In This Article

eBird Review Essentials


Flagged Observations in eBird

Do's and Dont's of Flagged Observations

Why is my observation flagged? 

Flagged Media

My observation is flagged, what happens next?


Flagged Checklists in eBird

Public vs. Not Public Checklists

Why is my entire checklist flagged?


eBird Volunteer Reviewers

Become an eBird Reviewer

Review Guidelines PDF


Still can't find your answer? Check our Review FAQs!


How does eBird ensure data quality?

eBird's data quality process ensures that your data are useful for the millions of people that use eBird resources each year. From automated data filters to a global team of bird experts, eBird's data quality approach ensures that every record passes through a rigorous evaluation process. This focus on maintaining reliable, accurate data is essential in making eBird one of the most valuable global datasets on bird distribution and abundance.


Greater Adjutant


Greater Adjutant by Chinmay Rahane/Macaulay Library (ML205565171)


eBird Review Essentials

We hope you read the below article in full, but here are our key 5 review takeaways:


1. Data quality is essential to eBird

Whether you're using eBird to find birds, conduct research, conserve birds, or teach others, access to precise, reliable, accurate data is critical. Understanding and taking part in the data quality process is one of the most important parts of being an eBirder. 


2. Document your unusual observations

Our regional reviewers may email you for more information about an unusually high count or rare species. You can reduce your chances of being contacted by providing a detailed description of your observation, and adding images or sound recordings to your checklist. We'd all be happier with fewer emails in our lives, right? 


3. Review can happen for specific observations and for entire checklists

Most eBird review happens at the level of a single observation: usually a rare species or a high count. However, occasionally you may be contacted by a reviewer with concerns about an entire checklist (e.g., a 200 mile traveling count, or a list of birds reported at the incorrect location). Avoid these issues by following our best practices for checklists.


4. Read and respond to the review emails you receive

eBird reviewers are often some of the most skilled and knowledgeable birders in the world—and they're there to talk to you! Consider a note from an eBird reviewer as an opportunity to learn new birding skills from an expert source.


5. Reviewers are volunteers—don't take review personally, and be respectful

Every person who reaches out about one of your sightings is volunteering their time to help you and ensure that eBird's database of bird records is as accurate as possible. This isn't singling you out personally: it's just a request for more information on unusual records for that location and date.


Flagged Observations in eBird


"Flagged" means an automated filtering process has identified an unusual observation for further review.

You may have encountered the following "Need Details" message while using eBird: 


Flagged record


When you see a "Needs Details" message like this on your checklist, it means the observation is unusual for your date and location, and must be documented more thoroughly than a typical observation. DO NOT immediately remove the species or lower the count. If you are confident in your observation, provide the requested details to support it.


Do's and Don'ts of Flagged Observations

When prompted for details about an unusual observation in your checklist...


DO: 

  • Double-check and observe carefully - If your count is high, count again to be sure. If the species is rare, take a closer look.

  • Rule out alternatives - Consider tricky lookalikes that might be more common in your area; explain your process of elimination in your notes.

  • Collect evidence - make detailed field notes, and take photos and audio recordings whenever possible.

  • Write everything down! - Your memory will be sharpest in the field, so write your observations down as you are making them, preferably straight into the species comments of your eBird checklist.


DON'T:

  • Reduce high counts just because a high count was flagged doesn't mean it is wrong. Count again; if you get the same estimate, keep it on your checklist and explain how you counted in the comments.

  • Write 'Seen well' and nothing else - the better your description, the more reliable your report. Simply writing "seen well", "yes", etc. is insufficient documentation; you may be contacted and asked to provide additional details.

  • Fear the flag - Flagged observations aren't something to be avoided; they're often a sign of a unique and rare experience! We are simply asking you to share that experience with us in as much detail as possible.

Why is my observation flagged? 

Observations are flagged for one of the following reasons:

  • Rarity—a species that is rare or unusual in the region
  • Out of season—a species is reported outside its normal date range
  • High count—species count exceeds the maximum one might expect to find on that particular date in that region


Most observations are flagged by automated data filters. These automated filters are the foundation of the eBird review process. They provide a first check on the species, count, location, and date of every observation submitted to eBird. Any report that exceeds expected totals for a given species at a location on a given date gets 'flagged' and requires further documentation.


Example eBird Filter


The image above is one example of an eBird checklist filter. Each bird on the list has a series of numbers that represent the maximum expected count at that time of year. 


In the example above from Lubbock County, Texas:

  • Species will be flagged whenever the number reported exceeds the number listed for that date. (E.g., any report of more than 10 Chihuahuan Ravens. Or a report of more than 50 Horned Larks in June.)
  • Species with a zero (0) year-round (e.g., Common Raven) will always be flagged when they are reported.
  • Species with a zero (0) during a particular part of the year (e.g., Barn Swallow after October and before March) will be flagged whenever they are reported during that time of year.


Who sets these automated filters?

eBird's automated filters are created by volunteers with expert local knowledge of when and how many birds are expected in their area throughout the year. These filters are regularly updated (even weekly in some regions), allowing the definition of "unusual sighting" to change over time as species distributions and migratory patterns change. 


Flagged Media

This photo/sound recording is wrong, how can I report it?  

In some situations, a human Media Reviewer may "flag" a photo or sound that has been incorrectly assigned to the wrong species. This generally occurs when the initial, incorrect species assignment did not "trip" or exceed the automated filter. 


Media Reviewers, including volunteer regional editors and any eBird observer with 25 or more complete checklists, have the ability to "flag" an incorrect report and suggest the correct ID in the comments. This is done by clicking on any photo or recording, then clicking the "Report" flag in the lower right corner.


Report an incorrect image


If you cannot see both reporting options any media item associated with an eBird checklist, you may have fewer than 25 complete eBird checklists, or the item may have already been reported.


What happens to flagged media items?

When a Media Reviewer "flags" an observation, it will be sent to the local data reviewer for review, similar to any automatically "flagged" reports. NOTE: This will only happen if you choose the "Wrong Species" option. Reporting misidentified species as offensive or inappropriate will NOT notify a reviewer! 


My observation is flagged, what happens next?


An unusual or "flagged" observation will not appear publicly until a volunteer reviewer has evaluated it. They will use any documentation you provide - such as written comments, photos, or recordings - to make their decision. If you do not provide enough evidence, you may be asked for more details before your observation can become public! 


Reviewers evaluate each record and determine whether it has enough supporting information to be part of the public database ('Accepted'). If there is not enough support ('Unconfirmed'), an observation will only be visible to the eBirder(s) who reported it.


You can expedite this process by giving the reviewer as much evidence as possible, as quickly as possible after a flagged observation is submitted. Learn more about how to document your unusual observations here.


Golden Tanager

"Bright golden-yellow songbird with black earpatch, short, dark bill, and mixed black-and-gold on the wings and back." All you need to describe this sighting! Golden Tanager by Rob Felix/Macaulay Library (ML120954231)


Flagged Checklists in eBird

Individual observations are not the only pieces of information reviewed on eBird checklists. eBird's volunteer reviewers also work to ensure checklist-level information is correct. 


Public vs. Not Public Checklists

By default, eBird checklists are marked as 'Public.' Though individual observations may be subject to the review process above, 'Public' checklists will remain visible to others throughout eBird.


'Not Public' checklists are not shown in any public eBird outputs and their observations are hidden from view. 'Not Public' checklists will still count for your listing totals, and will always be visible to the checklist owner(s).




Why is my entire checklist flagged?

There are several scenarios that will result in a checklist automatically and instantly being marked 'Not Public':

  • Checklists from an entire County, State, or Country: any checklist entered using "Select an entire city, county, state, or country" from the eBird website will be 'Not Public' by default. This is because checklists submitted to the county-level or greater lack the detail necessary for our data mapping tools. 
    • The only way to make these broad-scale checklists public is if the entire checklist can be assigned to a more precise and accurate location.

  • Traveling checklists with extremely long distances: any checklist over 50 miles (80.5 km), or any high seas checklist over 100 miles (160.9 km), will automatically be marked 'Not Public'. Like county, state, and country-level checklists, these extremely long checklists lack the geographic precision required by our mapping tools. 
    • You can make extremely long checklists Public by breaking them up into multiple, shorter-distance checklists if possible. Please only do this if you remember which species were observed in each portion of the original route.

  • Checklists from 1 Jan 1900: This is the date used for building life liststhat span multiple days, as well as for observations when no date is available.
    • Assuming the entire checklist occurred on a single, known date, using that date instead of 1 Jan 1900 will make the checklist 'Public'.


In addition to the automated reasons above, reviewers can mark specific checklists as 'Not Public' for any of the following scenarios:

  • Location issue: A checklist appears to be plotted to the wrong location (often due to a GPS error, or switching latitude and longitude)

  • List-building checklist: Sometimes life lists will include sightings from many dates, locations, etc. These are not appropriate for public display, and should be hidden by the observer.

  • Multi-party checklist: two groups birding in different areas should not combine their observations into a single list. A reviewer may mark a checklist 'Not Public' if they suspect this occurred.

  • Duplicated submission: two checklists by the same person for the same birds at the same time are duplicated data, and reviewers will mark one of the two submissions 'Not Public'.  This only applies to checklists that appear to contain duplicate effort by the same observer(s) for the same birds. This does not include shared checklists.

  • Distance too long: While checklists over 50 miles (or 100 miles on the high seas) are automatically marked 'Not Public', reviewers may mark shorter checklists 'Not Public' if they are unusually long (generally >15 miles). To avoid issues of data precision associated with long distances, keep your checklists as short as possible; distances less than 3 miles are preferred.

  • Imprecise date: eBird checklists need to be from a single calendar date; if they span multiple dates, they should be hidden by the observer.

  • Protocol issue: Each eBird protocol has specific assumptions and requirements that should be followed; this is especially true of our specialized protocols. Any checklist that uses the incorrect protocol may be hidden from public view by a reviewer.

  • Other issues: This rare reason is used for checklists that have multiple issues, and/or concerns about the reliability of an entire checklist that are not addressed in the scenarios above.

eBird Volunteer Reviewers


All unusual observations are evaluated by volunteer eBird reviewers - birding experts who volunteer their time to manage filters and review records. Reviewers are selected for their knowledge of local birds and eBird, and excitement to share that knowledge with others. 


Reviewers also address other concerns about a record, such as taxonomic issues, or media items assigned to the wrong species. It is very important to remember that reviewers are volunteers, and we are incredibly grateful for the hard work they do. eBird would not exist without this team!


Records that are flagged by the automated filters appear in a queue for that region, such as the example below:


Review queue


Processing records in this queue can take just a few seconds if an observation is well documented with detailed notes, photos, and/or recordings.


The review queue can be organized in different ways, but the default sorting puts the newest records at the top. In some cases, this results in older records waiting a while to be reviewed. A record will never be leave the review queue until it has been acted on, but for older records or historical data, this can take longer. We appreciate your patience! 


All reviewers follow our Review Guidelines document found at the bottom of the page.


Become an eBird Reviewer

If you feel that the review team in your area could be improved, and you have sufficient bird expertise, eBird knowledge, and excitement to share your knowledge with others, please email us (ebird@cornell.edu), and we’ll explore opportunities for you to contribute


eBird Review FAQs


How can I tell if a record has been reviewed?

If you can find it on the eBird Species Map, it is 'Accepted' and visible publicly. If you cannot find it, it may be: 

  • blocked by another marker on the map (be sure to look in satellite mode, where you can zoom in farther)
  • one of our Sensitive Species hidden from public output (these will be marked "Sensitive" on the checklist page)
  • still awaiting review
  • reviewed and marked as 'Unconfirmed.' 

There are also several checklist-level reasons to treat a record as not public that do not relate to the ID of the bird. A notice will appear on the left side of any checklist page that has been marked 'Not Public'. 


Why is it taking so long to review my record?

While we agree that punctual review is best, please understand our reviewers are unpaid volunteers donating their own free time. Many have full-time jobs and priorities besides review, and may occasionally travel (or go birding themselves!) Some regions have only one or two reviewers for the entire area.


Review is not instantaneous, or even necessarily chronological; reviewers may work on distinct chunks of data at a time, such as all records of a certain species or location, or they may prioritize records with photos and detailed notes. 


Providing thorough, detailed documentation is the best way to expedite review. Poorly documented records may only be reviewed when the volunteer has time to follow-up and send an email request for more information.


Why was my record not accepted?

Just because you can't find a record on its eBird Species Map doesn't mean it was not Accepted. In many cases, the record simply hasn't been reviewed yet! Even well documented records may take a week or two to be confirmed. Check your record again later to see if its public visibility has changed.


The main reason any observation is not accepted (AKA "Unconfirmed") is when all avaliable information is still not sufficient to establish confidence that the report can be included in a scientific database. Understand that sometimes nothing less than a diagnostic photo or recording will be sufficient to establish confidence in an exceptionally rare observation. eBird reviewers weigh the evidence given against the rarity of the report. More evidence is necessary to accept the first record of a species than to accept a common bird reported out of season.


You can improve the odds of any record being accepted by providing thorough, detailed documentation as quickly as possible upon submission. As your birding skills improve, you will better understand which records merit extra careful documentation.


How do I contact a local reviewer?

Currently, there is no way for an eBird user to contact a local eBird regional editor without first receiving communication from them. A reviewer's regional assignment(s) will display on their public eBird profile if they have one. Chances are your local reviewers are also active members of the birding community. The best way to get to know them is to interact with other birders! If you have specific concerns about an observation or checklist that merit communication with a reviewer, please reach out to us at ebird@cornell.edu.


Do reviewers have to send an email about every record? 

We strongly recommend that reviewers send everyone a follow-up email with the opportunity to improve their documentation, provide additional evidence, or fix errors on their checklists. Responding in a polite and timely manner encourages reviewers to readily communicate with you on future observations.


Why am I being contacted about a years-old record? It wasn't flagged when I reported it!

Whenever an automated filter is updated, ALL previously submitted records from that region are passed through the filter again. This may cause some records to be "flagged" months, or even years, after they were initially submitted, because they exceed the new filter limits. This often happens when a broad regional filter gets refined for local areas. Whenever records are flagged, no matter how old they are, they get sent to eBird volunteer regional editors who may contact observers for additional information as needed.


Does eBird follow records committee decisions?

Because the eBird review process is much faster than review by records committees, we encourage eBird reviewers to make preliminary judgments for rare species in real-time. We recommend, but do not require, our reviewers to follow the decision of the Record Committee when it is ultimately reached.


Can reviewers change my data? 

It is not possible for reviewers to change any records that you contribute: a review action only determines whether something appears in public outputs, or just your personal records. If you add a sighting of a bird, it'll always be there until you change it.


Why is this species flagged in my area? 

Our reviewers use a number of considerations to set the expected filter values for a region. Sometimes regular species that are hard to identify, or species restricted to one or two sites, will be flagged so that potential errors are more easily caught. Well-documented rarities from continuing locations may be flagged, but are usually quickly processed.


Why were expected subspecies or 'spuhs' flagged? 

Since the eBird filters also define which species you see during checklist entry, editors sometimes must strike a balance between showing the most likely options and every conceivable option for the area. If you have a subspecies, 'spuh', hybrid, or slash combo that you feel should be added to the filter, write "Please add to filter" in the species comments along with your observation. Reviewers see these comments, so you are giving them information about what additions may be needed on the regional checklists.


How can I help with eBird review? 

We are always looking for more reviewers to further improve eBird's data quality, especially in the global tropics. If you have expertise with birds in your region and are passionate about eBird's data quality, please get in touch with us at help@ebird.org and describe your experience with birding, eBird, and where you'd be interested in helping out. 


eBird Review Guidelines