How to Organize an eBird Bioblitz

A bioblitz is a biological survey that occurs within a designated time and place, and is usually performed by volunteers from nearby communities with the support of one or more expert scientists. Some bioblitzes are intended to catalog all the flora and fauna in an area and can last one or more days, while others focus specifically on one or more taxa or are just a few hours long. They provide a quick snapshot of biodiversity while offering an opportunity for people to connect with each other, with scientific experts, with special places (e.g., National Parks), and with the natural world.

eBird is a great tool for conducting an avian bioblitz. It is user-friendly, convenient and flexible. If used in combination with the Merlin bird identification app and/or a reliable field identification guide, bioblitzes that follow eBird best practices can generate accurate, valuable observational data. In addition, bioblitz organizers can quickly download data and see survey results immediately.

Photo Credit: Sarah Rockwell

Observations are submitted to eBird as checklists. When submitting a checklist, one must complete the following steps:

  1. Choose the location
  2. Enter date, time and duration
  3. Choose an observation type (such as a traveling count or stationary count)
  4. Enter the number of observers
  5. Provide counts of all birds detected
  6. Add detailed notes for any high counts or rare birds
  7. Add associated media
  8. Submit the checklist

Bioblitz participants who are enthusiastic about using technology in the outdoors can download the eBird mobile app and use their mobile device to add observations to checklists in real-time. Participants who prefer to leave devices at home or stored out of sight while outdoors can record observations in a journal during the bioblitz and then use the eBird website or mobile app to create and submit checklists afterwards.

Understanding the steps for submitting checklists can help you plan your bioblitz survey. For example, if you want to conduct a bioblitz survey along a hiking trail, participants would select the “traveling count” observation type. An eBird best practice is that the maximum distance per traveling count should be 5 miles (8 km), which can be a long distance for some participants. Instead of completing 5-mile traveling counts, the hiking trail could be surveyed in one-mile sections. Another best practice is to start a new checklist when entering a different type of habitat. If the trail you want to survey passes through more than one habitat type, you could define traveling count boundaries according to habitat edges.

If you are interested in conducting a bioblitz in a park, neighborhood, or another specific area, you might choose to designate multiple stationary count locations throughout the area and have participants select the “stationary count” observation type. You can set stationary count locations according to a grid map or other criteria, such as habitat type. To follow eBird best practices, stationary counts should be completed within 100 feet (30 m) in any direction from the starting point and should last a maximum of three hours. If you are planning a 24-hour or multiple-day bioblitz, your participants could submit multiple 3-hour stationary counts each day.

If you would like to organize an eBird bioblitz, we recommend following these steps:

Step 1: Define the parameters of your survey according to your goals and available checklist types

  • How long will your survey be?
  • What are the geographical boundaries?
  • Will you use traveling counts, stationary counts, or both?
  • Decide if you will use a hotspot for your survey location or create new personal locations on the group account specific to your bioblitz
  • Decide whether you want to complete a general avian survey, or focus on a specific taxon, such as raptors or shorebirds
  • Remember to put safety first. It is important to clearly outline specific safety and emergency procedures

Step 2: Create a group account to consolidate participants’ observations into one place

  • You can find instructions for this step here
  • Change your preferences to opt the group account out of the Top 100
  • Share the group account name with your participants (during the bioblitz, participants will enter their bird observations into their personal accounts as checklists, then share the checklists with the group account you created)

Step 3: Make sure your participants know how to use eBird

  • New users can learn eBird basics through a free online course
  • Instructions for sharing checklists with a group account can be found here

Step 4: Make sure your participants are comfortable identifying birds

  • Recommend the Merlin app and/or a field identification guide
  • Invite experts to your bioblitz to assist with identification

Step 5: Provide participants with information that will help them be well-prepared when they arrive

  • Share logistics such as meeting place, time, and event duration
  • Ensure all participants are informed about your safety and emergency procedures
  • Let them know what to expect at the survey location
    • Are there restrooms or drinking water available?
    • Are there any hazards that participants should be aware of?
    • Let them know where they can find more information about the survey location (for example, is it a National Park? City park? Private property? Wilderness Area?)
  • Recommend the best types of shoes and clothing for the survey location
  • Provide a list of items to bring, such as a mobile device, field identification guide, journal, binoculars, and essentials like water, food, and sunscreen
  • Remind them to check the weather the day of the event

Click the links below to see examples of eBird bioblitzes:
https://ashlandtidings.com/news/environment/impressive-number-of-birds-spotted-during-bioblitz
https://nextgensd.com/border-bioblitz-2019/
https://www.citizenscience.gov/catalog/139/#
http://www.topekaaudubonsociety.org/outreach/shunga-bioblitz

Other helpful links:
Want your bird community science project on eBird Northwest?
eBird FAQs
Resources for Young Birders