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Make eBird your New Year’s Resolution!

eBird was released in 2002 but took its current form in 2005. The eBird that we all know and love will be ten years old in 2015. We hear from hundreds of people each year who tell us how eBird has changed their birding habits for the better, has taught them about bird occurrence in their area and on their travels, has helped them learn birds, and has made their birding more fun. We also hear from hundreds who say that they want to submit to eBird more often or that they “keep meaning to get started” but have yet to “take the plunge”. Together, let’s make 2015 the year of no regrets! For 2015, make your New Year’s Resolution to use eBird for the entire year!

Every bird observation has value. Whether it is a new species for the database from a remote Indonesian island or an observation of common backyard birds in the city, every bit of information you contribute is helpful. The world is a big place, and to understand what birds are where requires contributions from as many people as is possible. We do hope that eBird users understand that carefully plotted locations, checklists that include all species you observed and identified, and effort-based protocols (e.g., not Incidental) are preferred and do enrich the value of any observations you submit. See this story for more info. But please know that all data are valuable.

  • If you already submit to eBird consistently, THANK YOU! But please consider helping someone new get started with eBird as your New Year’s Resolution. Surely you have a friend or birding acquaintance who could us a bit of help navigating eBird, understanding how to collect and submit a complete checklist, or how to get BirdLog working on his or her phone. If you have a local email group, listserv, or Facebook group, challenge those friends to make eBird their New Year’s Resolution as well.
  • New birders sometimes feel like their data aren’t “interesting” enough to submit. this simply is not true. eBird is intended for anyone and everyone. While skills and experience may vary, as long as we all report our identifications honestly and provide additional information (i.e., a description of what we see) when eBird or eBird reviewers ask for more information, then
  • Longtime birders sometimes tell us that they do no participate in eBird because they could never get all their old records into the system. But the birds you are seeing today are valuable data points that are being lost with every day you delay. While we understand that impulse to want a complete birding history in one place, we really encourage you to try to submit consistently for 2015.
  • For those that do want to upload their older data, our eBird upload story explains how. If you don’t have the time or skill with excel to do it, maybe a friend, son or daughter (or grandson or granddaughter) or even a volunteer from a local bird club can help lend a hand. Data from most birding software packages can be uploaded as well.

eBird continues to get better and better, and we are committed to continuing that in 2015. Here are a few of our highlights from 2014:

  • Added the Location Explorer, which is quite simply the single best jumping off point for exploring a bird in a region. From this page you can access all eBird’s best data output–Top100, Bar Charts, Arrival Dates and High Counts, and best Hotspots.
  • eBird Targets was released, which compare your submissions to those of others to calculate species you are most likely to see. This has been incredibly popular!
  • In an innovative partnership with TNC California, the Bird Returns project has combined citizen science data collected through eBird, large scale data analyses from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology that have been adapted to measure bird abundance (thanks to eBirders that provide counts and estimates on their checklists), and an innovative reverse auction process to incentivize the creation of bird habitat in California’s Central Valley. This is one of the most exciting ways that eBird data have been used in on-the-ground conservation and we look forward to future successes following this model.
  • Zeiss and Princeton University Press have allowed us to run competitions with generous gifts (new binoculars and great bird books!) to thank our eBird community for their commitment to submit observations in the best possible way. We are excited to continue our eBirder of the Month awards in 2015 and we thank everyone who participated in 2014.
  • Cornell students Andrew Dreelin and Reid Rumelt compiled two stories on eBird’s missing species, highlighting the tiny handful of known birds in the world that sill do not have a single record in eBird. See their original story and their September update for some great reading.
  • Published the eBird Enterprise paper, which lays out the collaborative approach to eBird and the project’s incredibly broad ranging impact. In addition to providing a great tool for you to track your records and bird lists, each checklist you submit enters a data flow that gives access to other local and visiting birders, scientists studying bird biology from the micro to the macro scales, educators using eBird to teach children and adults about birds and their role in the environment, and conservationists using eBird data to set conservation priorities, understand species biology and occurrence patterns, and make specific management decisions. Please read the paper to understand the full and far-reaching impacts!
  • Partnered with a superb team in Australia to marry Eremaea Birds with eBird, bringing six million records and hundreds of users on board for Eremaea eBird.
  • Have continued to provide eBird data as a free resource to anyone via our Data Download page, accessed via Explore Data. This is not to be undersold, makes much of the above possible, and sets eBird apart.
  • Crossed 200 million bird observations, making eBird the largest single contributor to GBIF. As of 19 December 2014, 214 million and counting!

Our New Year’s Resolution at eBird is to continue to strive for excellence as a ground-breaking system for entering bird checklists, finding bird information, and connecting the birdwatching community worldwide to science and conservation, while at the same time enjoying, reporting, and sharing sightings of the birds that we all love. We are excited to expand our team in 2015 to provide even better customer support. We will be building new and better ways to upload and access photos, video, and sound recordings. We will be modernizing BirdLog  to make it an even better tool for submitting checklists from the field from an iPhone or Android smartphone. We are continuing to work with partners worldwide to adapt eBird to new places, in new languages, and with new approaches.

We’d love to have your sightings as we make 2015 eBird’s best year ever!