Recently, eBird updated the data we share and publish through the Global Biodiversity Facility (GBIF), an international infrastructure that provides open access to biodiversity data. One result of this refresh is that data accessible through GBIF’s network now exceeds 500 million records—a true milestone for access to biodiversity information. This short article explains how data are made available and includes an interactive map showing where observations come from.
The eBird taxonomy is updating today (4 Aug 2014) and the process will continue for at least a couple days (until Tuesday, 5 Aug or Wednesday, 6 Aug). We do this once a year to take into account splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. You may notice some unusual behavior with your lists and other tools (see below), but this is nothing to worry about. Within a few days the process should be complete. Please bear with us while we update the many database tables that we use in eBird. The eBird taxonomy uses the Clements/eBird Checklist; the integrated Clements/eBird Checklist includes all taxa, while the eBird lists includes those options useful for checklist reporting (scoter sp., Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher, certain hybrids, etc.) and the Clements Checklist includes only species, subspecies groups, and subspecies (eBird does not include subspecies unless part of a field-identifiable subspecies group).
As of early June 2014, eBird’s database has validated records for an amazing 9902 species. The August 2013 eBird taxonomy (following version 6.8 of the Clements Checklist) recognizes 10,324 species of birds worldwide, so roughly 96% of the world’s bird species have at least one confirmed record entered into eBird. Below we investigate the 4% that have yet to be recorded in eBird—a snapshot of the most isolated, elusive, threatened, and under-studied birds in the world. If you are a world birder and spot any species on this list that you have seen, please get those records in eBird! 2 AUGUST UPDATE: Response to this article has already been great; check out eBird on Facebook to see checklists for the 8+ species already entered by eBirders who have seen this article and dug out old notebooks!
In Canada and the United States, eBird is helping to update the population data for Important Bird Areas, either by design (e.g., IBA Caretakers in Canada are explicitly asked to enter their bird data on eBird) or incidentally (e.g., birders enter their data, not realizing that they are within an IBA). In either case, these data form a valuable resource for the IBA Programs in North America as they are incorporated into the various tools and visualizations available via the eBird portal (e.g., bar charts, high counts, species lists, etc.) and ultimately help to ensure our knowledge of and conservation planning for individual IBAs. We anticipate that eBird will be used increasingly for IBA monitoring within Canada, and perhaps beyond. At this early stage, there is an opportunity to increase the value of the eBird reports to derive better bird population estimates at individual IBAs.
Canada now has one of the most active eBird communities in the world. Anaverage of about 800 checklists are submitted for the country daily. As you can imagine, managing all of these records is a big job and eBird Canada has a team of dozens of volunteer regional editors across the country. One of the ways you can help make their jobs easier is to make sure that whenever you are out birding with others, you designate a single person to keep and submit the eBird checklists, and then share those checklists with each participant.
Bird Studies Canada recently signed an agreement with Regroupement QuébecOiseaux to establish a new collaborative eBird portal for the province of Québec. This portal will promote eBird to birdwatchers in Québec, while offering the same high-end tools already available throughout every eBird portal. This collaboration marks the start of a transition period for the ÉPOQ program (Études des populations d’Oiseaux du Québec), one of the longest-running bird checklist submission programs in the world, which was extensively used as inspiration in the early development of eBird.
We warmly welcome the Regroupement QuébecOiseaux to the eBird family in Canada and look forward to more participation from Québec birdwatchers on eBird!
eBird’s new Location Explorer is designed to be a “dashboard” overview for a region, quickly summarizing the information birders find most useful at the regional level (e.g., country, state, or county). You can keep track of recent birding activity, such as what’s happening at your favorite locations, who’s been birding lately, and explore recent checklist submissions. You can help plan your birding trips by discovering the best places to find birds in a region. You can compare your stats with those of other eBirders in a region, and see how your county, state, or country ranks compared to others. We encourage you to explore the world using eBird’s new Location Explorer!
Have you seen a flash of rust-tipped feathers under a bright yellow eye? Or perhaps you’ve enjoyed the dubiously melodious sound of a squeaky-hinge song? Previously a common sight in mixed-blackbird flocks and flooded forests, Rusty Blackbirds now face an unfortunate and remarkable notoriety; this species has endured a decline more severe than any other once-common landbird, with population decreases of 85-95% over the past half-century. Understanding the ecology of this vulnerable species is critical for developing strategies to reverse these declines and protect this species. The Rusty Blackbird Spring Migration Blitz encourages you to bird for conservation- support an initiative to identify conservation challenges and develop strategies to conserve a vulnerable songbird!
This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic, encourages birders to explore new hotspots in their area. In September 2013 we released the Hotspot Explorer. The Hotspot Explorer provides a powerful way to access site-based data summaries, and is very helpful for planning trips to the best birding places. But for those who want to contribute a lot to eBird, the Hotspot Explorer also provides great tools to help you to find under-birded areas where your contributions will have the biggest impact. Below we give some tips on how to use the Hotspot Explorer to find under-birded hotspots near you. This month’s eBirder of the Month prize binocular will be drawn from those who have submitted at least one effort-based (i.e., not Incidental) complete checklist from each of 20 different hotspots this month. You can choose your own hotspots, but we hope you will focus on some that have very little activity for March.
Canada is a huge country and the geographic variation exhibited by our birds can be substantial. Perhaps no species displays a greater variability across the continent than the familiar Red-tailed Hawk. Sorting through the various subspecies of this well-known raptor can be a challenge for birders of all skill levels.
The least known (and least eBirded) seems to be the Northern Red-tailed Hawk. Jon Ruddy of Ottawa has put together an excellent summary which will hopefully encourage eBirders in eastern Canada to start watching for and reporting their observations of this beautiful bird!