News & Features

2017 eBird taxonomy update—IN PROGRESS!

The annual eBird taxonomy update IS CURRENTLY UNDERWAY (Tuesday, 15 August). The process will continue for at least a couple days. 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 2017 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.

It is best if you DO NOT change your records for recent splits etc. until the taxonomy update is complete. We know the urge to see Talamanca Hummingbird on your life list will be strong today, but we promise we will get your records changed (and save you time) if you wait a bit. We’ll announce when it is all complete. Go birding instead!

If you do check eBird today, the most obvious evidence of the update in process is likely to be the My eBird pages. This update does not only involve name changes and changes to the species sequence, but also a number of splits. Each split needs to be carefully considered. If eBird had a subspecies group such as Northern Harrier (Eurasian) that was relevant to the new split, then those entries will be upgraded from a subspecies group to the new species (e.g., Hen Harrier). If you did not specify the subspecies, then we try to assign records based on known range and occurrence patterns.

You also might get “Needs Alerts” (probably not Rare Bird Alerts) with unexpected species on them, like Rivoli’s or Talamanca Hummingbird or Northern Harrier (in North America) or Hen Harrier in Eurasia. These issues will be resolved soon, but might be something you see for as much as a day or two as we go through the record updating process.

As these updates are applied, you might encounter species lists with the same species listed twice, or you might view lists of your records of Hen Harrier (for example) and see that some of the records have changed names and some have not. For brief periods, you might also see the same record on your list twice. The updates to your personal lists usually take an hour or more for each species.

Other unexpected behavior should likewise be temporary. If you see odd behavior on a data entry checklist, save your work and go back to Manage My Checklists a few minutes later to continue data entry.

If you use eBird Mobile, we recommend submitting any “Not submitted” lists in advance of August 15.

Don’t worry though, as long as you are running the most recent version of the app, everything will update correctly even if you have “not submitted” lists on the phone. Please make sure to update your app version to the one current in the App Store or Google Play Store.

Also on eBird Mobile, we would like to ask all eBirders to try birding somewhere new on August 16 (and submit through mobile). The reason for this is that checklist filters will all be updated on 15 August to reflect the new taxonomy, and this will automatically update on your phone except in one case: if you regularly bird the same location, and use “Recent Locations” to select that spot, your filter may not update properly. This is easily resolved by making sure to do one checklist somewhere new–a park you’ve been wanting to visit, a short roadside stop, an observation of a hawk over your office, or even a checklist from the patio of your favorite coffee shop.

Stay tuned for the full summary of this year’s update that will be posted soon after the database changes are finished!