Sunday, January 24, 2010

eBird: County Big Year Lists

A popular annual all-year-long birding event in Idaho, and perhaps in many other states, is the County Big Year List.  Starting on New Year's Day, folks scramble across the state to be the first to list as many species as possible.  The excitment continues for a couple of weeks until we hit the point of diminishing returns.  Enthusiasm for listing slows as we all wait for Spring.  Spring migration gets us going crazy again adding birds to the County Big Year List.  Big Year List excitment slows again during mid-summer breeding and then ramps up one last time during Fall migration.  Trying to be the first to contribute a species to the County Big Year list is fun, as is seeing how we did as a county from year to year.

Diligent self-sacrificing volunteers maintain the official County Big Year Lists on spreadsheets for most of Idaho's 44 counties.  One central compiler maintains the master list on  It's a lot of work, but these great volunteers seem happy to do it.

Now if I could just convince every single birder in Idaho, and every birder who visits Idaho, to use eBird, we could all save ourselves a bunch of time; time better spent birding rather than gathering and entering data.  eBird automatically does all the work that hundreds of folks spend countless hours managing.

Check out this wonderful eBird feature under the "View and Explore Data" tab called "arrivals and departures".

Choose your State and County of interest.  You could run the "arrival" report by state for overall state totals.

Viol√†!  The County Big Year List!  Automated and easy to use and access by everyone!

I challenge birders everywhere to make eBird their official County Big Year List.  Sightings only count if submitted to eBird! 

Yes, that does break years of convention.  There are probably a lot of folks that really do enjoy compiling the county lists and there are other bird census data websites and software out there.  I don't want to hurt any feelings.  It's just that eBird seems to have the best North American platform and its is absolutely free! There may be great birders out there that are computer and internet illiterate, but hey those great volunteers can continue serving the birding community by helping others enter eBird checklists.  For those that enjoy the number crunching and list compiling, you really do get the same thrill using eBird...even more so, I'd say.

I give all of you Big Year List compilers a giant e-hug and thank you for your years of dedicated service to your fellow birdwatchers.  Within a decade or two, I can't imagine that anyone will be doing them that same way anymore.

Just another reason to be an eBirder!

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