Why eBird is the Greatest Thing since Sliced Bread
1. It's free.
You can keep and analyze your bird records for free. You can get a free
backup of them whenever you want to download it. Yes, you have to have
internet access, but even that is often free these days. And all the other
fun stuff I'm about to mention is free... but priceless.
2. It's got lots of pretty pictures.
You can search for pictures (and videos) and enjoy looking at them -- for
education, or just for eye candy.
3. It's got sounds, too.
If you want to listen to recordings of birds, many of those are on eBird as
well, and more are being added regularly.
4. It will help you find rare birds.
If you like to chase rare birds, you can use the alerts to tell you when
they've been seen, and the maps to show you where. But more than just
seeing a rare bird, it's good to know why a bird is rare, so...
5. It will help you understand bird distribution.
Understanding when a bird is rare is understanding when it's not common.
Understanding which birds are common in an area, and when, is something
eBird constantly gets better at helping us with. We spend most of our time
looking at common birds; it's good to know more about them.
6. It keeps getting better.
I hesitated for a while before I started using eBird because it was not
worldwide in scope. Then it was. People complained that you couldn't upload
photos to eBird. Now you can. People wanted to add personalized pages to
eBird. Now they can. And so on.
7. It's science.
As long as the peer review process holds up, eBird is science. If you're
not a professional scientist, this is a way that you get to contribute to
science. Your data will be there for reanalysis long after you're gone to
the Great Migrant Trap in the Sky. Having worked on several breeding bird
atlases before, I can assure you that eBird is a faster way to get the data
compiled and to visualize the atlas as a work in progress. Lots of
scientists work with eBird, trying to improve it. And...
8. Fixing mistakes is easy.
If you mess up your reports you can go back to your checklist and edit
them. If a reviewer makes a mistake (and of course we do), it can be fixed
9. Got privacy if you want it.
Many people use eBird but don't post their list totals publicly; that's an
option that's available (and another improvement that has been made along
the way; v. #6 above). If you see a rare bird, you can make that sighting
private as well. You can make "Your Profile" available, but you don't have
10. It plays well with others.
Using eBird does not stop you from using any listserve. It does not stop
you from sending your friends a text when you find a good bird. It does not
stop you from blogging or Facebooking about birds. It does not stop you
from writing notes on paper in the field (I still do). We're still finding
new ways to use eBird... for example, eBird records are now being used as
the basis for accelerated acceptance of records by some state bird records
committees (including Virginia's)... cf. #7 above. But...
11. You can take your ball and go home if you want to.
A lot of us enjoy eBird, and spend a lot of time with it. No one says it's
perfect, but it's a great tool that did not exist all that long ago. But no
one is making anyone use it. If you want to keep your data to yourself, if
you want to report them in a context that lacks any sort of peer review, if
you want to support an alternative to eBird that offers what it offers at a
competing price... go for it.
12. It gives us something to talk (or write) about on a snow day. Or while
waiting for that rare bird to come back.
Birders love to talk about birds, and about other birders. eBird gives us
something else to talk about. I've overheard more than one humorous
conversation about eBird among birders who didn't know that I'm a reviewer.
I've also been emailed and asked in person many times, "why does eBird...?"
Sometimes I know the answer, sometimes not. It's ok. It's what we do.
C. Michael Stinson