eBird 2016 -- Year in review

By Team eBird December 23, 2016

Masafuera Rayadito—one of the 20 new species added to eBird in 2016. Photo by Héctor Gutiérrez Guzmán/Macaulay Library.

2017 will mark the 15 year anniversary of eBird. In just a decade-and-a-half, the bird checklists that you have shared have helped make eBird the largest citizen science biodiversity project in the world. More than 1/3 million eBirders have submitted 370 million bird sightings, representing 10,313 species from every country in the world. We are continually humbled by the amazing power and passion of the birding community, and have nothing but excitement as we look to the future of what we can do together. As we compile this list of eBird’s achievements in 2016, we are reminded that these are all truly your achievements. It is your contributions that power this knowledge engine. Every time you go out and keep a list of birds you see, you’re making a real contribution to our understanding of the world’s ever-changing avian biodiversity.

So what did we do at eBird in 2016, and how did it go by so fast?! 2016 was a big year in many ways, bringing a more social side to eBird, allowing easy perusal of the information in the Macaulay Library, and much more. Here’s what made our list for 2016, broken out into different categories of impact.

Science and Conservation

118 species of birds in the midst of migration. See the full animation here.

  • Continued to use eBird data to push forward with ground-breaking science to understand birds occurrence and movements at multiple scales, from local habitat use to continent-scale movements. This mesmerizing map of the migration of 118 species of Western Hemisphere birds is just one of the more visually striking examples.
  • State of the Birds 2016: As in 2009 and 2011, eBird was drawn upon heavily for the 2016 State of North America’s Birds report. In this tri-national report, new STEM models have been developed to model bird abundance—used in this report to help estimate the year-round importance of specific regions on a single map. With reports like this, eBird is realizing its ultimate goal: using your bird sightings for groundbreaking science that leads to conservation action.
  • Continued to provide eBird data as a free resource to anyone via our Data Download page, accessed via Explore Data. This is not to be understated, since these data downloads make much of the above possible and set eBird apart with its revolutionary open data access. More than 60,000 people have downloaded raw eBird data for analysis, with more than 2,000,000 visitors to the eBird website in 2016 to contribute and explore data.
  • Published a paper in Biological ConservationUsing open access observational data for conservation action: A case study for birds, showcasing ways in which your eBird sightings have been used to inform on-the-ground conservation action across the world. Here are just 9 of the more than 150 real-world conservation applications: 9 Ways People Have Used eBird Data To Make Conservation Happen.

New Birding Tools

eBird Profile Pages let you explore sightings from friends and other birders around the world. Check yours out.

  • Launched eBird Profile Pages, bringing a social element to eBird along with amazing personal maps of your eBirding footprint. There is now a way to see the name behind those checklists you’ve always seen—as long as the eBirder chooses to share it. More than 8,500 eBirders have created a public eBird Profile; check yours out today! We look forward to continuing to expand the social side of eBird in the months and years to come, helping create and foster a community where we can learn from each other and share sightings in increasingly better ways.
  • As a followup to the resoundingly successful eBird/Macaulay Library media upload tool, we released Media Search—a way to peruse the amazing collection of photos and sounds from eBirders everywhere. This past month we gathered our 2 millionth image, all of which are freely searchable through Media Search. Warning: this tool can be dangerously addictive and enjoyable!
Merlin Photo ID lets you know what you're looking at with just the snap of a shutter.

Merlin Photo ID makes identification just a snap away.

  • The Merlin Bird ID app was released to cover 250 more species across North America, as well as a brand new Photo ID tool. Take a picture of a bird and pop it into Merlin, and get real-time feedback on your identification. You should double-check the results of course, but we dare you to see if you can beat the computer!
  • Released a new version of the Birds of North America (BNA), the authoritative resource for information on North America’s birds. This updated and upgraded version of BNA includes integration with the Macaulay Library and eBird, providing better content than ever.

  • Brought eBird Mobile, available on both iOS and Android, into a total of 24 languages worldwide and also added the ability to include breeding and behavior codes in your lists, submit portal-specific checklists, and use an expanded list of protocols. Stay tuned for an exciting array of new eBird Mobile tools in 2017 (preview of My eBird on mobile above!).

eBird Team and Partner Expansion

  • Zeiss has allowed us to run competitions with generous gifts (new binoculars and great bird books!) to thank our eBird community for their commitment to submit observations in the best possible way. We are excited to continue our eBirder of the Month awards in 2017 and we thank everyone who participated in 2016. In 2017, will you win free Zeiss binoculars? Try taking the Checklist-a-day Challenge!
  • Developed partnerships and new portals in Spain, Missouri, Paraguay, and Malaysia. These new partnerships and regional portals have brought thousands of new eBirders on board, helping build communities and provide more valuable information about birds worldwide.
  • Six new people joined the core Team eBird here at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology: Heather Wolf, who focuses on front-end development and built much of the beautiful new Birds of North America; Dave Childs, who keeps the networks and technical systems of eBird working and moving forward; Francisco Padilla, who creates our quarterly datasets for download and works on new ways to share and deliver big data volume; Jasdev Imani, who has been instrumental in creating the amazing new Merlin Photo ID tool; Iain Downie, the mastermind behind the eBird Mobile for Android improvements; and Taylor Long, a UI designer and front-end developer, who has been working on exciting new ways to explore eBird’s interactive species distribution models.
  • The Virginia Breeding Bird Atlas 2 kicked off and has collected its first year of data. This is the second atlas to have a specific atlas portal run through eBird, fully integrated with eBird output, building from the success of the Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II now entering its third year in 2017. We’re excited to work with more states on atlases in the future, and welcome any opportunities on that front.

2016 eBird Growth

eBird’s growth over time, with almost 12 million observations in May 2016—more than the first 5 years of eBird’s life combined. The cyclical spikes represent April and May, clearly a favorite time of year for eBirders!

  • Through the time of this writing, 370 million bird sightings have been entered into eBird. This includes more than 84 million in 2016 alone; with 11,843,651 coming from just the month of May. The total from May is more observations than were collected in eBird’s first FIVE YEARS combined. eBird’s contributions make up close to half of all of the biodiversity in the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). See the eBird GBIF dataset here.
  • The second Global Big Day set a new bar for birding’s biggest day. On 14 May 2016, 17,300 birders collectively noted 6,333 species of bird, reporting 47,000 checklists from 151 countries. Mark your calendar for next year’s Global Big Day: 13 May 2017.
  • Added new languages for the eBird website—Norwegian and Ukrainian—while also adding bird names to now support more than 50 languages and regional versions. See a full list of our eBird Common Names here.

It has been an incredibly exciting year, and we can’t wait to see what we can build together with you in 2017.