While most of us start listing for our own sense of accomplishment (or compulsion!), those notebooks can actually help ornithologists determine where the birds live, whether their populations are thriving, stable, or in decline, and the human and environmental factors affecting them.
At the same time, we birders can benefit from one another’s sightings. Are you looking for a particular species to add to your life list? Did you know that you can find out where others have seen that bird?
“eBird” is an online tool developed by the Cornell Lab or Ornithology in cooperation with the National Audubon Society. It not only allows us to keep track of our own lists (no more lost notebooks!), but gives us the opportunity to contribute our information to scientists and conservationists—seems to me like a win-win situation.
Launched in 2002, “eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. It is amassing one of the largest and fastest growing biodiversity data resources in existence. For example, in January 2010, participants reported more than 1.5 million bird observations across North America!”
In fact, eBird has been such a success that it is now growing worldwide. The site currently supports observations throughout the Western Hemisphere and in New Zealand.
With an easy-to-follow beginners tutorial, I find eBird simple to use and invaluable for sharing trip lists with other participants. In addition, there are challenging quizzes, maps to play with, fascinating birding stories, rare bird reports, birder profiles, and gorgeous photographs. Plus, you can learn how to be a better birder.
Make it your New Year resolution to join eBird and let your birding help the birds. With all this and more, I can’t think of a single reason not to use eBird!
For more information, and to get started, go to ebird.org.