eBird India crosses 2 million observations

By eBird India November 18, 2015
Green-Bee-eater

Green Bee-eater. Photo by Ramki Sreenivasan.

In January 2014, there were roughly 100,000 observations from India in eBird, mostly contributed by birders visiting from other countries. In that month, the Bird Count India group was initiated, with a large number of partners from all over India. Slightly over a year later (in February 2015), the million mark was crossed. We are now happy to be able to announce that this October the eBird database has passed 2 million observations from India.

This has happened thanks to the efforts of a large number of individuals and groups in spreading the word about the usefulness of recording bird observations on a single online platform like eBird. Along the way, a number of workshops on eBird and bird documentation have been conducted across the country. National and State-level birding events have been held (including the Great Backyard Bird Count, Endemic Bird Day, Big Bird Day, Onam Bird Count, and Pongal Bird Count). And birding groups have used eBird as a tool for serious documentation projects like the Mysore City Bird Atlas and the Kerala Bird Atlas.

Number of observations of Indian birds uploaded to eBird per month. Two spikes in February are from the Great Backyard Bird Count. Brahminy Kite photo by Sumit Sen.

Number of observations of Indian birds uploaded to eBird per month. Two spikes in February are from the Great Backyard Bird Count. Brahminy Kite photo by Sumit Sen.

But what is the significance of the increasing number of observations in eBird? What does it matter? Well, it matters in that this is now one of the largest databases of Indian species and aggregates the information in various ways that give a better understanding of our avifauna.

For example, the eBird range maps display current distributional ranges of a large number of species, and thereby supplement available field guides. And unlike in field guides, these maps show the frequency of sighting as well, providing much more detail to the distribution maps — see, for example, the map for Brahminy Kite, and compare with the map in your field guide. Crucially, anyone can zoom in to each map and scrutinize every single observation that goes into the map.

The eBird map for Brahminy Kite shows that although the species is very widespread (as indicated in field guides), it is much more abundant in in some parts of the country than in others.

The eBird map for Brahminy Kite shows that although the species is very widespread (as indicated in field guides), it is much more abundant in some parts of the country than in others.

In addition to looking at how birds are distributed over space, you can now examine how they are distributed over time, using the seasonal barcharts. This can be done at various levels: for India as a whole, or for a single State (eg West Bengal), or for a single District (eg, Thrissur in Kerala) or even finer. You can examine overall seasonality of migration, and begin to compare the timing of movements from year to year. For example, in Goa, Black Kites reduce in numbers during the monsoon, and they return post-monsoon — and this chart shows that their departure was earlier in 2014 than in 2015. Could this be due to variation in weather from year to year?

Then there are the Location Explorer pages, where you can look at species lists, and again at different levels: the country, a particular State, or District and so on. These are very helpful tools for planning a birding trip, as are the barcharts, and the target species feature. The hotspot explorer allows you to look at what has been (and is being) reported from single locations, all the way from a famous national park (eg, Keoladeo National Park, Bharatpur) to a local waterbody (Ambazari Lake, Nagpur).

Finally, the Top 100 pages (which again can be viewed at various geographical levels) provide a fun way to look at who has been birding a log in your favourite place, how many lists they have uploaded and how many species they have seen. And if you use eBird to document your own bird sightings, a variety of features are available to view and summarize your own birding over the years.

All these tools are ways to convert the large amount of information held in the eBird database into outputs that have meaning for birdwatchers, researchers and conservationists. In the coming months and years, as the information continues to grow, we hope to see these outputs being used more and more by various groups interested in enjoying, studying and conserving the birds we all love. Please join us!

A big thank you to all of the 4,000+ birders who have uploaded their sightings from India to eBird, and to the volunteer admin team working in the background on customizing various features to make the database as useful as possible for Indian birders.


Press kit available here. (Zip file, 0.7Mb, containing a photo, a map and a press release.)