Long-time birder? This bird-tracking organization wants your records

purple finch [Credit: Wikimedia Commons/Cephas]

The virtues of birdwatchers often go unsung, but birders possess many admirable qualities.  They’re steadfast, they’re meticulous, and above all, they’re patient.

Now, an online database of information about bird populations and distributions wants to make use of these humble qualities. eBird, an online repository of bird data, has recognized the value of birdwatchers as an untapped resource and is asking them to share the data they’ve collected over the decades.

eBird is a website that allows birdwatchers and scientists to report bird sightings, which helps the organization amass information on bird populations and biodiversity. However, since the database is online, it mostly contains information that was collected after the proliferation of the internet. In fact, 85% of their records involve sightings that occurred after the year 2000.

Now they’re hoping to fill the gap, and asking for people’s birdwatching records from before the internet age.

“We are particularly interested in observations from the 1970s and earlier,” Canadian biologist Dan Riley told ON Nature Magazine. “That time period is really short on information right now.”

Riley emphasized that all reports of bird sightings are useful, however they were recorded. Handwritten notes and sketches in notebooks will do just fine.

Riley recently spoke at an Ontario Nature meeting about the ways ecologists use the eBird data to develop conservation strategies. Getting lots of information from different birdwatchers gives them a much better high-level picture of what the situation is with bird populations.

eBird itself was started by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audobon society in 2002, and is currently the world’s largest citizen science project on biodiversity. It originally only collected data from the western hemisphere, but now encompasses the entire globe, so no matter where you go birding, eBird is happy to make use of your records.

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