Your eBird observations make a huge difference in our understanding of birds at many levels—from making more information available for birdwatchers to eBird Science use. Below are our tips to help make your eBirding as valuable as possible for science and conservation. For more details on maximizing the value of your checklists, take a look at our brief, free eBird Essentials course. 

eBird Core Rules & Requirements

Easy ways to improve the scientific value of eBird checklists 

Additional policies

eBird Core Rules & Requirements

eBird Checklist Basics

Each eBird checklist must... 

  • Correspond to a single calendar date; checklists should not span multiple
  • Correspond to a single map location; birds from different map regions should not be combined on one list (for information about when to start a new location, see below)
  • Have an observation type - or "protocol" - that best describes your birding activity (learn more about eBird protocols)

Data are most valuable in eBird when they have all of the above information. If you have sightings over multiple dates, or without a specific location, you can enter these using the Life List guidelines.

Include in your list

  • Birds you hear or see - as long as you were able to confidently identify the bird, you should enter it regardless of whether you heard or saw it. If you only report the birds you saw, mark your checklist incomplete.
  • Counts of birds - see How to Count Birds
  • Fledglings, nestlings, and baby birds of all types
  • Introduced species - please report domestic or exotic species as long as they are free-flying (not pets).

Do NOT include in your list

  • Eggs - read more about including photos of nests and eggs on your checklists
  • Captive birds - do not include caged or pinioned birds. You may report wild birds you see at outdoor zoos, but birds that are part of a zoo or collection should not be reported. Do not report free-roaming pets, such as birds used in falconry, or birds that return to a pen or cage regularly.
  • Dead birds
  • Counts of zero birds - not including a bird in your checklist implies a count of zero on a complete checklist, so please don't enter '0' as a number. The one rare exception to this is when using the UN Breeding Code.
  • Remote sensed images or video - do not enter any data from nest cameras, feeder cameras, trail cams, Google maps, etc. 
  • Observations made by others - checklists submitted from your account should reflect only your observations. Do not add lists from multiple parties together if they did not spend the entire time birding together. If someone you know has an interesting observation that you think should be in eBird, encourage them to make a free account! (Learn more about keeping group accounts
  • Media from other dates, places, or people - only add photos and sound recordings to your checklist if they were taken by you during that checklist.
  • Advertisements and commercial images

Sightings that do not follow these rules and requirements may result in removal of your data from eBird.

Why doesn't eBird accept observations of dead, captive, or remotely sensed birds?

eBird is designed to collect in-person observations of living wild birds. When eBird data is used for science and conservation, researchers assume observations were made using more or less the same process (i.e., all birds were observed alive and in situ). The process of detecting dead, captive, or online birds differs too greatly from in-person birding for us to combine these observations in our scientific database. 

Reports of dead birds often do not provide information on where and especially when the bird was last alive - details that are essential for the analyses that the eBird Science team and other researchers perform with eBird data. 

Until the eBird database is able to accommodate these different detection processes, please report only your observations of wild, living birds to eBird.

Common Merganser

Fledglings and baby birds of all types count—just make sure to keep track of all those heads!
Common Merganser by Steve Kinsley/Macaulay Library (ML62561911).  

Easy ways to improve the scientific value of eBird checklists

Your eBird observations power important research and conservation work, such as eBird Science's Status and Trends. Want to make your eBird data more useful for more projects? Start with these easy tips any eBirder can do! 

Keep complete checklists

The quickest way to maximize the value of your eBirding is to report all species you were able to identify by sight or sound.  Learn more about what makes a checklist complete.

Every single bird observation, common or rare, has value. When you submit complete checklists, you tell us not only which birds you found, but you also tell us which species you did NOT observe. For example, a complete checklist tells us that you didn’t report any European Starlings because you didn’t identify or encounter any, and not because you intentionally excluded them from your list. Knowing where birds aren’t is just as important as knowing where they are!  

Plus, only complete checklists power eBird Status and Trends and many other research and conservation projects worldwide. 

Estimated seasonal abundance of Tree Swallows in North America

This species abundance map was generated using information collected entirely by eBirders. The varying color intensities show relative abundance of Tree Swallows across North America throughout a given year, and the data product is only possible due to complete checklists with count information. Click to see more Status and Trends data products.

Know when to start a new list

The shorter the duration and distance, the more valuable the information. Long checklists over large areas provide less information about exactly where and when birds occurred. 

When should you start a new checklist?

Any time you...

  • Change birding locations
  • Change major habitat types
  • Change the type of birding you're doing (i.e., go from stationary to traveling or vice versa)
  • Have been stationary for more than an hour
  • Have been traveling for more than a mile

consider starting a new checklist. Doing so provides more detailed information about where and when you observed the birds on your list!

Pro Tip: We recommend keeping Traveling checklists under 5 miles (8 km) and Stationary checklists under 3 hours for your sightings to make the biggest impact for science. However, limiting your checklists to less than one hour or one mile provides even more checklist precision!  

Choose an accurate location

Select a checklist location that accurately represents your birding activity. Precise locations are essential for scientists to better understand not just the birds you observed, but also where and in what habitats they can be found. Precise locations also ensure your observation summaries on My eBird are accurate! 

Read more about selecting locations and choosing personal locations vs. Hotspots.

Note: If not using Mobile Tracks, or when entering a traveling checklist on the eBird website, place your checklist location near the middle of your route - in habitat that best represents the general habitat you were birding in.  

Stop, look, listen, and count!

Checklists made while birding was your primary purpose are of greater scientific value than Incidental checklists. Whenever possible, stop and focus on the birds - even for just a few minutes - and turn each Incidental checklist into a more valuable Stationary or Traveling list. 

Was birding your primary purpose? Click here to find out.

Counting individual birds provides incredibly valuable data for understanding bird populations. Putting “X” only tells us the species was present - but there could be anywhere from 1 to 1,000,000! If you’re studying bird populations, knowing whether there were 40 or 40,000 individuals makes all the difference. Provide exact counts when you can, and your closest estimate when you can't.


Pro Tip: Check out our articles on how to count birds to hone your skills!

Large flock of Semipalmated Sandpiper

Estimating numbers highlights the incredible densities of migratory shorebirds in northeastern Canada. 

Semipalmated Sandpiper by Ben Lagasse/Macaulay Library (ML129596591).

Use Mobile tracks 

eBird Mobile GPS Tracks allow you to focus on the birds without worrying where or how far you've traveled. At the end of your checklist, eBird Mobile automatically enters the protocol, duration, and distance for you!

Tracks also provide researchers with a way to link your checklist with habitat information from satellite imagery for results like eBird Status and Trends

eBird Mobile GPS track

Tracks give you a nice map of your route in addition to recording your distance traveled!

Document your sightings

When you observe rarities, add notes, photos, or sounds to document the observations. Even for common species, including media and notes adds depth to the record, and also makes it a better memory for a future you. Check out our tips on documenting notable birds and how to upload media. For more on our data quality process, click here.

Antillean Palm-Swift

Share a single checklist

Rather than keeping one checklist per person, keep one list for the entire group and share it with group members afterwards. Once shared, each person can edit their personal copy of the list to reflect just the birds they observed. Learn more about sharing eBird checklists.

Remember: don't add checklists from separate groups together! Each checklist should represent the observations of one or more people who were close enough to have potentially observed all the same individual birds at the same time. 

Additional policies

Best practices for group accounts in eBird

Checklist sharing can also be a useful way to aggregate eBird checklists on "eBird group accounts." This can be helpful if you want to track the collaborative accomplishments of your local birding club or monitoring group in eBird. 

Everyone contributing to a group account should ALWAYS:

  1. have individual personal accounts 
  2. share their checklists *to* the group account
  3. upload media on their personal accounts. 

Important: make sure that the account administrator opts the group account out of the Top 100. Those totals should reflect the accomplishments of individual birders only. 

For information about entering historical records from others into eBird, see: Historical record accounts

eBird Community Guidelines

eBirders are encouraged to practice respectful, responsible birding and to provide a good role model for others. eBird has published recommendations for community conduct as well as Prohibited Behaviors pertaining to activities on eBird and Merlin. Please see the eBird Community Guidelines page for additional information. 

Common Eider

Keeping complete checklists gives more meaning to your sightings of common and rare birds alike. King Eider with Common Eiders by Tom Ford-Hutchinson/Macaulay Library (ML126748271)