Bolivian Nature Reserve Uses eBird Hotspot as Official Reserve Bird List

By Team eBird June 26, 2015

Wilson's Phalarope, a migratory shorebird that is seen at Barba Azul

In Bolivia, eBird sightings are used to define the official bird checklist for certain protected areas, such as the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, in Beni, Bolivia. Asociacíon Armonía, the organization protecting the 11,000 hectare reserve, uses eBird reports from the reserve to define the bird list for conservation and tourism purposes. Bennett Hennessey, the executive director of Asociacíon Armonía, has kindly written about how this process has worked for them. His article can be found below. Read on to learn how your eBird sightings help preserve managers internationally, and also how you might be able to use eBird data to maintain checklists for your local hotspot, reserve, or protected area.

by Bennett Hennessey

One of the most common requests Asociacíon Armonía receives from tourists interested in the Barba Azul Nature Reserve is if they can see our bird list. This is a very important feature of any protected area, but the maintenance of an up-to-date bird list often falls behind other work chores, and you find yourself sending out lists with old taxonomy, old names, and missing the most recent additions. We have avoided this problem by making the eBird hotspot list our official bird list for the Barba Azul Nature Reserve, and it has worked out wonderfully.

Masked Gnatcatcher, one of the birds seen at Barba Azul

Masked Gnatcatcher, one of the 255 species of birds reported at Barba Azul to date

There are several huge advantages to using the eBird hotspot list as a protected area list over taking the time to handle it yourself. The biggest advantage is that eBird will do the work to keep the list up-to-date with taxonomy, splits, new names, and all current bird knowledge. I really appreciate that now a group of experts will keep on top of the literature and make those well justified decisions. If people have problems with taxonomy, they can talk to eBird and I can put my time towards other issues. For some people, the most recent taxonomic change is very important, and I feel much better knowing I am sending out an accurate list with well justified taxonomic decisions.

Another advantage is that it requires much less work on my part to compile sightings, as observers can directly put their data into eBird. This means there is no longer a file containing lists that I have to get around to uploading. We had a few problems with certain records, but you can flag those to the national eBird editor and explain the problem.

And an eBird bird list is so much more than just a list of birds. Through the eBird functions, people can view a list of high counts, first seen, last seen, and specific observer lists. Most protected areas just offer a list of birds, but with little information on abundances and movements. The eBird protected area list has more information that will improve any visit to the reserve.

Large-billed Tern is regularly seen at Barba Azul.

Large-billed Tern is regularly seen at Barba Azul, as shown in this checklist with 132 species.

One of the other common questions by birdwatchers is when will I see such-and-such a species. By using the eBird hotspot list, I can direct them to the bar chart function where they can look at the period when they want to visit and whether the birds they want to see will be common at the time.

The only feature that I would like to see would be an easy way that someone looking at a protected area list could click a tab and print the list. That said, it is not that complicated to copy and paste the list at the moment.

I highly recommend using eBird for official protected area bird lists. Such a list has all the data access advantages of eBird, plus the diligent work of Cornell’s staff to keep the list as accurate to recent science as possible.

[Team eBird note: if you are interested in having your reserve/lodge/establishment use eBird as your official bird list and are curious about the process, please send us an email!]