We need your bird photos!

By Nick Anich June 17, 2020
American Robin Turdus migratorius

We are beginning the process of collecting photos for Wisconsin Breeding Bird Atlas II.

There are two purposes for which we will need photos:

1. Some photos will appear in print to illustrate the species accounts and other sections of the atlas book.

2. Other photos, especially ones showing breeding behaviors, nests, and juvenile plumages, will be valuable resources as part of a gallery on the Wisconsin Society for Ornithology’s Atlas website.

What photos are we looking for?

First and foremost, we need high-resolution, publication-quality images for each of the ~250 species that will appear in the book. These should be large size with the bird prominently composed in sharp focus. We strongly prefer photos showing higher breeding codes like nests, young, food carrying, or courtship. When such photos are lacking, for example in rarer or difficult-to-photograph species, we welcome images of resting, foraging, flying, or singing birds. Landscape images lacking a bird but showing a bird’s habitat are also needed and welcome.

Secondarily, we hope to leverage today’s prevalence of digital photography to compile an online gallery of photos demonstrating breeding behaviors in Wisconsin’s birds. This will NOT be a repository for general bird photos. Rather, it will show activities related to Atlas breeding codes such as nests with eggs, fledged young in juvenile plumage, copulation events, adults feeding young, etc. Such resources are surprisingly scarce and will aid other active and future atlases. Photo size and quality for this online use is far less critical than for images used in the published book.

Anyone is welcome to submit their photos for these purposes. Photos taken in Wisconsin are highly preferred but they need not be taken during the atlas period (2015–2019). Images must be your own — do NOT submit images on behalf of others.

There are 2 ways to submit your photos, either route will put them into consideration for the atlas book:

  1. Enter your photo into eBird

Detailed instructions for uploading photos are here, but basically go to My eBird to locate an old checklist and click Add Media on the checklist to add your photos. If you don’t have this observation reported, you can enter a new eBird checklist (in the regular portal, as the atlas portal is closed). NOTE: It is fine to add photos to an existing atlas checklist as long as the other details of the submission remain the same. Please do not edit the species or codes on atlas portal checklists right now as data collection is closed and data vetting is in progress!

It’s especially helpful if you can tag your photos in eBird. You can do this while you are uploading photos, or to apply tags to old photos, you can use the Manage Media button to revisit the media page, and clicking the photo pulls up the additional options in the Right sidebar. Tagging Juvenile under Age/Sex; Nest, Eggs, or Habitat under Tags, or Carrying Food, Nest Building, Feeding Young, or Courtship, Display or Copulation under Behavior will help your photo rise to the top when we are specifically searching for photos of breeding behavior. Photo tagging guidelines are here.

It’s also helpful if you rate your photo using the star rating. Most photos will be average 3-star photos, but lower quality photos can have value, especially if they are showing rarer species or breeding behaviors. Save 4 and 5 star ranks for the very best photos. Photo rating guidelines are here.

  1. Enter your photo into our custom WSO photo gallery

We launched this photo gallery early in the project, then got too busy with atlasing to keep up with it, but it’s time to dive back in again. We hope this can serve as a continuing reference especially for nests, fledglings, and breeding behaviors.

If you’re wondering what we already have, check the photo gallery. If we already have 10 photos of baby Canada Geese, your time may be better spent sending us photos of that fledgling Willow Flycatcher.

To submit, just click the Submit Photos button and fill in some basic information about the image.

Frequently asked questions:

Q: If I upload a photo, am I agreeing to have my photo published in the book?

A: Not at this stage. At the moment, you are agreeing to have it hosted on the WSO website, and potentially used for atlas communications — eBird permissions are similar, see here. If we are interested in using your photo for publication, and you agree, there will be a form to sign at a later date.

Q: Does submitting my photo guarantee it will be in the book?

A: No, we will need to sift through the available photos in the coming years as we select the photos we will use in the book.

Q: If my photo is used, will my name show in the book?

A: Yes, photographers will be credited.

Q: Will I be paid for having my photos appear in the book?

A: No, the atlas is a non-profit organization. We are not selling the books to make a lot of money, nor do we have the budget to be able to pay everyone for photos. We are appreciative that we are able to use many excellent donated images from our many talented local photographers!

Q: Is there a list of photos you specifically need?

A: At this stage, we are interested in photos for the ~250 species recorded as part of the atlas. At a later stage, we will release a more targeted list of our remaining photo needs.

Q: Why 2 different ways to submit photos?

A: We wanted to make it easy for either people who are already putting many of their photos in eBird or those who for whatever reason didn’t want to use eBird. In general, your photos may have more visibility and potential scientific use in the Macaulay Library of eBird, but if you have photos with unique breeding behaviors, young plumages or habitat shots, those photos may have higher visibility if they are part of the WSO site. Either way, we will be combing both of these databases to find photos for the book.