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Understanding How "stakeout" Hotspots Work

By Doug Hitchcox December 13, 2016

You may have noticed a recent increase in the number of hotspots that are being created for individual rare birds. This is an effort to help collect all sightings of a single rare bird into one location rather than having lots of individual personal locations dotted all over the species maps. These new hotspots are called “stakeout” hotspots.

These hotspots are especially useful for rare species that are visiting a single location, like a bird feeder. While they are meant to help keep sightings in eBird collated and maps “clean” these hotspots do have their limitations. Specific details on a birds whereabouts are better communicated using state listservs (such as Maine Birds) and if a bird moves a considerable distance from the stakeout hotspot then a different location should be used.

Keeping Maps Clean

A major reason for creating stakeout hotspots is to keep species maps more user friendly. If you are trying to look up information for a single rare bird it can be very difficult if you have dozens of pins to click on. We can look at the Smith’s Longspur that was found in Norridgewock (Somerset Co) in September 2011 as an example. Here is the map for that bird:


As you can see, there are at least 15 pins for this bird and actually a 16th that was poorly plotted and doesn’t appear on this section of the map. Some of these pins even overlap each other making it very hard to click on each. This makes simple things like looking for notes, photos, or the dates that this bird was present very difficult.

By comparison, here is an example of a recent stakeout hotspot that was created for the Bullock’s Oriole that was found in Camden (Knox Co):


Using the single location it is very easy to see details with each checklist and especially the full date range that this rarity was present.

Naming Scheme

All of the stakeout hotspots will follow a naming scheme like this: “stakeout Species Name, Location (Year)” By having “stakeout” with a lowercase “s” at the beginning of the name it will keep these locations at the bottom of any lists of hotspots. The species names and location should make it clear which species are in question but the date is also included so that people will always be able to go back and add their sightings to these hotspots.

Thank you for using eBird and we hope you find these stakeout hotspots useful!