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Can I enter my Christmas Bird Count into eBird?

The Christmas Bird Count is the largest and longest-running ornithological citizen science project. Its data are a great complement to what we are collecting in eBird, and indeed the CBC has paved the way for eBird in many respects. It is not a problem to enter data in eBird and then submit it for the CBC too, since the two projects are collecting data in similar ways, but at different scales. eBird is also a great way to store your data and compare it from year to year, and provides the opportunity to track your data year-round instead of just around the holidays. Please see also our article on using eBird Mobile on your CBCs.

As you head out to do Christmas Bird Counts this season, please remember the following:

1)    Entering data for the CBC and for eBird presents no problem at all. Indeed, one day we envision the possibility of entering your eBird list and having it automatically contribute to the CBC.

2)    Most CBC circles are divided into multiple sectors, with teams of people (“parties”) covering each sector. Remember that eBird counts are single-party counts, so any data collected during the CBC season should be entered for single parties only, not parties that spend a lot of time split up. (See more here on the problem with multi-party counts being entered in eBird.)

3)    The official CBC effort does not permanently store information at the “sector” level. eBird provides an opportunity to permanently record those data. For example, most coastal counts will have a substantially different mix of birds on the open beach versus areas 5 or 10 miles inland. eBird thrives on location specificity, so stores these data at a finer scale. Keeping track of sightings for each place that you bird throughout the day provides far better information on the birds of the area—both for your own records and for the CBC.

4)    If you do use a day-long count to enter your count (not recommended), please give some thought as to the location that you use. Please do not plot your point at a 'hotspot' if you spent significant time birding outside of the hotspot area. It is far better to plot a new point to represent the CBC sector, and to name it in a way that makes it clear what it represents—such as “Lakeville CBC--Sector 5”. Since hotspot summaries depend on data collected at the actual point, bar charts and other summaries become much less meaningful when they include data from outside the location.

5)    Traveling counts with accurate mileage and duration are preferred over area counts. Most CBC territories encompass much more area than you are able to cover, so the mileage is a better measure. As with the CBC, you should subtract your miles spent backtracking. eBird just wants the one way distance of the mileage you covered. For example, if you walk two miles along a trail to check a lake, and then return on the same trail, the total mileage should be 2 (not 4) and the duration should be the entire time spent for the out-and-back trip.

6)    Owling is often one of the great pleasures of a CBC. Be sure to keep your owling list separate from your other checklists, even if you are covering the exact same site. eBird prefers to keep Nocturnal Birding efforts distinct from diurnal efforts since there is such a great difference in the species you find. This actually matches CBC protocol too, since you are asked to track nocturnal mileage and duration separately for the CBC as well.

If you haven't already, contact your local compiler, or see the "Get Involved" page for the Christmas Bird Count.

Many thanks in advance to all those who participate in both eBird and the CBC. Our collective knowledge of birds has grown exponentially thanks to the efforts of citizen scientists like yourselves. Everyone at Team eBird enthusiastically participates in our local CBCs, so please get out there, have fun, and enjoy the compilations!

While you are at the compilation, try to think about what patterns are emerging this year. Are a lot of late-lingering summer and fall species occurring? Are northern species occurring in good numbers? What finches are being found in your area this year (Red and White-winged Crossbills, Common Redpolls. Evening and Pine Grosbeaks)? Are Bald Eagle numbers continuing to increase and kestrels continuing to decline? How are the half-hardy wintering birds like catbirds, Winter Wrens, and Yellow-rumped Warblers? Then, when you get home, try ‘View and Explore’ in eBird to see if you can learn more about these questions!

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