Sunday, February 12, 2012

Birding still needs big events

Anybody who reads this blog knows that I am a huge eBird fan and promoter. And its weird, because I find myself pondering about eBird regularly. Totally nerdy...but anyway, there is no question that eBird is having a significant impact on the birding culture, the way we bird, and why we go birding.

I was recently thinking about birding events like the upcoming Great Backyard Bird Count, Christmas Bird Counts, etc. Those events collect a lot of bird sighting data. I wondered if the value of those big birding events and their concomitant collection of data were now in someway diminished by the daily data gathering of eBirders worldwide.

Humor me while I think out loud here:

Why we still need these big birding events:

* Not all birders are eBirders...yet! For many birders, the only data they officially contribute to citizen science is by participating in these events. And that's okay as we all enjoy birding in different ways.
* Intensity and thorough coverage of specific regions by hordes of birders at one time. eBirders collectively are gathering fantastic amounts of information and it just gets better with time. Yet, nothing can compare to the intensity of a Christmas Bird Count.
* Social aspects: it's fun to get together with other birders and being part of something bigger than oneself is exciting.
* Birder motivation:  the big birding event itself motivates many to get out and look for birds, and to go places, and record sighting data that they otherwise might not do.
* Historical records for comparison and research. eBird hasn't been around as long as many of these big birding events. Hopefully these historical records will be added to eBird to make eBird all the more comprehensive.

When I participate in big birding events, I submit my bird sightings to both the event and to eBird. I hope more birders will do this too. I believe eBird is also working on ways that they can share their data entries with the big birding events so that participants don't have to submit redundant checklists.

So, I conclude that eBird does not diminish the value of the big birding events, but in fact compliments them and vice versa.


  1. Along the lines of birding "big" events...I think I may do a post soon about how birding still needs "Big!" events, like Big Days and Big Years.

  2. I don't participate in e-bird, but know several who do. They love it. That's a good enough reason for e-bird to have value.

  3. Do I get an extra punch on the nerd card for having an eBird dream? Yes, I did that.

    I think eBird diminishes the GBBC *for me* because a backyard count is a several-time-a-week practice for me. I've got a small group doing a checklist per day challenge (an idea I think I subconsciously stole from you last year) and one suggestion I had was taking 10 minutes every Sunday for a backyard count and you've got 52 lists taken care of. That makes the GBBC somewhat irrelevant for us, but it certainly remains a fabulous tool for birder recruitment from the non-birding ranks and citizen science recruitment from the active birders.

    The CBC has time on its side, as you mention above. I'll be birding the great sewage ponds in the sky long before eBird can boast the data of trends over decades that the CBC has amassed.

  4. I am not an ebirder, but love to be involved with birdings big events.

  5. Robert, you know I whole-heartedly agree!

  6. I've heard from ebird people that the GBBC was created specifically to get people comfortable with eBird's data entry interface.

    So GBBC is essential outreach to those birders who aren't yet eBirders.

  7. Good point...that is why I "re-tweeted" this post.
    Happy Birding!