A Trip Leader’s Guide to eBird

By Ron Ridout April 10, 2014

Canada now has one of the most active eBird communities in the world. Anaverage of about 800 checklists are submitted for the country daily.  As you can imagine, managing all of these records is a big job and eBird Canada has a team of dozens of volunteer regional editors across the country. One of the ways you can help make their jobs easier is to make sure that whenever you are out birding with others, you designate a single person to keep and submit the eBird checklists, and then share those checklists with each participant.


This gets more difficult the bigger your group is but if you are a trip leader a few small steps helps to ensure that eBird data is as complete and accurate as possible.  By completing these steps, you will also be doing a big service for every one of your trip participants who is an eBird user, and you may encourage some new users as well.

  1. Designate an official list keeper.  One “official” list keeper makes things easier for everyone in the group.  The most useful information to include is a list of birds seen at each discrete location and the associated birding effort (i.e. start time, distance travelled, route details, weather, number of observers).  This is usually the role of the trip leader but an assistant keeping the list is often very helpful.   It is important to let all of the participants know who is keeping the official list before the trip begins. While estimated (or actual) numbers for each species are great, simply using an “x” to indicate presence will do just fine.  Similarly, a complete list of all the species observed is ideal, but if only the highlights are being recorded that will sufficient.


  1. Ask for eBird usernames from participants. This is best done before the trip begins so that people are aware that they don’t have to also keep notes (although it is obviously encouraged). At the start of the trip record everyone’s eBird usernames.  This speeds up the sharing process later on (more on sharing shortly). If someone doesn’t remember their username or doesn’t have an eBird account, you can get their email address instead.


  1. Submit the official checklist(s) to eBird. This can be done by the trip leader or the designated list keeper. Some important points to consider:
    1. Submit a checklist for each location visited.  When visiting several discrete locations the data are much more valuable if tied to those locations rather than a larger general area.
    2. Use hotspots where appropriate. Hotspots in eBird are public locations that already have markers on the eBird map.  They are often parks or regularly birded locations.  When you visit one of these locations it is much better for the eBird output to use the pre-existing location rather than plotting a new point right near the hotspot. You can rename the hotspot in your own account to match any naming convention you might have.
    3. Be sure to provide details in the species comments for rare species or high counts.  It should go without saying but, without details, your data are much less meaningful. It is also good practice to put in the checklist comments who the trip leader(s) was/were and what the occasion was (e.g. OFO outing to Long Point).


  1. Share the checklist(s) with everyone.  This is really important.  By submitting a master eBird checklist as the leader and then sharing it with the other participants, a copy of the list will appear in everyone’s eBird accounts, where everyone is listed as an observer. And everyone gets all the new species added to their life list!  Individual participants, once they have accepted the shared checklist, are free to make changes to species/numbers that will affect their version of the checklist.  Importantly, all of the copies of this checklist(s) will be tagged as duplicates by eBird so that one rare species you reported will only enter the system once.  If you have everyone’s usernames or email addresses handy it is very simple to just enter those into eBird and share the checklist(s).

Remember, even if you aren’t an eBird user yourself, many of your participants probably are.  By asking at the start of your outing you can identify one of the eBird users who can be the official list keeper – you don’t have to do a thing, just help coordinate.

TIP: eBird can be a very powerful tool to plan your trip ahead of time. You can print field checklists for the area you are visiting thanks to Avibase – check out this article for more details. And, of course, don’t forget to use eBird’s powerful Explore Data tools, including the Hotspot Explorer.