Bird guides in the Neotropics have unparalleled knowledge of the status, distribution, abundance, and behavior of their local species. This detailed knowledge on such things as daily foraging patterns or where birds perch for the best photos makes birding trips much more enjoyable and successful for visiting birders who are eager to see new species.
In addition to the amazing knowledge that local guides provide, eBird and Merlin Bird ID (free apps from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology) can make guiding trips even more successful and impactful for science and conservation. Guides who submit their observations to eBird help scientists better understand distribution and abundance models as well as raise awareness of birding destinations in their home country. Submitting checklists frequently allows a birder traveling somewhere new to find recent information about a species of interest, and who can guide them, by using the Explore Species or Explore Hotspots tools on the eBird website. eBird also offers users a place to create profile pages that can raise the visibility of their tour company and/or an ecolodge where they work. Using eBird as part of your guiding routine also allows you to easily share checklists with your clients, saving you time and creating a permant recording of your observations.
To help guides get the most out of eBird and Merlin Bird ID, Cornell Lab staff recently collaborated with the Marriott Los Sueños, CPG Hospitality, Crist Inman and the Instituto Costarricense de Turismo (Costa Rica’s tourism institute). They brought together 25 bird guides from the Pacific Central region for a two-day workshop focused on the ins and outs of eBird with a focus on best practices, and how eBird can be a win-win-win for individuals, communities, and birds. Many themes discussed in the workshop are also covered in the free online eBird Essentials Course.
The workshop also explored how guides can make the most out of Merlin Bird ID. Merlin Bird ID is another free app developed by the Cornell Lab that is a field guide in one’s pocket that includes range maps and bird songs and calls. One of the most complicated elements of birding in the Neotropics is the dizzying array of species found in a country; in Costa Rica for example, more than 900 species occur in an area the size of West Virginia or Denmark. Merlin helps narrow down the list of possible species by using eBird data to show which species are present in a specific area at a specific time; a super helpful tool for anyone birding in the Neotropics.
This workshop also highlighted on ways guides can help inspire the next generation to care about and protect birds. The workshop provided hands-on training in one of the Cornell Lab’s bird-focused environmental education curriculum, Detectives de Aves (BirdSleuth). Detectives de Aves aims to engage youth in learning about birds, habitat, conservation, and citizen science.
We will continue to collaborate with bird guides throughout Latin America to improve and replicate this workshop aimed at supporting people, birds, and science. If you are interested in collaborating on workshops in Latin America, please contact Lilly Briggs.