New Year's Resolution 2020: eBird

By Team eBird December 24, 2019
Snow Goose Anser caerulescens

New Year’s Resolutions are a way to set fun challenges and personal goals. Let 2020 be the year to step up your eBirding. If you have enjoyed tapping into eBird reports from others, contribute your own sightings in 2020. Submit a sighting online or via eBird Mobile to see just how easy it is to join the world’s largest birding community. If you have been eBirding for a long time, add a few more checklists from your home or submit a few more photos and audio recordings. Maybe you have been meaning to enter old records that you’d like to have in eBird? Entering those old records is easy and every sighting matters—no matter when you saw it.

Some active birders have yet to take the eBird plunge. Do you have a slight pang of guilt each time you receive an eBird Alert, feeling that you should be submitting your sightings too? It’s okay, many of us have been there. Let 2020 be a chance to share your sightings with other birders just as their sightings have helped you. Once you do, eBird will be even more powerful for you as well.

Do you want to do eBird, but feel that something is stopping you? Here are some common misconceptions for those hesitant to use eBird and solutions to help get you our birding!

I have been birding for many years and it would take too long to catch up!
Being an eBirder doesn’t require having all your lists up-to-date or that you enter all your old bird observations. The idea is to just get started, and let the historical data entry happen as you have time. The more historical data you enter the more informative eBird becomes for you, but the key is starting by entering your current observations today. If you lack the information required to load your past observations in traditional checklist format, try the life list option.

I don’t have the time
Do you already track your bird records somewhere else? No extra time is needed to use eBird—it’ll probably actually save time because we update your lists for you when splits and lumps happen! eBird provides free proofreading of your lists too! Our worldwide team of experts is constantly inspecting the data to help prevent typos or taxonomic errors. Going forward, eBird Mobile will really speed up your data entry because you record your new sightings right there in the field—no transcribing needed.

I keep my lists in another program
When your lists are up-to-date in eBird, a whole new suite of cool, powerful tools become available: customized Needs Alerts, lists of Target Species with maps of where to find them, and much more. All of this is only possible when your sightings are in eBird. Fretting about moving over from another program to eBird? Don’t worry—we also have easy ways to import from most other programs.

eBird doesn’t want my data
We couldn’t disagree more! eBird is for everyone and all observations are valuable. No matter where you live, we welcome your contributions from anywhere, anytime. Get started today and learn more about eBird with our free online course (it only takes an hour).

What is this a map of? It looks just like noise, there is so much information! This is Washington D.C., with all of the sightings of European Starling. Even common birds make a difference, and we want to hear about it!

What does this map show? There are so many bird sightings it is hard to tell…! This is actually Washington D.C., with all of the eBird sightings of European Starling. Even common birds make a difference, and we want to hear about them!


Whether you are a new eBirder or a longtime eBirder, you may be thinking about what new challenge to take on in 2020. Setting personal goals and competing against yourself is one of the best ways to improve your birding skills and to stay engaged with eBird and birding. Here are a few of our favorite challenge ideas for 2020:

Find 10 bird species that are new for you
One area where eBird really excels is showing you how to find birds. Whether you want a map of sightings for any species of bird, or you want to know where to go birding near you, it’s all there. In 2020, use the eBird Explore Data tools to help you find ten new bird species—whether they’re new for your yard, your county, your state, or your entire life.

Year listing
Keeping a year list is one of the great pleasures of birding. Year lists are a New Year’s Resolution commitment to keep up your eBirding coverage and try to learn how to find new species, maybe those that have eluded you thus far. You could try a year list for your state or province, but you might find that keeping a year list for your yard or patch is an even more fun personal challenge. The smaller the area, the more exploration and self-discovery you’ll have in your year list. As the year progresses, year lists become a personal challenge to strategize how to find more species than last year and predict where you can intersect with tricky migrants. Invariably, they are full of fun surprises and unexpected successes.

Your year list for a country, state, county, patch, or your yard can be easily tracked in My eBird, the Yard/Patch tools, or eBird Mobile.

Progress bars are unique to eBird Mobile. Just check out the “My eBird” section and select your location using the options at the top right of the screen. The results will give statistics not only on your end-of-year totals, but whether your current progress is ahead of last year’s total on the same date. Below, the fact that the 20 December total is 6 species behind 2015’s total can only mean one thing. Time to go birding!

Adopt a patch
Anyone can adopt a patch; think of it as any park, walking loop, or birdy area that you like to visit regularly. Start tracking your all-time species total there and see if you can visit strategically to add new species. Use eBird Mobile to compare your 2020 totals to previous years. Select your patch in eBird to quickly access your stats. Best of all, check out the bar chart for your patch. Does your existing patch have gaps in the bar chart? Fill in those blanks!

eBird “bar chart” for a hotspot, showing the occurrence of a species for each week of the year. Targets for 2020: find Spotted Sandpiper in the first week of July and a Rock Pigeon in the third week of June!

Help create an Illustrated Checklist
Check out the Illustrated Checklist for your county, state, province, or favorite local hotspot. Can you fill in any missing photos? Can you improve upon existing ones? Audio recordings tend to be underrepresented in many places, so a good audio cut, even with your phone can help fill a gap.

With a single click, you can check for gaps and plan your goals for 2020. For example, Calgary County, Alberta, has the highest species list in the province (356 species!). But if you click the two rightmost numbers at the top of the page you can see that 62 species need photos and 294 need audio. By spreading out our photo and audio coverage, the Macaulay Library will become even more powerful to assess how bird plumages, songs, molt, etc. vary across the planet.

Get your important lists up to date
Have you been birding a long time but don’t yet have all your old data in? Is your life list larger than what is shown on your My eBird page? Set aside some rainy days or cold winter days with enter your older checklists in eBird. If you have the start time, duration, and can estimate the mileage, then your lists are just as science-worthy as those you might collect today. If not, don’t worry: the Historical protocol can be used if you have bits and pieces of effort information (start time, but not duration) and Incidental is always a fine way to submit sightings with accurate dates and locations, but no other info.

Take the “Checklist a Day” challenge
Try stepping up to the ultimate challenge for an eBirder! This year’s “Checklist a Day” challenge will draw a winner from among those who submit an average of at least one complete checklist per day in 2020 (i.e., 365 lists total for 2020). The eBird homepage helps track your “Checklist Streak” if you want to try for 365 consecutive days (not required for the challenge, but fun to try). Try to get in the habit of doing at least one short count in your yard every day–even a five-minute count helps keep a pulse on the birds coming and going throughout the year from a location that only you can survey.

Those of us at Team eBird have our own New Year’s Resolutions for 2020. In addition to our personal eBirding goals, we’ll remain committed to adding new features to eBird to make your observations, photos, audio recordings, and data even more valuable—and we’ll continue to revel in the amazing diversity of birds around us and try to highlight the best and most fun aspects of birding to more communities around the world.

As a global team of birders, our birding becomes much more: a chance to share your sightings with others, even across language barriers, and is a way to bolster a worldwide appreciation for birds and the raw data that leads to new science and informs important conservation. We could not do it without your participation. Thank you for all that you do.

Please excuse us now as we get started on our own resolutions…checklist-a-day, here we come!