Wednesday, January 11, 2012

eBird best practices
Enter Complete Checklists

Note: For the past year I have been trying to convince you, no matter your skill level, to use eBird to record your bird sightings (Here is a link to bring up all my posts related to eBird). This citizen science project unites birders around the world and in your local community. I challenge you to try it just once--enter a list of birds from your next bird trip.

If you start, or already are, using eBird, there are practices you can use to make your data more useful to science, and thus help the birds themselves. For the remainder of the year, I will present a monthly recommendation of eBird best practices. Below is the first one.

The most useful checklist to submit to eBird is the Complete Checklist.

eBird asks: "Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you saw/heard?"

Record every species seen and heard--even common ones.

When you select the Complete Checklist, eBird is then able to compute accurate range maps and bird frequency (how many checklists report that species during that particular week). For instance, if you select Complete Checklist and do not have American Robin on your list, eBird knows that you did not see any--not just that you didn't feel them interesting or unusual enough to write down.

Entering lots of complete checklists doesn't necessarily mean that a person spends any more time birding than you do now. Got 5-10 minutes to observe birds at your feeder? How about doing so more than once during the day? Did you take a 20 minute dog walk or jog today and note any birds? Can you take 15 minutes out of your lunch time to watch birds anywhere? If you record all birds seen during these short time periods, you'll find there are numerous opportunities during each day to submit complete checklists.

All of these data are useful and add to the knowledge of status and distribution of birds. In fact, we know a lot more about birds at wildlife refuges and parks than we know about birds in residential neighborhoods or towns. Your complete checklists--even if only 5-10 minutes--in such areas are likely to add more new bird information than your weekend visit to the local birding hotspot.

In September 2011 I checked the number of eBirders in Oregon submitting the most complete checklists. There were 69 birders submitting at least 1 checklist per week, on average, over the whole year of 2011. Of these, one-third were averaging 1 checklist every other day, or 3-1/2 checklists per week. Combined with hundreds of others submitting far less often it all adds up. In September 2011, Oregon eBirders submitted over 1600 complete checklists. Remember, eBird is worldwide. Just think how much information on bird status and distribution is being gathered by eBird!

More information on this topic can be found on the eBird site, Are you reporting all species?