eBirding your Christmas Bird Count [updated]

By Team eBird Canada December 15, 2020
Townsend's Solitaire Myadestes townsendi

Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is here! Each year, tens of thousands of birders throughout the western hemisphere participate in a cooperative effort to count birds within established 15-mile diameter circles. CBCs depend on the efforts of multiple parties, with each individual or team checking different parts of the count circle, then combining their counts in a final total that can be compared to totals for the past 119 years. CBCs are an important and long-running endeavor that help us understand changes in bird populations.

eBirding your CBC

Here are our tips for making eBird part of your CBC tradition.

  • Use eBird Mobile: while doing your CBC, eBird Mobile makes it easy to keep your tallies through the day and share them with other members of your party.
  • Start a new list at each stop: we recommend beginning a new list every time you get into or out of a car. Use the Incidental protocol for lists you keep while driving between CBC birding sites.
  • Report only one-way distance in your traveling counts: both CBC and eBird measure distance as one-way distance, especially if you backtrack or repeat portions of a route.eBird Mobile’s GPS tracking can help you calculate distance traveled. Learn more about reporting accurate traveling distances.
  • Only submit lists of birds observed by your CBC group: do not combine your lists with those from other birders in your section, or other CBC sections. It is not appropriate to enter the CBC totals for the entire count circle into eBird.

Compiling your CBC results

At the end of a CBC, many eBirders traditionally used the “Summarize My Observations” tool to calculate the total number of individuals of each species they observed that day. It was necessary to retire this tool during our database migration. eBird developers are working on a replacement and we look forward to bringing you new ways to summarize your observations before the 2021-22 CBC season.

In the meantime, here are ways to summarize your CBC activity this year:

  • Use eBird Mobile for iOS: enter all CBC checklists with eBird Mobile on a single iOS device, then use Trip Summaries (under Checklists) to create a complete summary of your birding activity for a single date, including count totals for each species.
  • Download your data: filter and sum your complete set of eBird observations for any date(s) using Excel or other spreadsheet software.

CBC safely

As a result of the ongoing global pandemic, new guidelines have been introduced and some local CBCs have been cancelled. Please continue to bird mindfully— respect participation guidelines and follow the instructions of your local health authorities (learn more about changes to the 2020-21 Canadian CBC season).

Here are some more useful links for eBird best practices and CBC resources:

The Christmas Bird Count is a program of the National Audubon Society and managed in Canada by Birds Canada.

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