eBird joins forces with the Macaulay Library—Media Upload Coming Soon!

By Team eBird September 25, 2015
Atlantic Puffin

We’re thrilled to announce a new collaboration with the Macaulay Library that will enable you to add photos and sounds directly to your eBird checklists. Each piece of media you upload will become a digitally archived specimen. This collaboration will build an archive of media associated with complete checklists of bird observations from around the world. With tens of thousands of eBirders across the globe contributing media, the potential to generate a digital library on a previously unimaginable scale is incredible. This collaboration provides a tremendous opportunity to document bird observations worldwide and provides a stable, long-term, and easy-to-use archive for your images and audio. We aim to launch this new functionality throughout eBird within the next couple months. Want to try it out sooner than that? Read on.

Documenting bird behavior through sounds and videos has been always been a central goal of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. For the last 100 years the Cornell Lab has been gathering, preserving, and disseminating media: from the first birds ever recorded (on 35mm film tape) in 1929, to the first behavioral study using film and sound in 1932, to the pioneering Neotropical collections of Ted Parker, Paul Schwartz, and L. Irby Davis.

Until now, eBird has relied upon external sites to “embed” images in eBird checklists. While Flickr and other entities provide great services, their goals differ from those of an archive. We want to ensure the services we provide are long-term, reliable solutions for documenting avian diversity, which provide access focused on the needs of the birding, research, and conservation communities. The new media upload will also make it vastly easier to just drag-and-drop these photos into your eBird checklists.

Photos, audio recordings, and video are an integral part of our data quality process at eBird and often the best way to document a rare bird you may have observed. Even a distant image can document an exceptional sighting and eBird reviewers always appreciate sightings documented with rich media in their checklists. This streamlines the review process, allowing for quicker validation of records and a richer experience for anyone viewing the checklist on eBird. However, all of this only works if the media are safely and securely linked to checklist. We also believe that this new archive of media will not just be a powerful tool to document rare birds more easily, but will revolutionize how we understand and access information about common birds worldwide.

We can think of no better time than this month, which marks the 100-year anniversary of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, to expand the definition of collection and archival of bird specimens. In most contexts, “collecting” and “specimen” call to mind physical specimens, which do play a critical role in modern research. As new technologies and insights have made physical specimens more useful than ever, we anticipate similar discoveries with digital specimens using techniques that have not yet even been developed. With this new tool, anyone in the world will be able to go out with a camera, microphone, or even just your mobile phone, and contribute to our global knowledge of birds in a way never before possible.

Northern Parula, archived in an eBird checklist

Northern Parula photo, archived in an eBird checklist

In addition to archiving these media, we’ll also be able to begin development of a new array of data exploration tools throughout eBird and Macaulay Library—stay tuned over the coming months for more announcements on this front. Would you like to see all of the photos of Northern Goshawks ever eBirded between Oct 1-Dec 31st in New York, displayed in a gallery? How about pages of Wood Thrush songs from Virginia in May? All of this and so much more will soon be possible.

By using eBird, you’ve shown the world what is possible when we come together and contribute checklists of bird observations. You have helped prioritize land acquisitions for conservation, provided data for over 100 peer-reviewed publications, and redefined birding in the 21st century. And you have given us the confidence to take this next step. We can’t wait for you to join us and let us know what you think.

If you want to use this tool before it is publicly released, you can become an eBird Partner. Your support will allow us to provide the best eBird possible. For more information on becoming an eBird Partner, check out this overview.