Every time that you see and identify a bird, you are holding a piece of a puzzle. Whether you are casually watching birds in your backyard, or chasing rare species across the country, you are helping to put this puzzle together. It might be a personal puzzle. For example, you might wonder when Red-winged Blackbirds appear in your backyard each spring or what time of day the Mourning Doves take a bath in your neighborhood fountain. Each time that you see and identify one of these birds—so long as you note the time and date—one piece of the puzzle falls into place.
Or it might be a regional puzzle. For instance, scientists might be wondering how quickly House Finches are spreading throughout your state or how rapidly Henslow’s Sparrows are declining. Each time that you identify and count the numbers of one of these species, you are piecing together a part of that puzzle.
Or it might be an international puzzle. Each year during migration, hundreds of species fly from southern wintering grounds to northern breeding grounds, following the flush of summer insects. When do they leave? Where do they breed? And when do they return home? Whether recording common birds in your backyard or searching for rarities along the Mexican border, your sightings of these birds – with time, date, and location included – are pieces that can help ornithologists solve this huge puzzle, day by day, week by week, and year by year.
Unfortunately, just like puzzle pieces, these observations lose their value if they remain separate from one another. The sightings tucked away in your memory, or in your desk drawer, or in an old shoebox in your closet leave gaps in a partially painted picture. In truth, the only way that all these bird sightings make a contribution to our understanding of nature is when they are collected and organized into a central database where they can help complete this picture of birds worldwide.
eBird is this database. With thousands of birdwatchers across the continent helping to construct it by contributing their sightings, eBird will soon become a vast source of bird and environmental information useful not only to bird watchers but to scientists and conservationists the world over. Want to find out what birds you’ll see on your vacation? Want to know the closest spot to find a Least Bittern, or a reliable spot for Townsend’s Warbler? Want to learn whether the crow population is growing in your state? Want to see if endangered Least Terns are continuing their decline?
By keeping track of your bird observations and entering them into the eBird database, you’ll benefit, too. You can access your own bird records anytime you want, allowing you an easy way to look at your observations in new ways and to answer your personal questions about what birds you saw and when and where you saw them.
If you use the eBird web site to enter all your birding information—and get your friends, family members, students, and colleagues to use it as well—before long the answers to the never ending questions about birds will be found in the eBird database, for use now and for generations that will follow.