2020 Checklist-a-day Challenge

By Team eBird December 21, 2019
European Starling Sturnus vulgaris

In 2019, eBird received more than 10.5 million complete checklists from your birding efforts. Whether you’re seeing starlings or endangered species, eBird thrives on the enthusiasm and engagement of tens of thousands of dedicated participants worldwide who reliably enter their birding outings in eBird. Many eBirders submit checklists from short counts in their yard, over lunchtime walks, or at a quick stop to scan their favorite patch. In 2020, we challenge you to bird more—submit at least one checklist a day for the entire year! At the end of the year, three winners will be chosen from among those who submitted at least 366 eligible checklists in 2020 and each will receive Zeiss binoculars for their efforts.

This challenge may be, well, challenging, but with eBird Mobile in your hand, submitting checklists from anywhere is easier than ever. Don’t have a smartphone? That’s OK. Old-fashioned trusty notebooks still work and can be transcribed once you get home. Just make sure to get in the habit of bringing a notebook with you every day.

eBird welcomes short counts from anywhere, so even a parking lot count or quick backyard survey will help you qualify (and contribute valuable data). In fact, urban and suburban habitats tend to be underrepresented in eBird data, so these checklists can be particularly valuable.

Below are a few ideas for how to meet the challenge and have fun doing it.

Yard counts
Consider doing one checklist each morning (or afternoon) in your yard/garden, balcony, or front step. Include your daily checklist in your morning routine: these could be “sipping my coffee” counts or “walking the dog” counts. If you’re better at multitasking than we are then you can even do a sipping-my-coffee-while-walking-the-dog count. How many species can you find in your yard in 2020?

These counts will become more rewarding as you watch your yard bar chart grow over the course of the year. Anyone can check out their yard bar chart: just go to Explore Data, click “Bar Charts”, and then use the “My Locations” list at the foot of the page to select the location for your yard. You can change the date range and view your bar chart for a single year or for all time. Either way, if you meet the challenge, after 366 days the bar chart will show migrants coming and going in your yard, changes in detection ratios as singing behavior changes, and will be a wonderful walk down memory lane of your most memorable sightings of the year.

eBird Project Leader Marshall Iliff’s yard in Norfolk County, Massachusetts, was pretty well-surveyed in 2019, but there is a lot of room for improvement in 2020!

Lunch break birding
Do you get a lunch break? If so, go birding while you grab a bite to eat and stretch your legs! Lunch break counts could be a quick survey of a local city park, a check of the ducks and gulls on a local lake, or just scanning the sky from your office for raptors and other overhead migrants. Find your lunchtime patch and commit to it during your workdays to help meet the challenge and build great datasets.

Impromptu Counts
Are you usually “out and about” during the day? Vary it up and pick a different eBird spot every day! Maybe there are a few spots—parks, ponds, open areas, or forests—that you can cycle through in your weekly routine. Stop wherever you please for your quick daily count: eBird welcomes the variety and it may help keep it fun for you. For example, check out this note from an eBirder about their commitment (since 1 Jan 2007!) to submit a checklist a day and the kinds of habitats they sometimes end up covering.

Night birding
If it gets to be too dark and you still haven’t submitted your list, consider submitting a nocturnal count. Nocturnal counts are valuable too, as they help us understand where and when eBirders are finding owls, nightjars, and other nocturnal species. However, it is easy to get skunked (i.e., find no birds at all) on nocturnal counts. These are OK, and zero species lists are still welcomed in eBird. We do recommend that you add some checklist notes that confirm for us that you tried for birds and found none.

Follow your streak
Since January 2018, your consecutive eBirding streak is prominently displayed on the home page. If you want the ultimate challenge (not required for this contest) see if you can really maintain a checklist-a-day for an entire year. Your daily efforts may not always tally a lot of birds, but remember that as long as you are searching your hardest, complete checklists from urban streets, bad weather days, or nocturnal surveys all qualify.

While long lists and rare species are often the targets for a day of birding, the scientific value of an eBird list is not measured by the quantity or quality of the bird list. In fact, it is often the short counts from undersampled areas that are most valuable. One of the main scientific challenges with understanding eBird data is that it tends to be concentrated around birding hotspots, rare birds, and certain types of habitats. If eBirders commit to the “Checklist-a-day” challenge, we’ll help fill in the eBird maps for the blank spaces between eBird hotspots.

Eligible checklists need to be complete checklists (reporting all species) and with counts of birds (i.e., no Xs), but otherwise there are zero rules. We recommend counts of at least three minutes to make sure you have time to actually look for birds around you.

We are thrilled that Carl Zeiss Sports Optics will be a sponsor for this year-long competition. Each winner will receive a pair of Zeiss Terra ED 8 x 42 binoculars!

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “We are thrilled to continue our partnership with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and support the vital scientific data being collected by dedicated eBirders.” – Richard Moncrief, Birding and Nature Observation Segment Manager at Carl Zeiss SBE