Monday, April 11, 2016

eBird and the PCT

I was asked on a blog comment why we had multiple bird lists on some days, so figured it appropriate to explain what's going on. About the time we decided to do the trail we also realized that it was pretty much going to be a birding trip as well. Most serious birders these days keep their sighting lists in a database called eBird. This database is maintained by Cornell University and is available to all birders and scientists worldwide. Users can see where others are seeing birds, keep all kinds of lists (daily, annual, regional, etc.), and lots more. The data is peer reviewed to prevent most erroneous sightings. 

From the eBird website:

Launched in 2002, eBird ( is managed by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on behalf of the birding community to provide a rich and rapidly growing database of bird sightings worldwide. Many birders use eBird to keep track of their life lists, share their sightings with other birders, and keep their records safely backed-up. Scientists use these observations to explore patterns of bird distribution and abundance, and to better conserve birds and biodiversity.

Before embarking on our hike we contacted the eBird team and discussed options to create lists while we are on the trail to give our sightings and list the most relevance to this citizens science project. Using the eBird iPhone app, Susan creates a list of our sightings (all species and individuals) based primarily on geography (drainages, habitat types) but no single list will exceed 5 trail miles. So far the greatest number of lists in one day was 5. Most of our sightings are by hearing song and calls - otherwise we would never get anywhere!

Unfortunately it is somewhat difficult to move all the lists from Susan's eBird account to the blog each day, so I've been trying to include some representative lists. The eBird team promises they are working on a solution that should be ready later this summer - personal profiles. We'll see...  For now we will do the best we can to share our bird sightings in the blog. 


  1. Good strategy, Bob and Susan, and thanks for the explanation. But wow, one list per 5 miles is a lot of lists! What you're doing is fantastic and I'm following you everyday, but really, I don't need to see every list. What I do really enjoy are your summaries which highlight everything, including the Martins and Gray Vireos. PS I thought I knew California, but your photos and narratives are opening a whole new world!

  2. What an amazing body of knowledge you are contributing. I read every list and expect that by your criteria of a list every five miles won't produce any more than six lists in a day. Unless the two of you sprout wings or have to be transported around trail closures.
    It is fun to figure out your habitat transitions by the bird lists. This big geek is enjoying living vicariously.