Birdfreak Guide to eBird

The following is a tutorial on how to use eBird and get the most out of this amazing bird sighting recording tool. eBird was created by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society as a way for users all over to submit checklists of bird sightings. The goal is to use these location-based checklists to help aide bird conservation projects.

Getting Started – Registration

eBird is a free service and to sign up is easy. Go to or if you wish, you can go to a more specified subset of eBird for your own state. eBird lists “Regional Projects Near You” on their homepage that includes state specific eBird programs (where available). In Illinois we use for the Bird Conservation Network that includes the Chicago area and parts of northern Illinois including our county, Winnebago.

Submitting Observations

Adding your sightings to eBird is pretty straightforward but can look a bit overwhelming at first. Follow these steps to make it easier.

  1. Click the submit observations tab
  2. If this is the first time using this, you will need to add a new location
  3. Select Find it on a Map
  4. Fill out the fields and continue
  5. A Google map will load and allow you to move around, zoom in and select a point; if the birding spot you are selecting is already in the system you can select that.
  6. Add a name and continue {you can also check the option to suggest the place as a birding hotspot}
  7. Date and Effort: This section allows you to submit how long you were out birding, the date, the distance covered, and how many birders were in your party. The minimum amount of information is “Casual Observation” which just needs the date. You can enter past data from any date. Click continue
  8. Step 3 – What Did You See or Hear? – This section is where you enter the actual birds seen/heard. The layout is in checklist format and can be alphabetic or taxonomic. You can either enter a number or an X to indicate the bird was found but no number counted. eBird is amazing in that the system knows what birds are more likely in an area and time. This means that most of the birds on the list are what would most likely be encountered. If, however, a rare bird (one not listed) was found, you can select the “rare species” option to get that list.
  9. Step 4 – Confirmation and Notes – This is your last chance to review your sightings and add some extra field notes (especially useful if reporting a rare bird). You can go back and change any errors or add birds you missed. You have the option of emailing a copy to yourself (the email you have on file) which is especially useful if you wish to forward the list to someone else (or file it away)
  10. Hit submit and the sightings are added

A few notes on submissions: if you are reporting a large number of birds of a particular species or a bird that is quite uncommon, the system will alert you and ask for you to confirm. This helps prevent typos. Actual rare sightings are reviewed and you will be emailed if a sighting seems highly unlikely.

The process of entering sightings might seem a bit slow and time consuming, but compared with other systems and filing away the data yourself, eBird works well. And submitting data is just the first part of the program.

View and Explore Data

You have two options when viewing data:

  1. Explore all eBird observations
    • A particular species – allows you to view up to five species at a time
    • All birds at a location – allows you to view all the birds seen at a particular location whether it be a state, county, or even your own backyard (as long as you have it as a location)
    • Summarize all eBird observations – here you can select the whole system’s data do get a snapshot of what has happened in the past week, month or year beginning on whatever date you select. You can then choose these sightings in a particular state, county, hotspot, or even a Bird Conservation Region!
  2. Explore My Observations
    • Make maps and graphs of my data – here you can view bar graphs of your sightings at particular locations. The bar graphs show the monthly abundance of birds reported
    • Summarize my observations – allows you to view a summary of your data by week, month, or year
    • View your lists and stats with MyEbird – gives a quick summary of your eBird lifelist, year list, month list, regional lists, and county lists – a very neat tool for anyone loving listing!

The overall purpose of eBird (in our opinion) is threefold: bird population trending (for bird conservation), bird abundance (for traveling birders), and bird listing.

  1. Bird population trending – a great tool for bird conservation management planning, the data from many birders across an area can be collected and graphed and even mapped to help determine areas of decline or high density of particular species.
  2. Bird abundance – the monthly abundance graphs are great for traveling birders. If you are heading to southeastern Arizona and want to know what birds are likely in August, eBird can help you with that.
  3. Bird listing – eBird provides an easy to use, portable system of keeping track of all your major lists.

Feel free to print this out for reference and share with all your birding friends! eBird improves when more people get involved!

4 thoughts on “Birdfreak Guide to eBird

  1. So pleased that you introduced yourself to me “birdfreak” nature lover! I will surely keep an eye out for bird species as I vacation in Arizona for the next 2 months..and shall post my discoveries!! Stay tuned to

    I was deeply touched by your tribute to your “Baby” who now has wings..I know only too well how losing our fur friends creates such a void for us..YOU understand why I just had to DRIVE all those miles to AZ with my 2 cats…NOT even considering cargo in flying.
    It was a good thing you did rescuing your Baby from the perils of that horrible thing of dog fighting..I cannot understand who could support these hellholes!! shaking my head.
    Nice meeting you. :)NG

  2. We look forward to hearing about your sightings.

    It is very hard to imagine how anyone would partake in dog-fighting.

    Thank you for visiting!!

  3. Hi – I just signed up to ebird. It took a while to figure it out, but I think it is a great resource. Do you know if they are still developing ebird? It would be great if it allowed you to share your list with others in a way that Flickr does – via a url such as Personal widgets would also be great to embed your personal lists within a webpage. I could see this being a great resource in an education setting where students can post their sitings on a class webpage or wiki. Please pass along.. I could not find a feedback link on ebird. thanks!

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