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Historic data provide context for the future

Henslow's Sparrow by Luke Seitz/Macaulay Library

Every day, thousands of researchers all around the world go out to collect data—helping inform studies that range from short-term graduate research to long-term ecological monitoring. Many of these data go back for decades, or provide snapshots into the status of bird distribution and abundance of a past age. These historic data are incredible valuable, since they provide the context for our understanding of current bird populations—allowing us to understand how a changing world might be affecting the natural ecosystems of our planet. Brett Sandercock, Professor of Wildlife Biology at Kansas State University, recently uploaded more than a thousand historical checklists from Konza Prairie in Kansas, and has kindly written a short piece on the process, and how you easily do the same! Thanks Brett for your contributions, and for this great article. If you have a similar dataset, or even a few notebooks in the attic from times gone by, you can help paint a more complete picture of this changing world—read on to learn how.

Taxonomy Update for 2016

Lesser Violetear from Costa Rica. This species is somewhat smaller, has more emerald green feathering, and typically lacks the blue chin and blue central breast of Mexican Violetear, although some (like this bird) can show hints of blue in those areas. Photo Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The eBird taxonomy update is essentially COMPLETE. All major changes have occurred, and we have only a small number of minor changes yet to make. This may affect the lists of a very small number of users as we implement these over the next few days. We do this update once each year, taking into account the past 12 months of recent taxonomic knowledge on splits, lumps, name changes, and changes in the sequence of the species lists. As of this point, all eBird data will be reflecting the new taxonomy. This includes your My eBird lists, range maps, bar charts, region and hotspot lists, and data entry. eBird Mobile should also be updated to the new taxonomy. If you see unfamiliar bird names in the list, please refer to the story below to understand the change and why it happened. In addition, we list a number of new options for data entry (hybrids, spuhs, slashes, etc.), all of which are listed below.

Corey Finger, July eBirder of the Month

Corey birding in Culebra, Puerto Rico

Please join us in congratulating Corey Finger of Queens, New York, winner of the July 2016 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our July winner was drawn from among those who submitted at least 31 complete no-X checklists during July. Corey’s name was drawn randomly from the 1,720 eBirders who achieved the July challenge threshold. Corey will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for his eBirding efforts. We asked Corey to tell us a little more about himself, his use of eBird, and his love of birds – read on for more!

Taxonomy update today—9 August

California Scrub-Jay, larger and bigger-billed than Woodhouse's Scrub-Jay and with a more prominent blue spur on the breast sides. Photo by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library.

The annual eBird taxonomy update IS NOW UNDERWAY. The process will continue for at least a couple days (until Wednesday, 10 Aug or Thursday, 11 Aug). We do this once a year to reflect the most recent changes in avian taxonomy: 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. The 2016 splits and lumps will be published very soon on this page. We will summarize these changes in an eBird story once the taxonomy update is complete. A more thorough discussion of this year’s changes can be found at the Clements Checklist, where the 2016 updates have been posted.

Merlin Millionth

Merlin by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library

Merlin was launched in January 2014 as a free bird identification resource covering the 285 most common birds in the US and Canada (now up to 400 species, with more on the way). Now, 2.5 years later, Merlin has reached more than 1,000,000 users! If you aren’t familiar with Merlin, it lets you describe simple features of birds that you see, and, like magic, tells you what you’re looking at. Merlin users are opening the app nearly a million times monthly, logging 18 million identified birds each year! It is a great way to engage people with the natural world, and an invaluable resource for anyone interested in birds. Learn more here.

One billion words

Buff-breasted Sandpiper by Ian Davies/Macaulay Library

If a photo is worth a thousand words, then we have 1 billion words to offer. We’ve had an exciting summer here at the Cornell Lab. In June, we shared the news that your eBird contributions now total more than a third of a billion bird observations worldwide. Thanks to your efforts, eBird has become one of the largest biodiversity databases in the world. On July 31, we hit another big milestone: 1 million bird images archived in the Macaulay Library. The record-setting photo was a Blue-gray Tanager from Amazonas, Colombia, photographed by Caleb Scholtens. Since last November, 30,466 eBirders have contributed photos of 7,553 species from 216 countries. We have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible with this comprehensive digital documentation on a global scale, and eagerly look forward to more eBird/Macaulay tools in the future.

August eBirder of the Month Challenge

Red-tailed Hawk by Brian Sullivan/Macaulay Library

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, is a photography and recording contest! Don’t worry, you don’t need a fancy camera or microphone to win. Minimum entry requirements are an appreciation for birds, your optics of choice, and anything that takes a picture or makes a recording: phone, camera, voice recorder—whatever works! The next time you’re in the field, take a few seconds to immortalize some of the birds you’re encountering through image or sound, and add those media to your checklistsThe eBirder of the month will be drawn from all complete, no-X checklists submitted in August that include at least 3 photos and/or 1 audio recording. This means that each checklist you enter with at least 3 photos or one audio recording counts as one chance to win. The more eligible checklists, the better chance to win! NOTE: the photos and recordings must be your own, and of the actual individual bird you observed in the field—shared checklists with media from your friend don’t count towards your total, but you can always add your media to a shared list to qualify! Checklists must be for observations during this month; not historical checklists entered during August. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month.

eBird Targets update

Black-billed Cuckoo by Alix d'Entremont/Macaulay Library

A couple years ago, we released eBird Targets. Honestly, it’s one of our team’s favorite features in eBird. It’s not so focused on chasing the latest rarity (also fun) but giving you a list of birds to look for that would be new for you. Wherever you are in the world, pick a region of interest (county, state, province, or country), choose whether you want lifers or year birds and voilá—eBird magic. Now we’ve added a bit more magic: month and day targets. “Month targets” are probably intuitive—these are birds that have been reported in that region and specified date range that you haven’t seen during that month. “Day targets” are the same, but for one day. Have you ever been curious what your lifetime July 23rd list was, and what species you might be most likely to add? Okay, well, you probably haven’t, but you can’t deny that you’re wondering what it is now! How about February 29? Next Leap Year just got a lot more interesting… For those of you that are shaking your head, read on and see why day and month targets are both fun and informative, and give Targets a try!

Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellowships

Ruddy Duck

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology invites applications for our Edward W. Rose Postdoctoral Fellowships. These competitive postdoctoral fellowship awards support innovative, independent research by early career scholars of exceptional promise. Multiple Rose Fellowships are available annually, with applications due on September 8. All Rose Fellows join a vibrant community of more than a dozen concurrent postdocs within the Rose Postdoctoral Program and interact with many other scholars across a wide range of disciplines. Please also check our Jobs at eBird for additional openings at the Cornell Lab.

Karen Marshall, June eBirder of the Month

Karen resting between birds in California

Please join us in congratulating Karen Marshall of Prince George, British Columbia, winner of the June 2016 eBird Challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. Our June winner was drawn from among those who submitted at least 20 complete checklists containing at least one breeding code during June. Karen’s name was drawn randomly from the 794 eBirders who achieved the June challenge threshold. Karen will receive new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binoculars for her eBirding efforts. We asked Karen to tell us a little more about herself, her use of eBird, and her love of birds – read on for more!