You Should Use eBird, and I Should Not

Updated: Feb 14, 2020

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You might have noticed, we here at Flocking Around utilize eBird for many of our posts. We would struggle to bring you the mediocre content you have come to know and tolerate, without the amazing information found on eBird.

If you do not know what eBird is, get your head out of the sand! You're reading this, which means you have known about Flocking Around before you knew about eBird. Makes sense. We are kind of a medium-big deal. But this post is about eBird, not Flocking Around. So, this is how eBird describes itself:

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. -

Now, let's address our second question: What is eBird's purpose? Who can answer better than eBird? Nobody:

Every time that you see and identify a bird, you are holding a piece of a puzzle. Whether you are casually watching birds in your backyard, or chasing rare species across the country, you are helping to put this puzzle together. It might be a personal puzzle. For example, you might wonder when Red-winged Blackbirds appear in your backyard each spring or what time of day the Mourning Doves take a bath in your neighborhood fountain. Each time that you see and identify one of these birds—so long as you note the time and date—one piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Or it might be a regional puzzle. For instance, scientists might be wondering how quickly House Finches are spreading throughout your state or how rapidly Henslow’s Sparrows are declining. Each time that you identify and count the numbers of one of these species, you are piecing together a part of that puzzle.
Or it might be an international puzzle. Each year during migration, hundreds of species fly from southern wintering grounds to northern breeding grounds, following the flush of summer insects. When do they leave? Where do they breed? And when do they return home? Whether recording common birds in your backyard or searching for rarities along the Mexican border, your sightings of these birds – with time, date, and location included – are pieces that can help ornithologists solve this huge puzzle, day by day, week by week, and year by year.

Unfortunately, just like puzzle pieces, these observations lose their value if they remain separate from one another. The sightings tucked away in your memory, or in your desk drawer, or in an old shoebox in your closet leave gaps in a partially painted picture. In truth, the only way that all these bird sightings make a contribution to our understanding of nature is when they are collected and organized into a central database where they can help complete this picture of birds worldwide.
eBird is this database. With thousands of birdwatchers across the continent helping to construct it by contributing their sightings, eBird will soon become a vast source of bird and environmental information useful not only to bird watchers but to scientists and conservationists the world over. Want to find out what birds you’ll see on your vacation? Want to know the closest spot to find a Least Bittern, or a reliable spot for Townsend’s Warbler? Want to learn whether the crow population is growing in your state? Want to see if endangered Least Terns are continuing their decline?

By keeping track of your bird observations and entering them into the eBird database, you’ll benefit, too. You can access your own bird records anytime you want, allowing you an easy way to look at your observations in new ways and to answer your personal questions about what birds you saw and when and where you saw them.
If you use the eBird web site to enter all your birding information—and get your friends, family members, students, and colleagues to use it as well—before long the answers to the never ending questions about birds will be found in the eBird database, for use now and for generations that will follow. -

You know what eBird is, its purpose, and now you need to know how to use the program. I am going to make this simple on us both. Click here to sign up for eBird!

Minimal information is required to create an account!

You know what eBird is, eBird's purpose, and how to sign-up. Finally, let's add the piece you've been waiting for. Here is why YOU should use eBird, and I (Zach) should not.

Let me describe you when birding:



-follows protocols

-promptly uploads photos

-completes necessary rarity information

-submits rare bird forms

-responds promptly to eBird reviewers


And I will now describe myself when birding:


-distracted (morel season pays a toll)

-random protocol usage (incidental checklists can burn!)

-uploads photos within 5 years (that's reasonable, right?)

-inserts jokes in necessary rarity information

-rebels against the Rare Bird Committee (and general bird authority)

-forgets what email is

-submits checklists when convenient

Hopefully, you understand the point I am attempting to make: To use eBird in the most effective manner, you need to utilize the first series of traits. Traits that I often find lacking in myself. Why should you try to be an effective eBirder? Because eBird benefits birds and birders alike. And that is something we can all get behind!

Cue the end of the blogpost. Seriously, I do not have a good way to end this. Just stop reading. Or hit "esc." Does that key even do anything anymore? Why have it on the keyboard? I'm going to test my esc key in 3...2...