Many birders have their special spots that they visit regularly, keeping tabs on the avian residents and visitors through the seasons. Some keep meticulous lists of the species seen and heard, some pass their sightings on to other birders to enjoy, and some choose to report their sightings to various birding and science-based organizations that can use the data to track bird populations. If you've considered the latter, and becoming a "citizen scientist," eBird is the online site for you.
What is eBird? 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 2006, participants reported more than 4.3 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 future Breeding Bird Atlas for New Haven County will use data gathered from eBird submissions.)
How does it work? eBird documents the presence or absence of species, as well as bird abundance through checklist data. A simple and intuitive web-interface engages tens of thousands of participants to submit their observations or view results via interactive queries into the eBird database. eBird encourages users to participate by providing Internet tools that maintain their personal bird records and enable them to visualize data with interactive maps, graphs, and bar charts. All these features are available in English, Spanish, and French. A birder simply enters when, where, and how they went birding, then fills out a checklist of all the birds seen and heard during the outing. eBird provides various options for data gathering including point counts, transects, and area searches. Automated data quality filters developed by regional bird experts review all submissions before they enter the database. Local experts review unusual records that are flagged by the filters.
Though unusual records are important to report, the common species records are valuable as well. "Stationary" and "traveling" counts provide the most meaningful data, so a complete list of the birds seen in your backyard at a particular time, or on a walk through a particular park or woodland are more useful than a casual observation of a single species. Visit eBird.com to learn more.