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!


  1. I noticed that the Taxonomic ID field in the "export data" function has changed. I assume this change was necessary to support the greatly expanded list of birds that will accompany the new geographic range you are getting ready to support? It would be nice if you could please publish the updated taxonomy in the future before making this kind of modification.

    On a somewhat related question, I remember a few months back you published some info regarding a new iPhone app for ebird. Looking at the ebird site, I cant find anything regarding how the data is licensed, except for a comment that it is free for noncommercial use. Since the app seemed to be of a commercial nature I assume you must offer a separate license for commercial uses?

    I'm curious both as a developer (I noticed the tax changes when I was importing some data into my own custom built data warehouse), and also as a data provider. Since I am entering my observations, knowing how they might be used commerically would help me decide whether to share the data or to mark it as private.

    Thanks for all your hard work, hope to see you in the field some day soon.