Monday, November 15, 2010

What is eBird?

Golden-crowned SparrowGolden-crowned Sparrow, Forest Grove, Oregon on 21 October 2010 by Greg Gillson.


Recently I have begun using eBird and wanted to present some information about this "citizen science" program.

Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, the heart of eBird is a free "real-time online checklist" program. But it is so much more.

On the surface it is as easy as going birding and then submitting an online checklist for each location where you birded that day. Every time you go birding, submit another checklist, or checklists, for the area(s) you visited. Simple. The program keeps tracks of your birding list by world, country, state, county, or birding hotspot, and by life total, year, or month.

The real power comes as it combines your checklists with everyone else's.
"The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network of eBird users. eBird then shares these observations with a global community of educators, land managers, ornithologists, and conservation biologists."

The sharing of many birders' checklists creates a huge database. How big? Big. As of November 2010: 45,000 birders in 200 countries reporting the status of 8665 species.

In North America the numbers of monthly checklists submitted is very large. California birders lead all others. 4211 individual checklists during the first 2 weeks of November. However, British Columbia, in 7th place, with very few birders has 1531 checklists submitted so far this November! Washington State, in 14th place, has 920 checklists the past 2 weeks. Oregon and Idaho are farther down the list. But I think more people should be using eBird. I encourage you to take a look at

So, is it only scientists that can use the data? No, there are things you can "research" as well, in the "View and Explore Data" section. Here are some examples...

So, besides entering your own data, you can keep track of other sightings in your local county, prepare for a visit to a birding hotspot at any time of year, track year-to-year (or month-to-month) variation in any bird species in any area.

And with your sightings added to the database, it will keep getting better....

Try it!


  1. Amen to that! I'm a big fan and promoter of eBird. It has increased my level of birding enjoyment and it benefits bird science!

  2. I've used for years, so I'm reluctant to switch to eBird since all my personal data is on birdnotes. What do you think is my incentive to switch?

    Also, the Explore Data samples you offer are interesting, but I've heard others say it is pretty cumbersome to data mine using eBird. Have you found this to be the case, or is it pretty user-friendly?

  3. Monika,

    I also was reluctant to switch from BirdNotes to eBird. Every year or two since its inception I'd check eBird's functionality again. I felt like it was "in only," and very difficult to get the data I wanted out of it. That gradually changed.

    Finally, about 3 months ago, I found that eBird had become quite user-friendly for getting useful (to me) data out from the main eBird interface.

    BirdNotes has been great for storing bird sightings and researching birds in the Pacific NW. But many more people (100x) are using eBird. The mapping and abundance checklists with eBird are wonderful.

    From my perspective, eBird has passed BirdNotes in usefulness, and the gap will continue to widen.


  4. Another thing to consider is the limited scope of Birdnotes. It is confined to the Pacific Northwest, whereas eBird has gone global. The number of checklists eBird gets in a year likely surpasses the total number of checklists submitted to Birdnotes over the entirety of its existence.