February eBirder of the Month Challenge

By Team eBird February 3, 2015

Check your patch often enough, and you never know what will turn up!

This month’s eBirder of the month challenge, sponsored by Carl Zeiss Sports Optics, focuses on birding your local area. Local birding in eBird is current best represented by patch birding. Your “patch” is an area that you bird on a regular basis, and can be as seemingly mundane as a little pond that you walk around with your dog every morning, or a corner of your local national park that you cover as often as possible. The goal for this month is to encourage repeated coverage of a single local location or area, and for eBirders to submit complete, effort-based checklists to eBird to further our understanding of patches worldwide! In many temperate areas of the Northern Hemisphere, February is considered to be one of the slower months for birding, but you will be surprised at the subtle movements of many species, movements that often go undetected without regular coverage of an area. To begin your patch birding, click on the Add a Patch link from your My Patch Lists page and select the locations that you wish to be part of your patch. If you already have a patch, there is no need to register. The eBirder of the month will be drawn from eBirders who submit at least 20 complete checklists from a single patch in February. Winners will be notified by the 10th of the following month. Read on to learn more!

Many of us have a favorite patch where we keep track of birds, often visiting almost daily and entering the data into eBird. It can consist of a single eBird location or a group of locations. Since we always appreciate fine-scale submissions, we encourage you to keep track of multiple locations. It is also important to note that to qualify for this challenge, your checklists must be complete and preferably effort-based – the most valuable data that you can submit to eBird!

Patch size – To be able to compare patches across the globe, it is important to set reasonable guidelines on how large patches should be. We don’t want anyone to create an ‘Arizona-California’ patch! In general, your patch should be a combination of sites that you can cover fairly thoroughly in a morning, or a few hours of birding on foot or by car. These can include transects of up to about five miles or areas up to four or five square miles. These are rough guidelines, but our intent is to discourage the creation of patches that cover entire counties, multiple widely-separated hotspots, or exceptionally large areas.

Many birders already have a “patch”, whether or not it is registered in eBird. Patches often consist of a natural and well-defined area, and often the boundaries are set by the property limits or habitat breaks. Examples are places like Huntington Central Park in Huntington Beach (California) or Central Park in Manhattan. Small islands form other well-defined patches: we look forward to seeing eBird Patch totals for the Isles of Scilly off of Great Britain or Monhegan Island off the Maine coast in the United States.

Most eBird hotspots could be considered patches too, although these hotspot points can represent anything from a single point (e.g., Avalon Seawatch in Cape May, New Jersey) to an entire national park (e.g., Kaeng Krachan NP in Thailand). With larger patches, make sure to use smaller sublocations for your bird recording, and then aggregate these to form the patch. Some eBirders regularly survey stretches of shoreline, such as Plum Island in Massachusetts: these linear transects are certainly fair game, but try to keep your transects to less than five miles (OK, Plum Island is seven miles long from the refuge gate, but it’s in the right ballpark and is about 4.8 square miles). If you do want to survey a larger patch, like Plum Island, break out your eBird submissions into several distinct locations.

What birds count? – For patch lists, count anything seen or heard from within your patch. Fly-overs are fair game. In other words, the bird need not actually be in your patch, as long as you are.

One of the goals of this challenge is to encourage birding locally, which serves the dual purpose of expending less resources (e.g. fossil fuels) to go birding, and understanding the birdlife around where you live to a greater degree than before. We hope to offer more local-birding challenges in the near future.


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.

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.”

Find out more:

eBirder of the Month

Patch Guidelines