As the eBird database grows, it becomes increasingly valuable. Your observations make a huge difference in our understanding of birds at many levels—from making more information available for birdwatchers to eBird Science use. However, not all sightings have the same value—here are our tips to make sure that you’re eBirding the best way you can. For more details on maximizing the value of your checklists, take a look at our brief, free eBird Essentials course.
Follow core eBird checklist rules & requirements
Every eBird checklist must have four key elements:
Date (a single calendar date)
Location (a specific location selected on a map)
Bird species detected (sometimes 0, sometimes as many as 345)
Observer (a single observer)
Not having one of these three elements means that the data are not a good fit for eBird—common examples include no specific location, or sightings spanning multiple dates. If you know only the country you were in, or if you have sightings that span multiple days, enter these using our 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.
- Fledglings, nestlings, and baby birds of all types.
- Introduced species.
- Living birds. Right now eBird is intended only for living birds. Birds that were seen alive before dying are acceptable.
Do NOT include in your list
- Captive birds. You may report wild birds you see at outdoor zoos, but never include caged birds, pinioned waterfowl, or birds that are part of the collection. Birds at zoos that are not known to be wild should not be reported.
- Dead birds.
- Remote sensed images or video. Do not enter any data from nest cameras, feeder cameras, trail cams, or videos of people filming birds. Detecting birds from remote footage differs too greatly from detecting birds in-person in the field.
- Advertisement banners. Refrain from embedding images for commercial purposes.
- Sightings from multiple parties on a single list. Checklists must only include sightings that are from a single group of birders. Do not add lists from multiple parties together.
Sightings that do not follow these rules and requirements may result in removal of your data from eBird.
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).
Keep complete checklists
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)
The quickest way to maximize the value of your eBirding is to always keep a complete checklist and report all species you were able to identify. We know that sometimes you’ll see a bird from a car or a similar situation that requires an Incidental Checklist, and that’s fine. We encourage reporting all species whenever you have the chance.
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 - not because you intentionally excluded them from your list. This information is critical, because knowing where birds aren’t is just as important as knowing where they are!
Only complete checklists power eBird Status and Trends and many other research and conservation projects worldwide. We can determine the presence of Bullock’s Orioles across North and Central America thanks to complete checklists! The colorful areas in the figure above show the predicted abundance of Bullock's Oriole at different times of the year. We don't have enough complete checklists to predict to light gray areas in Baja California and boreal Canada. By submitting complete checklists, you're collecting important information about *all* species, allowing researchers and conservationists worldwide to make better informed decisions to protect birds.
Keep shorter checklists
The shorter the duration and distance, the more valuable the information. Consider starting a new checklist each time you:
- Visit a new birding spot
- Cross a distinct habitat barrier (e.g. go from a grassland to a forest)
- Start another hour of stationary counting
We recommend keeping Traveling checklists under 5 miles (8 km) and Stationary checklists under 3 hours for your sightings to make the biggest positive impact.
Long checklists over large areas give us less information about exactly where and when birds occurred within them. For example, these checklists from Manú Road, Peru (right) each contain species not found at the other location even though they are only 8 miles (13 km) apart as the hummingbird flies! If they were a single list, scientists wouldn't know whether Brown Tinamou and Hooded Tinamou occur together, or at separate locations, along Manu Road.
Include species counts
Estimating numbers highlights the incredible densities of migratory shorebirds in northeastern Canada. Semipalmated Sandpiper by Ben Lagasse/Macaulay Library (ML129596591).
Counting birds provides incredibly valuable data for understanding birds.. Putting “X” only tells us the species was present; there could be anywhere from 1 to 1,000,000! If you’re studying Semipalmated Sandpiper, knowing whether there were 40 or 40,000 - and how that number changes across locations and years - makes all the difference. Note that every count doesn’t have to be a one-by-one enumeration of each bird — accurate estimates are valuable too. Check out our articles on how to count birds to hone your skills!
Use Mobile tracks
Tracks give you a nice map of your route in addition to recording your distance traveled!
eBird Mobile lets you automatically record effort information: making it easier for you to collect the most precise location information possible. Tracks allow you to focus on the birds without worrying where or how far you've traveled. Tracks also provide researchers with a way to link your checklist with habitat information from satellite imagery for results like eBird Status and Trends.
If you’re submitting a checklist using the eBird website, estimate your distance traveled using your GPS, odometer, pedometer, or online tools like the Gmap-pedometer.
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.