News & Features

New Year’s Resolution 2017: more eBirding!

Blue-gray Tanager in Boquete, Panama, while birding on vacacation. By Doug Gross

The New Year is a time for fresh beginnings. As you think about your personal goals for 2017, consider stepping up your eBird use. If you visit eBird primarily to learn about sightings from others, then make 2017 the year you start contributing your own sightings. You’ll be glad that you do, because each time you enter data into eBird, its tools get better and more informative for you personally! If you are already an active eBirder, then set a new personal 2017 eBirding goal. Can you use eBird to help you find 10 new birds in 2017? What year list will you focus on? Can you visit your favorite birding spot every week of the year? Are there counties or locations in the state that you could visit in 2017 that are new to you? With eBird and the PSO county reports and PSO Pileated Newsletter county summaries, it is even easier to develop reasonable targets of discovery. Are you ready to try the 2017 eBird Checklist-a-Day” challenge? Read more for some ideas for eBird Resolutions and how to make birding and eBird even more fun in 2017.

Many active birders have yet to ‘take the plunge’ to participate in eBird. Do you have a slight pang of guilt each time you receive an eBird Alert, knowing that you should be submitting your sightings too? It’s okay, many of us have been there. This is a chance to have your sightings provide those same resources that you enjoy to your fellow birders, and for you to get even more out of eBird. If you do use eBird regularly perhaps you can bring a birding friend into the fold. There are lots of field trips that do not enter the eBird world because birders do not take the plunge. The distribution maps of the state’s birds could be more complete with more observers contributing.

Do you want to eBird, but feel that something is stopping you? Here are some common misconceptions for those hesitant to use eBird, along with solutions!

I have been birding for 15 years and it would take too long to catch up!
Being an eBirder doesn’t require having all your lists up to date or that you enter all your past data. The idea is to just get started, and let the historical data entry happen as you have time. The more historical data you enter the more informative eBird becomes for you, but the key is starting by entering your current observations today. If you lack the information required to load your past data in more meaningfully, try this option.

I don’t have the time
Do you already track your bird records somewhere else? Then there is really no added time by being an eBirder—it’ll probably actually save time since we update your lists for you when splits and lumps happen! It will certainly help keep your lists accurate, since we have a worldwide team of experts to help prevent typos or taxonomic errors. Try eBird Mobile if you’re really looking for fast data entry.

I keep my lists in another program
Why change? When your lists are up to date in eBird, a whole new suite of cool, powerful tools become available: customized Needs Alerts; lists of Target Species with maps of where to find them, and much more. All of this is only possible when your sightings are eBird. Fretting about moving over from another program to eBird? Don’t worry—we also have easy ways to import from most other programs.

eBird doesn’t want my data
We couldn’t disagree more! eBird is for everyone, and all data are valuable. No matter where you live, we welcome your contributions from anywhere, anytime. Get started today.

What is this a map of? It looks just like noise, there is so much information! This is Washington D.C., with all of the sightings of European Starling. Even common birds make a difference, and we want to hear about it!

What does this map show? There are so many bird sightings it is hard to tell…! This is actually Washington D.C., with all of the eBird sightings of European Starling. Even common birds make a difference, and we want to hear about them!

PERSONAL CHALLENGES FOR 2017

Whether you are a new eBirder or a longtime eBirder, you may be thinking about what new challenge to take on in 2017. Setting personal goals and competing against yourself is one of the best ways to improve your birding skills and to stay engaged with eBird and birding. Here are a few of our favorite challenge ideas for 2017:

Find 10 bird species that are new for you
One area where eBird really excels is showing you how to find birds. Whether you want a map of sightings for any species of bird, or to know where to go birding near you, it’s all there. In 2017, use the eBird Explore Data tools to help you find ten new bird species—whether they’re new for your yard, your county, your state, or your entire life.

Keep a year list
January 1. A blank slate. An entire year stretching out in front of you, with a seemingly limitless number of potential exciting birds waiting around the corner. Keeping a year list is one of the great pleasures of birding. As the year progresses, year lists become a personal challenge to strategize how to find more species than last year and predict where you can intersect with tricky migrants. Invariably, they are full of fun surprises and unexpected successes.

Your year list for a country, state, county, patch, or your yard can be easily tracked in My eBird or the Yard/Patch tools. We are excited to announce that an eBird Mobile upgrade coming soon will provide new tools to help track these totals and compare your progress to years past.

Visit your favorite birding place every week
Are you a dedicated “patch” birder—visiting your favorite birding place regularly? If so, we hope you have set up your patch in eBird and are submitting complete checklists for each visit. For 2017, try to fill in the bar chart for a patch. Does your existing patch have gaps in the bar chart? Fill in those blanks!

Do you have a new area that is promising but undercovered? Consider adopting it for 2017 and getting in one visit per week to get that bar chart filled out! Once you do, you’ll already be looking forward to next year.

eBird “bar chart” for a hotspot, showing occurrence of a species for each week of the year. Targets for 2017: find Spotted Sandpiper in the first week of July and a Rock Pigeon (or maybe a Mourning Dove?) in the third week of June!

Get your lists up to date
While modern information is the pulse of eBird, historical data are no less valuable. As more birders enter their checklists from years past, we are able to paint a picture of avian occurrence back 20, 30, and perhaps eventually 50+ years. In 2017, try dusting off your old notebooks and field checklists to enter in eBird, giving your valuable sightings security and longevity while at the same time rounding out the historical picture. It can be fun to relive old memories of field trips, often to places that you have not visited in several years or are not covered well today by anyone.

Take the “Checklist a Day” challenge
If you want to be a dedicated eBirder, try stepping up to the ultimate challenge! Submit one eligible checklist a day in 2017 — or submit 365 checklists or more over the course of the year — and you’ll have a chance to be one of three winners drawn at random from those that complete the challenge. What better excuse to get out birding every day, even if it is just for 5 minutes?

Most importantly, just get outside to see some birds and have fun while doing it. At eBird, we see our resources as an opportunity to enhance your appreciation for the natural world, providing tools and tips on how to get the most out of birding and being a birder. But by being a part of eBird, you’re helping give back to both the birding community and the birds themselves—informing conservation and research with every checklist and photo you submit. When you enter a sighting from your local park, there is a very real chance that someday someone will look at that list, go to that park, and see a bird they’ve never seen before. Of course, that also applies to the local game lands, state forest, or preserve. Thank you for all that you do.

Please excuse us now as we get started on our own resolutions: a checklist-a-day, here we come!