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 eBird.org.
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...
- View the worldwide range of Winter Wren (before the split into 3 species)
- Create a county checklist, such as one for Lincoln County, Oregon
- Look at the checklist of all birds reported at Malheur NWR, Oregon in May 2010
- Look at the mapped range of Western Scrub-Jay in Washington State
- View the mapped range and click on the location flags to see who reported Oak Titmouse in Oregon
- Compare the seasonal range map of breeding Golden-crowned Sparrow with the winter range
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....