New Year's Resolution 2021: eBird

By Team eBird 30 Dec 2020
Kea Nestor notabilis

New Year’s Resolutions are a way to set fun challenges and personal goals. Let 2021 be the year to step up your eBirding. If you enjoy browsing eBird reports from others, contribute your own sightings in 2021. Submit observations 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 sightings is easy and every bird observation 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 2021 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 out 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 your past observations don’t have all the information to be entered in eBird’s 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 save time because we update your lists for you when taxonomic splits and lumps happen. 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. eBird provides free proofreading of your lists too! Our worldwide team of volunteers is constantly inspecting the data to help prevent typos or taxonomic errors.

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. This is only possible when you report birds with 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 bird 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.

State-of-the-art statistical models such as this detailed abundance map for European Starling are made possible by eBirders like you who report common species as well as unusual ones. Observations of common birds make a difference to science and conservation, 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 where 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 2021, use the eBird Explore Data tools (now available on eBird Mobile!) to help you find ten new bird species—whether they’re new for your home, your county, your state, or your entire life. The free Merlin Bird ID app can help you identify unfamiliar birds and add even more new species to your lists.

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 eBirding. You could try a year list for your state or province, but you might find that keeping a year list for your home or patch is an even more fun personal challenge. The smaller the area, the better you’ll get to know it— which makes adding new species all the more exciting!

As the year progresses, year lists become about strategy: how to find species that have eluded you thus far and beat your previous years’ species totals.

eBirding over time charts, available on the My eBird and eBird Mobile, help you track your end-of-year totals and see 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!

Invariably, year lists are full of fun surprises and unexpected successes. Your year list for a country, state, county, patch, or your yard can be easily tracked with your Sightings Lists, the Yard/Patch tools, or eBird Mobile.

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 the number of complete checklists you submit and see if you can beat your previous year’s checklist totals. 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 patch, showing the occurrence of a species for each week of the year. Target for 2021: submit an eBird checklist from the patch on 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 2021. For example, Calgary County, Alberta, has the highest species list in the province (358 species!) But if you click the two rightmost numbers at the top of the page you can see that 39 species need photos and 192 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 and enter your older checklists in eBird. If you have the start time, duration, and can estimate the distance traveled, 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 less-than-complete effort information (e.g., start time, but not duration) and Incidental is always a fine way to submit observations when birding wasn’t your primary purpose. All you need is an accurate location and date!

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 2021 (i.e., 365 lists total for 2021). 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 2021. 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 part of a global team of birders, your birding becomes much more: a chance to share your sightings with others, to bolster a worldwide appreciation for birds, and to contribute to new science and important conservation. We could not do it without your participation. Thank you for all that you do.

Now it’s time for us to get started on our own resolutions… checklist-a-day, here we come!