Important things to know:

On eBird, every observation corresponds to a single location and a single calendar date. It is generally easiest if your pre-eBird lists are also organized by date and location. 


We recognize that historically, a lot of birding activity was recorded at a coarser scale of day lists, trip lists, or life lists. eBird works differently. To help scientists understand patterns in bird distributions, we require greater specificity in both time and space. 


However, we want your eBird account to reflect your lifetime of birding experiences. We provide guidelines below on how to enter your older records into eBird.


A List-building Checklist is a checklist that spans multiple dates or locations, used to get your eBird Life List up to date. List-building Checklists count towards your personal records but are not incorporated into the public eBird Database.


This message will appear on List-building checklists:



Do I need to have counts of birds? No, use "X" instead of a number to indicate which birds you've seen. 


Do I need to enter my Life List all at once? No! If you have a large life list with lots of species to enter, follow the instructions below and click "Save" at any time during the species entry process to save your progress. Then return to the checklist at a later date, click "Checklist Tools" > "Edit species" to continue adding birds to your pre-eBird Life List.


What Life List information do you have? 


Entering your pre-eBird observations will depend on the date and location information you have for each bird observation. If your pre-eBird lists contain...


Once your Life List is entered...

After loading your pre-eBird Life Lists, learn how to view the different totals here. Check out our FREE eBird Essentials course and our article on eBird Best Practices to maximize the value of your current and future bird sightings in eBird.

                                           Adelie Penguin


Adelie Penguin by Andrew Spencer/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML30749921)


If you have a range of dates and locations


Most Life Lists consist of a list of birds with the date and location where you first observed that species. For these lists, it is simplest to enter a single "List-building Checklist". A List-building Checklist is the ONLY way to enter bird observations that span multiple dates and locations.


List-building Checklists should only be used to get your eBird Life List up to date. List-building checklists are not part of eBird public output, and are not accepted into the eBird database for science and conservation (learn more).


IMPORTANT: The largest region you can submit observations for is a single country. You will need to enter at least one checklist per country of 'life list' records. Please do not submit observations from multiple countries on a single eBird checklist.


To enter a List-building Checklist:

  1. Submit your data on the eBird.org website: https://ebird.org/submit
  2. Create one checklist per country in which you observed birds
  3. For each checklist, choose "Select an entire city, county, state, or country"
  4. Select the smallest region that contains all of your sightings. For example, if you birded multiple cities within a single county, enter the County but leave the City blank. If you birded across multiple states/provinces, enter the Country name only. The largest region you can choose is a country.
  5. Choose "Incidental" for the Observation Type.
  6. Use the date January 01 1900 for each checklist (very important!)*
  7. Do not enter a time
  8. Add checklist comments that make it clear that you are submitting a baseline life list.


* If your checklist does not correspond to a single calendar date, you MUST use the date January 01 1900. This will mark your checklist as "List-building" and remove it from public output. 


If you have exact locations but no exact dates

Follow these instructions if you kept a pre-eBird Life List for a single well-defined location such as your favorite park, Wildlife Refuge, or even your yard or garden.


To enter a pre-eBird life list for an exact location over a range of dates:

  1. Submit your data on the eBird.org website: https://ebird.org/submit
  2. Enter a separate eBird checklist for each exact location. Use an existing Hotspot or place the location pin as precisely as  possible to represent where you birded (learn more about choosing locations)
  3. Choose "Incidental" for the Observation Type.
  4. Use the date January 01 1900 for each checklist (very important!)*
  5. Do not enter a time of day
  6. Add checklist comments to indicate the purpose of this checklist (e.g., updating your Life List)

* If your checklist does not correspond to a single calendar date, you MUST use the date January 01 1900. This will mark your checklist as "List-building" and remove it from public output.


If you have an exact date but only a general location


You may have a list of birds from many different locations on a single calendar day. These types lists are common for pre-eBird Big Days. Instead of choosing a single checklist location, you will enter your list for an entire region instead.

  1. Submit your data on the eBird.org website: https://ebird.org/submit
  2. Choose "Select an entire city, county, state, or country"
  3. Enter the smallest region that contains your entire day's birding. For example, If you birded multiple cities within a single county, enter the County but leave the City blank. If you birded across multiple counties, enter the State/Province only. 
  4. Enter a separate eBird checklist for each calendar date; do not enter a checklist that spans multiple days
  5. If birding was your primary purpose for the entire day, use the Historical protocol; otherwise use the Incidental protocol.
  6. Only enter a time if you know the exact time you began birding that day
  7. Add checklist comments to indicate the purpose of this checklist (e.g., updating your Life List)
  8. In response to the question "Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you were able to identify?" - only select "Yes" if EVERY species you identified during the day is included on the list (learn more).


Checklists submitted from an entire city, county, state, or country will count for your personal eBird records but do not show in public output (learn more about Not Public checklists). You will see the following message on these lists:



If you have exact dates and locations


If your previous birding data is already organized like an eBird checklist: a list of birds at a single location on a single calendar date - you can enter it like any other checklist on the eBird.org website, or upload bulk observations on spreadsheet.


If birding was your primary purpose, use the Historical protocol, otherwise please use the Incidental protocol.


IMPORTANT: Please only use the methods above if your lists are organized for individual locations and calendar dates. Do NOT use the protocols above if your pre-eBird data include multiple dates or locations on a single list.


If your life list is arranged by species, rather than date and location, it will likely be easier to submit a single "List-building Checklist" (see above)


If you have NO dates or locations (a list of species only) 


Unfortunately it is not possible to submit an eBird checklist with no location information. At the very minimum, you must know the country where you observed a bird in order to add it to your eBird Life List. If you can confidently recall a country where you observed a bird, even if it wasn't for the first time, you can submit a List-Building checklist (see "If you have a range of dates and locations" above). 


Ivory-billed Woodpecker (Northern)


Ivory-billed Woodpecker by Arthur A. Allen/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML72932691)