Local Government Areas (LGAs)—fine-scale reporting for eBird Australia

By Nancy Auerbach November 23, 2017

eBird 'My Profile' summary for Victoria, displaying the new LGAs

Have you ever noticed the ‘County’ tab or the ‘Total County Ticks’ summary of your lists in your My eBird summary and wondered why it was always full of zeroes for Australia?

We have just implemented Local Government Areas (LGAs) as reporting regions within eBird Australia, the equivalent of counties in the USA and UK. You should now notice those ‘County’ ticks populated for all of the areas you have added a list across Australia. If you go to ‘Your Profile’ you’ll be able to click on the map to zoom in and see a graphical representation of the same data.

It’s about more than just County Ticks though. Until now, interaction with eBird information could only be done at a Hotspot or State/Territory level. But as we all know, our Australian States and Territories are extremely large—larger than some countries—which made it challenging to use some of the eBird features in a meaningful way. Implementing the ability to search and  summarise observations at a much finer scale adds a lot of new possibilities for improved interaction with eBird data, particularly with respect to locally-relevant information.

You can now search for Target Species using LGAs. Previously, using the Target Species tool was not particularly useful for planning a short trip to an isolated area within a state—you had to manually sift through all of the birds you needed for a state and work out which ones were only found in the area you were intending to visit. The Target Species tool can now help you work out which species you have not recorded locally, or help you plan your birding if you are only traveling to specific areas within a state. It also means that inland locations no longer return a needs list including seabirds!

To complement the Target Species tool, eBird alerts now allow you to setup Alerts based on LGAs. That way you can keep posted if a rare bird or a bird you need for your list is observed in your local area, or as many specific areas as you like. It makes it really easy for your local twitches, and won’t bother you with sightings that are so far away you’re unlikely to pursue them.

Hudsonian Godwit recently observed at Reef Island Conservation Reserve, Westernport Bay, Victoria. Setup your local alerts so you don’t miss out on birds like this! Image: Kris Bernard/Macaulay Library

The Explore Regions tool can generate data summaries for each LGA, similar to how you can view data for Hotspots. It will generate bird lists, bar charts, a list of the top hotspots and recent visits. It’s a great way of staying touch with what’s happening in your local area, and equally suitable for at planning your next birding trip to an unfamiliar area.

Cloncurry LGA eBird summary obtained from the Explore Regions tool. The perfect way to keep track of your local area, or plan your next birding trip.

Regional summaries also present Top 100 eBirders by species and by checklists for LGAs, which provides more local-based incentives. Who has seen the most species in your local area? Who has submitted the most lists? Do you feature in the Top 10 or Top 100 eBirders?

Your Profile—accessed from your My eBird page—displays a map of Australia and its States and Territories. If you click on a State/Territory, the map will display each of the LGAs, so you can see how many species you have recorded in each LGA across each State/Territory. It’s the quickest way to see how well you’re contributing to eBird’s national coverage. You can click right down to the LGA level to get a summary of species observed, complete checklists, and species you have uploaded photos or audio for.

Last, but certainly not least, and for those number crunchers and citizen scientists out there who love to explore eBird’s raw data available for download, it should be a relief that you can now download data based on individual LGAs, which saves you having to download the whole dataset for your state. Really handy if the focus of your study or research is in a restricted area, or if you want to do some analysis yourself for your local bird trends.

We know you’ll be wanting the LGAs to be as up-to-date as possible. For this first release, the LGAs are based on the 2011 data from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. We’ll be doing our best at coordinating with eBird Central in updating LGA names and boundaries.

Is there anything else you can think of that we missed in this article? Why not pop over to our Facebook Group forum and let us know. We’d love to hear your ideas and feedback relating to this article, or anything else eBird for that matter!