eBird is an online database of bird observations providing scientists, researchers and amateur naturalists with real-time data about bird distribution and abundance. Originally restricted to sightings from the Western Hemisphere, it was widened to include New Zealand in 2008, and was widened to cover the whole world in June 2010. eBird has been described as an ambitious example of enlisting amateurs to gather data on biodiversity for use in science.
eBird is an example of crowdsourcing, and has been hailed as an example of democratizing science, treating citizens as scientists, allowing the public to access and use their own data and the collective data generated by others.
History and purpose
Launched in 2002 by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology at Cornell University and the National Audubon Society, eBird gathers basic data on bird abundance and distribution at a variety of spatial and temporal scales. As of July 2013, over 100,000 unique users have submitted tens of thousands of checklists, more than 100,000,000 observations, and data for over 10,240 species to the program.
eBird’s goal is to maximize the utility and accessibility of the vast numbers of bird observations made each year by recreational and professional bird watchers. The observations of each participant join those of others in an international network. The data is then available via internet queries in a variety of formats.
eBird documents the presence or absence of species, as well as bird abundance through checklist data. A web interface allows participants to submit their observations or view results via interactive queries of the database. Internet tools maintain personal bird records and enable users to visualize data with interactive maps, graphs, and bar charts. All these features are available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.
It is a free service. Data is stored in a secure facility and archived daily, and is accessible to anyone via the eBird web site and other applications developed by the global biodiversity information community. For example, eBird data is part of the Avian Knowledge Network (AKN), which integrates observational data on bird populations across the western hemisphere and is a data source for the digital ornithological reference Birds of North America. In turn, the AKN feeds eBird data to international biodiversity data systems, such as the Global Biodiversity Information Facility.
In addition to accepting records submitted from user's personal computers, eBird has placed electronic kiosks in prime birding locations, including one in the education center at the J. N. "Ding" Darling National Wildlife Refuge on Sanibel Island in Florida.
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Research using eBird data
Below is an incomplete list of research that used the eBird data.
Hurlbert, Allen H.; Liang, Zhongei (February 2012), "Spatiotemporal Variation in Avian Migration Phenology: Citizen Science Reveals Effects of Climate Change", PLoS ONE 7 (2): e31662, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0031662