eBird has two comments fields that can be used however you choose. Checklist comments can be set to public or private, while species comments are always public. While eBirders sometimes leave these fields blank, entering submission notes can help make your checklist more valuable. Your comments can assist our eBird reviewers as they try to assess records of rare and unusual birds. By supplying some extra information in your comments you can make your records easier to interpret and make the review process faster. Your eBird data (including comments fields) are also shared with editors of local and regional bird journals, authors of articles and books on bird distribution, state wildlife agencies, and conservationists.
eBird Comments Fields
There are two types of comments fields available in eBird: checklist comments, and species comments. Checklist comments describe your birding event in more detail while species comments allow you to provide more detail about each species on a given checklist.
Checklist Comments - Private or Public
Your checklist comments default to be private, but you can change this in your eBird Preferences (accessed via My ebird page). If set to private, these comments will not be exposed to the public (although these are shared with reviewers and scientists, who often need access to all useful information in their review of records). Your checklist comments can be very useful for other birders who may go try to relocate birds you report or who try to understand how you birded a site.
Using Checklist Comments
Checklist comments are found on Step 2 of the checklist submission process. Ideally, these comments are used to describe your birding event and to tell us more about how you went birding. Perhaps a brief description of where you walked, the weather, or the highlights. This will be applied to all records within the list. It is generally not ideal to describe your rare birds here: those descriptions should go in the species comments associated with the rarity. Again, note that these will be private unless you change this in your eBird Preferences.
Using Species Comments
Species comments are entered on a per species basis along with the age/sex table. When you enter a checklist in eBird, consider using the species comment field to provide some notes on sightings of rare or unusual birds. eBird often asks you to confirm these sightings during checklist submission, a a general rule of thumb is that any record you are asked to "Confirm" during the data entry process would benefit from further description in the species comments. It is worthwhile to provide a brief description of the bird, links to photos, or at least a comment that you realize the record is unusual. If you drove an hour north to see a widely-reported rarity, you might include a note such as "widely seen", "Photographed by many people", or "first reported yesterday, I went up to confirm the sighting". These extra bits of information inform our reviewers that you identified the bird with care, and that you did not make a data entry error (which can occur all too easily). These details will expedite the review process and give eBird editors more to work with.
Also consider setting off the most noteworthy sightings with an asterisk, to help highlight them as unusual. We recommend using a single asterisk for sightings of minor note (a first local arrival, or a personal high count), a double asterisk for sightings that you know your regional editors will want to hear about, and a triple asterisk for anything rare enough to require review by your local records committee or otherwise extremely unusual. You might format it to specify why it is unusual, for example:
*early *personal high count **first winter record for county ***first state record! ***mega (our personal favorite; to indicate a "mega rarity"!)
This will also help you locate unusual records and memorable sightings when you go back and look at your old records.