As we saw in last week’s post, there’s a wealth of birding information online.  Today I wanted to wrap up our look at birding resources by focusing on a single resource that is very useful for the modern birder- eBird.


eBird has a slogan- ‘global tools for birders, critical data for science‘.

A real-time, online checklist program, eBird has revolutionized the way that the birding community reports and accesses information about birds. Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird provides rich data sources for basic information on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales.

eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in March 2012, participants reported more than 3.1 million bird observations across North America!

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. In time these data will become the foundation for a better understanding of bird distribution across the western hemisphere and beyond.

A public online database for recording bird sightings is useful for both birders and scientists.  By sharing what birds I’ve seen during a particular walk at a certain location, not only do I keep track of what I’ve seen, I let other birders know what they may be able to see there as well.  Scientists look at the data that is created over the years to see trends in bird species, numbers and ranges.  Hence, eBird is a great grassroots tool for both hobbyists and professionals.

Here’s part of a checklist I’ve done (the whole list is a bit long to display here):

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You’ll notice that you can add photographs to your lists which is really handy (though they must be hosted elsewhere, at any one of the free sites that allow you to do this).  Not only can you show the species and amount of birds you saw, you can select codes that give particular information, such as birds singing on territory, nesting, building a nest, carrying food to a nest, and whether a bird was a male, female, immature, or a nestling.

On the above list, the male Bell’s Vireo that I saw is an uncommon-to-rare bird in central Ohio.  Other birders who haven’t seen one now know where they can go to add another life list bird.  This is a prized feature for birding enthusiasts.

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eBird compiles personal data for its users- at a glance I can look through the hundreds of lists that I’ve created over the years, I can look at my life list showing the number of species I’ve seen, and I can even break down the data to see how many species I’ve seen in a country, state, and county, even the number of species I’ve seen at a particular location.  There are all sorts of ways to look at your own data.  Pictured above is part of the data set from my 2013 visits to Blendon Woods Metro Park.

There are a various different ways for eBird users to find data that other eBirders have entered.

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This is where eBird really shines.  All of the millions of bird checklists that users have entered have been displayed in different ways to search.

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When can I expect to see swallows in Delaware County, Ohio?

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Show me a comparison of the frequency of sightings of White-Throated Sparrows and White-Crowned Sparrows in the whole state of Ohio over the calendar year.

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Show me the locations around Columbus Ohio where Snow Buntings have been seen so far this year.  You can click on an observation to see individual sightings and photos.

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Show me birding hotspot locations around Cleveland Ohio…

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…you can click on any hotspot you want to see the latest bird sightings, checklists, and who the most active and recent eBirders are at that particular place.

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eBird is worldwide in scope, by the way.  Here’s the world’s hotspots- the redder the hotspot, the more species that have been seen there by eBirders.

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You can even watch as checklists are submitted in real time.  eBird has done a fantastic job with data!

The days of birders writing out lists with notebook and pencil are gone- online is where the data is at.  Contribute your own sightings and you get not only a record of everything you’ve seen, but you also contribute to science’s understanding of our avian friends.