New IBA Canada protocol launched on eBird Canada

By Ron Ridout May 1, 2014

White-rumped and Semipalmated sandpipers staging at Big Piskwamish Point IBA on James Bay, Ontario.

In Canada and the United States, eBird is helping to update the population data for Important Bird Areas, either by design (e.g., IBA Caretakers in Canada are explicitly asked to enter their bird data on eBird) or incidentally (e.g., birders enter their data, not realizing that they are within an IBA). In either case, these data form a valuable resource for the IBA Programs in North America as they are incorporated into the various tools and visualizations available via the eBird portal (e.g., bar charts, high counts, species lists, etc.) and ultimately help to ensure our knowledge of and conservation planning for individual IBAs. We anticipate that eBird will be used increasingly for IBA monitoring within Canada, and perhaps beyond. At this early stage, there is an opportunity to increase the value of the eBird reports to derive better bird population estimates at individual IBAs.

Bird Studies Canada is pleased to announce the next step in the eBird Canada – IBA Canada partnership: the launch of the IBA Canada protocol. This protocol now appears as an option when you submit a checklist on eBird Canada and will help to fully integrate eBird with IBA monitoring in Canada. Use of the protocol will allow us to identify and reliably combine multiple checklists gathered within the same IBA on a given date to arrive at a total number of individual birds of each species utilizing the IBA. Think of it as an automatic Christmas Bird Count compilation for the IBA. Maintaining an accurate and up-to-date database of bird records for each IBA is vital to understanding and conserving bird populations and their habitats.

Please read the full IBA Canada Protocol before using it in eBird and contact IBA Canada at if you have more questions or want to get involved with the program.

Important Bird Areas in Canada

About the Important Bird Area Program

The Important Bird Areas (IBA) Program is a global initiative of BirdLife International in which more than 100 countries participate. It is a science-based program to identify, conserve, and monitor a network of sites that provide essential habitat for bird populations. Canada’s IBA Program was launched in the 1990s by Bird Studies Canada and Nature Canada and has since grown to include a network of volunteer Caretakers who engage in a variety of activities including habitat restoration, stewardship, education/outreach, and bird monitoring.  The most straightforward and valuable way to contribute to the Program is to visit IBAs and submit your bird observations to eBird Canada. This helps us keep the IBA site summaries up-to-date.

Please visit the IBA Canada website and follow us on the IBA Canada Facebook page or discussion group for more information and news about the program.

Explore IBAs on eBird

IBAs in Canada have been fully integrated with most of the existing eBird outputs. This is done by tagging every eBird submission with the IBA identity if a checklist is submitted within the IBA boundary. This works great because it collects eBird data whether or not the user submits data from a hotspot or a personal location. The result is that you can create a barchart, table of high counts, table of arrival or departure dates and more for any IBA in Canada by specifying the IBA option when you are choosing the location. Check out these examples:

Barchart for Presqu’ile Provincial Park IBA

First arrival dates for Frank Lake (South) IBA

All time High counts for Boundary Bay IBA

And of course, the great thing about tying this in with the eBird interface is that you can narrow your search for those outputs by year and use it in conjunction with the other eBird tools.

Having IBAs connected with eBird also means that the data can be extracted easily and downloaded via NatureCounts, which allows easy access for Caretakers and IBA Canada staff to ensure we have the most up-to-date information for all of our IBAs. In the near future Bird Studies Canada will implement some changes to the IBA Canada database so that data from NatureCounts and eBird are automatically harvested and associated with IBAs, and displayed within the IBA site summaries.

Integrating the IBA program with eBird is a good example of how we are continually improving the way programs work together and making the experience more efficient and rewarding for everyone involved.