBird homepage gives details of the contest (basically, the 20 eBirders submitting the most checklists over that time frame will win free versions of the app). The story also provides a summary of the app and what it does, as well as our Team eBird review.

If you have an iPhone though, you might as well register! The app sells for $20, and we don't yet know what kind of totals would be required to win!

If you don;t yet have BirdsEye, we highly recommend it. If you already own BirdsEye, we'd love to hear your thoughts on it. Better yet, comment on it in the App Store.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

eBird switches to a new database server


For the past several months we've been preparing to migrate the massive eBird database and all the front-end functionality over to a newer, more powerful server. Thanks to the work of all our IS staff, that migration was completed yesterday, and all went smoothly. eBird users woke up on Tuesday morning with lightning-fast response times on most of the eBird output tools, and the My eBird pages.

Sometimes we have to spend time working on the back-end of eBird and prioritize that over creating new and exciting functionality for the front-end users. Now that we have eBird back on a solid database platform, we can proceed forward with much of the development we've been putting off for some time. We hope to focus over the next several months on making world-wide data entry a reality for eBird users, as well as unveiling a few neat tools we have up our sleeves.

Thanks for continued support of the project,

Team eBird

Brian, Marshall and Chris