March eBirder of the Month Challenge

By Team eBird March 3, 2014
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This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optic, encourages birders to explore new hotspots in their area. In September 2013 we released the Hotspot Explorer. The Hotspot Explorer provides a powerful way to access site-based data summaries, and is very helpful for planning trips to the best birding places. But for those who want to contribute a lot to eBird, the Hotspot Explorer also provides great tools to help you to find under-birded areas where your contributions will have the biggest impact. Below we give some tips on how to use the Hotspot Explorer to find under-birded hotspots near you. This month’s eBirder of the Month prize binocular will be drawn from those who have submitted at least one effort-based (i.e., not Incidental) complete checklist from each of 20 different hotspots this month. You can choose your own hotspots, but we hope you will focus on some that have very little activity for March.

eBird has two powerful tools for finding under-covered areas where you can pitch in by submitting complete checklists. Here are a few ways to use new eBird’s tools to try to cover new areas.


The Hotspot Explorer is a powerful tool for finding out where birds are. But it is also a great tool for finding out what areas are not being well-covered. To plan your next birding outing, consider trying the following:

1) Open the Hotspot Explorer and type your home town in the “Location” box at top right.

2) Zoom in to your home area. First try looking for the most under-covered areas for all time. Try to make sure to visit the gray hotspots, which indicate a very low species total (<15 species) for the hotspot. Almost any list you submit here will be a contribution.

3) Then, to get a longer list of hotspots that need your help, adjust the date range to show species totals for March. There are sure to be dozens of hotspots with pale gray, indicating zero checklists for this period.

4) You can also restrict to look at just sites covered this year (2014). Using the “Filter by Recent Activity” makes the under-covered hotspots disappear altogether, but this may be another helpful way to find the places that have not been visited recently.

While some of these may not be “hot” birding locations during this month, some of them may be just overlooked. Either way, if you visit these under-covered hotspots, you will be making a great contribution to eBird by spreading out your coverage. One of our biggest challenges with eBird is that birders always tend to go birding in the same tried-and-true birding spots. While this is a valuable approach, have more data from different places across the landscape improves our ability to accurately model bird distribution. By participating in this month’s challenge, and by consciously trying to explore new locations, you will be providing a counter-weight to the patchiness of eBird data as it currently exists.


The new Location Explorer is another great way to find new areas and under-covered areas. Try this process as well:

1) Open the Location Explorer. Type in a county, state, or province you want to cover.

2) Check out some of the stats and then scroll down the right side to “Top Hotspots”. Click “More Hotspots” at the bottom to get a list of the top 100 hotspots for the county.

3) The click the up and down arrow next to the word species to re-sort the list so that hotspots with the fewest number of species appear on top. For counties or states with more than 100 hotspots, this may make an entirely different list of sites visible.

Consider Ithaca, NY. With the Cornell Lab of Ornithology here and much of Team eBird located at the Lab, you would think this area is one of the best covered in New York. And indeed, there is a lot of birding that happens here. But almost all of it is along the shores of Cayuga Lake and almost all in Tompkins County and not in adjacent counties of Schuyler, Tioga, and Cortland, which each have up to 62,000 fewer checklists than Tompkins County! Even for those that don’t want to leave Tompkins County, there are under-covered hotspots in the Tompkins County list that could use some attention!

Every area in the world has places that are good for birds but need more attention from eBirders. Please use this March eBirder of the Month challenge to explore hotspots near you that you have never checked out before. Submit at least one checklist from 20 hotspots this month and your name will be part of the drawing.


Our November and December winners will be awarded to those who meet two long-term annual goals for eBird activity. These are:

November: Prize will be awarded to users who have submitted complete checklists from at least 75 distinct locations from 1 January – 30 November 2014. As with this March challenge, spreading out your eBird coverage is important to the success of eBird. Those who proactively find areas that are under-covered maximize the value of every complete checklist and every observation. Over the course of a year, submitting from 75 different locations should be possible even if you stay in your home county. Each person who has reached this goal will be entered once in this drawing.

December: Our December winner will be drawn from among those who have submitted 500 *complete* checklists or more between 1 January – 31 December 2014. Complete checklists are ones where you answer “yes” to “are you reporting all species”. Be sure you understand this! It is one of the most important aspects of eBird! These can be two checklists a day from your backyard or weekend blitzes of 10 checklists each. However you get to 500 total, we will enter everyone who reaches this goal in our drawing for the December prize.


Each month we will feature a new eBird challenge and set of selection criteria. The monthly winners will each receive a new ZEISS Conquest HD 8×42 binocular and a selection of books from another great eBird sponsor, Princeton University Press.

Carl Zeiss Sports Optics is a proven leader in sports optics and is the official optics sponsor for eBird. “Carl Zeiss feels strongly that by partnering with the Cornell Lab we can provide meaningful support for their ability to carry out their research, conservation, and education work around the world,” says Mike Jensen,  President of Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, North America. “The Cornell Lab is making a difference for birds, and from the highest levels of our company we’re committed to promoting birding and the Lab’s work, so there’s a great collaboration. eBird is a truly unique and synergistic portal between the Lab and birders, and we welcome the opportunity to support them both.”

Princeton University Press publishes many of the best books about birds and natural history, including the popular new “Warbler Guide” from Tom Stephenson and Scott Whittle. “We are delighted to be able to support the Cornell Lab’s innovative and ambitious range of programs in science and conservation,” says Robert Kirk at PUP. “The rapid expansion of eBird has had a major impact on our understanding of bird populations and movements in North America and beyond, and is a testament to the Lab’s commitment to game-changing citizen science.”

Find out more:

eBirder of the Month

Hotspot Explorer

Location Explorer