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Global eBird almost there! -- 3 June update

May 28, 2010
Global eBird almost there! -- 3 June update

Buff-crested Bustard at Samburu NP, Kenya. Our Global expansion will make it possible to finally enter cool sightings like this one! Photo by Marshall J. Iliff.

This is an exciting time at eBird. In our survey of eBirders several months ago, the most common request was for eBird to expand to the Eastern Hemisphere. We have now taken our first steps to make eBird data entry possible anywhere on the planet. As you can imagine, this is no small task. It has required complete overhauls of our bird taxonomy, our GIS layers, our location creation and validation system, our listing output, and much more. Over the next week or two we'll be implementing a number of updates to get eBird up to speed on a global stage. This eBird story will be updated over the next week or two to keep you all informed about our progress.

Global eBird progress:

Thursday, 3 June -- Data entry is now possible for anywhere in the World!!! Check out bar charts for Spain or Australia, for example, which has some data already from Team eBird and others already showing up! Explore the point maps by clicking on a species name or check out Top100 or high counts or other eBird visualizations too! A couple things you'll notice starting today:

1) Drop down lists for Country are much longer. You'll see these when using "Find it on a Map" in Submit Observations or selecting a bar chart, high counts table, or Top100 display.

2) Most of the new countries have states associated with them, so you can make a state bar chart as well.

3) Your My eBird tabs now have some new Major Regions appearing. All American Birding Association listing regions, including Asia, Africa, Eurasia, Pacific Ocean etc. are now appearing. We also have Eastern Hemisphere and Western Hemisphere, but would note that these are not strict interpretations of the hemispheres based on longitude, but rather biogeographical regions more akin to "New World" and "Old World".

At this stage the data quality for countries in the Eastern Hemisphere (other than New Zealand) is not up to eBird's standards. Among other issues, some misplotted locations are showing up on bar charts in the Old World. Over the next year we will be gradually implementing a functional data quality process, and we would welcome help with developing checklists and reviewing records. Please get in touch ( if you are interested in helping.

We are still not complete with our tasks, so expect a couple more updates over the next week.  But if you have data from elsewhere in the world, you can start entering it.

Wednesday, 2 June --  Hundreds of locations plotted in the Eastern Hemisphere were assigned country and state codes and are now showing up on those birders' lists. The lists created intentionally in Europe, Asia, and elsewhere are now being considered valid records. If you have plotted such a listk, this would be a good time to go in and add the species that weren't previously available. Finally you can enter a complete list.

This process is also catching all the old errors. That we have previously been unable to address efficiently. The latest map quiz shows some of the problem, since the locations plotted far offshore of the Carolinas and Canada are errors. These records will now be caught by our filters and treated as invalid unless we can confirm that they were intentional. Many misplotted locations in the oceans, China, Kazakstan, and elsewhere were the result of missing negative signs when data was entered.

Tuesday, 1 June -- Several additional changes were implemented today, including the following:

1. Location creation revised -- Global GIS layers now make it possible to create a point anywhere on the globe. eBird will assign it a country and state/province, and in the US, Canada (see below), and the United Kingdom, a county.

2. Canada counties -- As part of this revision, we are pleased to announce that we are now showing Canadian counties within eBird. These are available in all the places that USA counties are available: My eBird lists, data summaries on bar charts, point maps, arrivals/departures tables, etc. All locations should be revised to show Canadian counties now and your Canadian county lists should have been created and updated.

3. Casual Observations are now changed to Incidental Observations. We made this change because we have perceived some confusion about the meaning of Casual Observations (e.g., some people used this option when they felt like they were not birding seriously, even though it was in fact a traveling count). By calling it "Incidental Observations", we mean to stress that these are observations collected when birding was not the primary purposes (flyover birds seen while driving or heard while collecting the mail). As always, we prefer that users select an effort-based option (Stationary, Traveling, or Area Count) whenever appropriate.

4. My eBird tabs: Countries were separated from Major Regions, so that there are now four My eBird tabs: Major Regions, Countries, States, Counties.

Friday, 27 May -- Taxonomy updated to be brought into line with Clements 6.4 which can be downloaded from the website (we'll provide an eBird version soon). This incorporates updated AOU names from North American Classification Committee and South American counterpart. A full summary of changes will be available soon. New taxonomy is now shown on listing output, checklist pages, and species search functions, and in some places in your personal lists.


As we work our way through this process, you may notice some odd things, especially with your eBird lists. Rest assured--we'll get them worked out. We never lose eBird data and even if your life list seems a little bit out of synch or the checklist entry page does something odd during this growing period, we promise you it will be right in the end.

Please keep in mind that when this update is complete, Global eBird will remain in beta form for a long time. While we plan to implement basic checklists for all points on the globe, we remind you that eBird works best when we have engagement of the local community. The checklist entry page for your local area was likely developed by an expert, who was able to indicate the most probable species and set reasonable filter limits, so that we catch your typos and rare sightings, but don't harass you with confirmation messages about commonplace species you see in your area. It takes a long time and a lot of hard work to have this process running smoothly, and there are still areas of the United States, Canada, and Latin America that need work in this regard.

With that said, WE WELCOME ANY HELP IN DEVELOPING CHECKLISTS ELSEWHERE IN THE WORLD. We have a strong base of eBird users and many of you have expertise in the Eastern Hemisphere. If so, please write to Marshall <> to volunteer your aid in creating checklists for other countries. eBird would not be possible without the commitment of hundreds of volunteers around the Americas and now the world, so we thank you in advance for your continued roles in developing checklists, managing hotspots, reviewing records, providing feedback, and of course, entering data!

And finally, special thanks to all those that supported Team eBird with a contribution in the World Series. Your contributions have gone directly towards helping eBird reach this important goal.