Most of the time, the core eBird observation types are all you need. But in rare cases, there are a few specialized types of eBirding that may come in handy.


Quick Links

Historical Protocol

Banding/Ringing Protocol

Pelagic Protocol

Nocturnal Flight Call Count Protocol


Historical Protocol

Australasian Gannet by R.H.D Stidolph/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML31232111)


Historical data are extremely valuable because they help build perspective in eBird and allow us to look farther back in time when conducting analyses. However, historical data often lack the valuable effort information that’s standard on present-day checklists. To handle this, follow these rules:  

  • Effort information (duration; start time; distance if applicable) + birding as primary purpose = Traveling or Stationary observation type
  • Partial or no effort information + birding as primary purpose = Historical observation type
  • No effort information + primary purpose not birding = Incidental

Note: when entering data from other sources, 1) make sure you have their permission, and 2) note in the account name/checklist comments that the data are entered by another party. If the account covers multiple observers, use "Data" as account’s last name (e.g., Historical Singapore Data") and opt out of Top 100 output. For each record, include the observer's name in the checklist comments field.


Banding/Ringing ProtocolSiberian Accentor by Batmunkh Davaasuren/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML78038371)


We welcome banding/ringing records in eBird, but since detection rates from banding are very different from normal birding, the Banding Protocol is required when eBirding birds that you only observed because they were captured for banding. 


The best practice when working at a banding station is to keep two separate lists: 

  1. A complete Traveling or Stationary Count list including all species seen or heard (but not captured/banded)—a complete checklist

  2. A Banding Protocol list of ONLY captured/banded birds that is *not* a complete checklist


When two lists isn’t possible, keep a single list with all mist-netted birds and all birds seen or heard in the field; use the Banding Protocol and answer "Yes" to "Are you reporting all species?” This means that you are reporting all species captured in the nets AND all species seen or heard. If you only report the birds that were captured in the nets or only highlights, answer “No.”


Pelagic Protocol

Royal Albatross (Southern) by James Moore/Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab (ML133489051)


Ahoy! The pelagic protocol applies to checklists that are made farther than two miles offshore on oceans, seas, or large lakes. Choose the Pelagic Protocol option from the ‘Other’ menu of Observation Types. Please note that we still have much to learn about seabird distribution, so we encourage you to add photos and notes to document your sightings on your checklists! 


If you’re moving: Count for up to 60 minutes on each checklist; stopping at the 1-hour mark. Record distance traveled (ideally with eBird Mobile Tracks) and choose a location on the map for where you started that checklist period. Repeat this process throughout the trip until you return to within two miles of shore.


If you’re anchored: Keep a checklist for as long as you’re anchored, and then follow the above instructions once you start to move again.


Note: pelagic hotspots are for aggregating historical pelagic data; they should not be used with the pelagic protocol.  


Nocturnal Flight Call (NFC) Count Protocol

NFCs are an exciting frontier of ornithology and migration biology, so we are happy to have a protocol in eBird for nocturnal listening sessions. 


Protocol: You should be stationary when using this protocol, and ideally keep checklists hourly or less. Counts should be conducted only at night, between astronomical twilights (dusk and dawn). Observations spanning 12:00 a.m should be submitted on separate checklists for each date. Counts between civil twilight and astronomical twilight should also be entered on a separate checklist. 


Report all species including nocturnal migrants and local birds BUT answer “No” to the “Are you reporting all species?” question. This is because NFC counts can skew eBird frequency outputs. “Highlights only” lists should be reported under “Incidental.” 


Enter any call counts in the species comments immediately after “NFC”. For example, please enter “NFC 187” to signify 187 calls heard from that species. indicate local birds on the ground or on territory with the phrase “local” (e.g. a Barred Owl hooting while you’re listening to NFCs). 


Amplified Listening: If you use amplified or directional listing, include the metadata for your array in the Checklist Comments. If you make any change to your system, make sure that is reflected in the metadata. 


Remote Listening: If you are not listening live (i.e., recording NFCs from a remote location or while sleeping), set up a "remote listening account.” Use your full name as the account first name followed by "NFC Station" as the last name (eg., "Andrew Farnsworth" and "NFC Station"), and opt out of Top 100. If you make a substantial change to your recording station, create a separate remote listening account to reflect the change.