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Uploading Data to eBird

Many eBird users have bird records stored electronically in various forms on their personal computers. The eBird import tool is designed to provide an interface through which these records can be imported to eBird. The import tool has specific requirements in terms of the file type and format. If you are an advanced computer user, and feel comfortable formatting your data for upload with little direction, proceed with caution to the "Quick Links" section below. If you need guidance with formatting your data set, we hope that all the information you'll need is found in the sections below. Importing data is a tricky process, and patience and an attention to detail are required. We allow users to format their data in two ways: eBird Checklist Format and eBird Record Format. These formats should conform roughly to the two major data set designs of most data bases. With a little modification, your old records can now become part of the existing data archive at eBird! This document outlines formatting details for these files types, and provides instructions for guiding the user through the eBird Import Process below.

Quick Links

Are my data appropriate for eBird import?

If you've been keeping your bird records in some electronic form then they are likely appropriate for inclusion in eBird. When thinking about importing your existing records to eBird, you must first judge whether your data meet a few of our basic requirements. All records in eBird must have at minimum a specific date, location, and species list. Numbers for each species are preferable but not required. If you have records of birds with at least this much information, then you can move forward with the import process. If your data lack any of these basic requirements, we're sorry but you can't proceed. eBird is not a listing program; it is a scientific database of bird records. As such, your data need to have real dates and locations to be included in eBird.

Before you get started

While birders collect data in different ways, eBird specializes in collecting "checklist data." This means that a complete checklist of birds seen and heard on a specific date and location make up one sampling unit or birding event. If you are birding in your yard for an hour, and you report all the birds you see/hear, that is an eBird checklist or "Submission." "Observations" are records of birds within a submission. The eBird data import tool builds "Submissions" from incoming data by grouping these data by date and location. So a group of observations from "Blythe City Park" on "3/14/2007" will be grouped together as a single eBird "Submission." "Submissions" may contains dozens of observations (e.g., Abert's Towhee?12, White-crowned Sparrow--6). Submission metadata include effort information about the birding event (e.g., methodology, duration, number of observers), and you should strive to include as much effort information as possible in your personal data. We ask users to answer the question "Are you submitting a complete checklist of the birds you saw/heard?" This information is invaluable in making your personal data as useful as possible to science and conservation. When users answer "Yes" to this simple question, it allows us to infer the lack of detection, which in turn provides not only presence but absence data as well. This in turn allows us to more accurately and confidently map bird distribution. It is equally important to answer "No" to this question when you are simply reporting the highlights of your birding event.

File Size Limitations

File sizes are limited to 1 MB/import. You can import as much data as you wish, but the records must be separated into different files no larger than 1 MB.

Choosing a file format for import

Once you are satisfied that you have achieved acceptable data quality, you should move on to arranging these data into one of two file formats required for eBird data import. In Excel, this can be done through shifting columns from left to right, and by adding and deleting columns, and by generally rearranging your data to meet our requirements (see Formatting Data in Excel below). The finished product should look like either of the sample files below. Once your files look like these, you can convert them to CSV files and continue on to the import process. You should next review the two formats below, and then figure out which one more closely matches your original data structure. Once you have chosen to which structure you'd like to map your data, use the "Formatting Data in Excel" instructions to reorganize your data.

eBird Checklist Format

The eBird Checklist format is designed to allow you to add daily totals to a pre-existing species list. For example, if you bird the same location regularly, you'd typically add a column for each day you go birding, and then enter numbers for each species, essentially creating a daily checklist in each column. Locations can change in each column, and all effort information is contained in the first 13 rows of the grid. Species without numbers or an "X" to indicate presence, are not included in the daily totals. See example below:

If your data most resemble this format please move on to eBird Checklist Format Specifications.

eBird Record Format

The eBird Record Format is designed to capture large tables of records with a complete record contained in each row of the table. Lots of information can be repeated in tables like this, as essentially all the effort information is repeated in every row for each species. eBird will build checklists from these data by grouping date and location. The column headers are things like common name, date, location, and number. Multiple days and locations are contained in a single flat spreadsheet, with information changing vertically in each row. See example below (Not all columns shown!):

 

If your data most resemble this format please move on to eBird Record Format Specifications.

eBird Checklist Format Specifications

Sample Files You can download Excel files of this file format as well as a sample template here:

Your species list should start on Row 15 in Column A, and it can be as long as you prefer. The first 14 rows of every column in the file are for effort data, each column being a different "checklist", so the first 14 rows in columns A and B are empty. Your first checklist should start in Column C. A single file is limited to 50 columns (48 checklists)!Subsequent rows consist of species names followed by a number in the appropriate column for each checklist. Example eBird Checklist Format files are found above; remember to save as format .csv before importing into eBird.

How to proceed

Once you have your file formatted, click "File" and then "Save as." Name your file and choose CSV as the file type, and then navigate to the directory where you will store your eBird import files. Once the file is stored in that folder you can move on to eBird Import Process below.

Notes and caveats

  • Cell A1 must be blank!
  • Common name or scientific name is required, not both.
  • Numbers are not required, but any non-numeric character (e.g., "X") will be taken to mean "present."
  • If you are adding notes to each species, separate them with the special character called a "pipe", which looks like this "|". Here is an example for Turkey Vulture. In the count cell you would put "10|Moving north on southerly winds".
  • Location names cannot contain quotation marks (").
  • Latitude and longitude must be in decimal degrees (e.g., 32.45723; -122.42219).
  • Observation date must be formatted like this (12/15/2006; 1/07/2005).
  • State and Country must adhere to our two letter codes found at the end of the document, and these are case sensitive (e.g., CA not ca for California).
  • Protocols must match the options provided in our supplementary documents.
  • Duration must be recorded in minutes (e.g., for 1.5 hrs it should be simply 90).
  • All observations reported should be Y or N.
  • Checklist comments and species comments cannot contain quotation marks (").

eBird Record Format Specifications

Sample Files You can download Excel files of this file format as well as a sample template here:

Formatting your data to comply with the eBird Record Format specifications is a relatively straight-forward procedure once your data comply with our requirements. Your final file must contain no header row!!! The table below describes the data contained in each column of the eBird Record Format. The letters correspond to spreadsheet columns. Appendix A provides specifications about each data value (e.g., Protocol Name options). Example eBird Record Format files are found above; Excel file with header rows for user clarity, and blank template for data entry.  Remember that finished files must be saved as CSV files without header rows for eBird import.

How to proceed

Once you have your file formatted, delete the header row and click "File" and then "Save as." Name your file and choose CSV as the file type, and then navigate to the directory where you will store your eBird import files. Once the file is stored in that folder you can move on to eBird Import Process below.

Notes and caveats

  • Common name or scientific name is required, not both.
  • Numbers are not required, blanks will be taken to mean "present," as will any non-numeric character like "X."
  • Species comments, checklist comments, and location names cannot contain quotation marks (") within the text. (Note however that quotation marks may set off text fields (location, species comments, and checklist comments.)
  • Latitude and longitude must be in decimal degrees (e.g., 32.45723; -122.42219).
  • Observation date must be formatted like this (12/15/2006; 1/07/2005).
  • State and Country must adhere to our two letter codes found at the end of the document.
  • Protocols must match the options provided under protocols in the supplementary documentation.
  • Duration must be recorded in minutes (e.g., for 1.5 hrs it should be simply 90).
  • All observations reported should be Y or N.

Data Format Trouble-shooting and FAQs

What to do if your file won't load properly.

If you get a message back saying that your file is "incorrigible" or any other mysterious error message such as the dreaded ">8k not" error, please go through the following checks to make sure your file is correct.

The following apply to both file formats:

  1. Make sure that your file is formatted as a .csv file and not an Excel (.xls) file or any other type of file. eBird can only import files with saved as .csv files. You can do this by choosing "Save as" and then picking .csv as the file extension. Try opening the file in a text editor as a .txt file and checking the delimiter. If the values that separate the columns are not commas (for example, if they are semicolons), please see our Help Item on how to fix this issue.
  2. Your file cannot have any quotation marks in the character strings within the field, since these will cause the file to parse improperly. Go back through your file and remove all quotation marks (") using the find and replace feature on your software.
  3. Make sure your file does not exceed to 1 MB file size limit.
  4. Make sure the columns are formatted properly (in the right order) as any shift out of place will result in an incorrigible file.
  5. If you've included values for latitude and longitude (not required), make sure they are correct and that you have included the appropriate (-) symbol before a value for longitude in North America (e.g., -122.33456). Also make sure that these values are entered in decimal degrees, not degrees, minutes, seconds.
  6. Make sure your date is formatted correctly. Dates must adhere to the following format: month/day/year (e.g., 12/27/2007).
  7. Make sure your start time is properly formatted. It should be in either military time (e.g., 08:00 or 14:50) or in this format (e.g., 8:00 AM or 2:50 PM).
  8. Make sure you've followed the standard two-letter abbreviations listed by the ISO for state and country (e.g., CA = California and US = United States). See the end of the document for these codes.
  9. Make sure you use only one word or code to describe your protocol (e.g., Casual, Stationary, Traveling, or Area).
  10. Make sure your value for duration is in minutes, not hours.
  11. All observations reported should simply be "Y" or "N", not yes or no.
  12. Distance traveled should be in miles.
  13. Area covered should be in acres.
  14. It's important that your notes field not contain any quotation marks!
  15. Check to make sure none of your cells have "hard returns" (line breaks). You can do this in Excel by following these instructions: First, do a find and replace (searching for character 10 by holding ALT and at the same time typing 0010 on the numpad of the keyboard in the find box). That will get most of them. If you think you still have hard returns then you can use the formula "=SUBSTITUTE(E2,CHAR(13)," ")" where cell E2 had the (potentially) offending comments. This will replace character13 with a space (if you want to, say, replace the hard returns with a semicolon you would use the formula"=SUBSTITUTE(E2,CHAR(13),";")".  Then just copy and paste special the new text into the comments field.

The following apply to the eBird Checklist Format:

  1. Make sure your first cell, A1, is blank. This field must be blank in order for the file to be recognized.
  2. Make sure that if you are not including scientific names,that your entire Column B is blank. It is critical that this column be blank if you are not including scientific names. Common Name goes in Column A.
  3. Make sure there are no more than 50 columns in your file.This format is designed to take roughly one month's worth of data in one file.
  4. If you are adding notes to each species, separate them with the special character called a "pipe", which looks like this "|". Here is an example for Turkey Vulture. In the count cell you would put"10|Moving north on southerly winds".

If all else fails send us your file and we'll take a look at it. Send your file to bls42@cornell.edu.

eBird Import Process

Click here to view the Import Process tutorial.

The instructions outlined below are also available as a PDF that you can download and reference while trying the Data Import Tool. Click here to download.

Step 1.--Go to www.ebird.org and sign in using your current eBird account. If you are not already registered at eBird, click the "Register as a new user" button on the upper middle portion of the eBird home page and complete the registration process.

Step 2.--Click the "Submit Observations" tab on the eBird home page.

Step 3.--Choose "Import Data" from the available options.

Step 4.--Choose either "eBird Checklist Format" or "eBird Record Format" to match the format of your file.

Step 5.--Click "Browse" and then navigate to the file on your home computer. It's easiest to keep all your eBird files in a single location, to facilitate this process in the future. When you've found the file you wish to import, highlight that file so that it appears in the "File" window and then click "Import File."

Step 6.--The moment of truth! If your file is formatted correctly, you'll see a message that says "Your file has been successfully imported--waiting in line for processing" (see below). If it is a large file, it can take a few minutes for processing. You are welcome to browse away from this page during the processing phase. To check the status of your data import go back to eBird (www.ebird.org) and then click "My eBird" and then "Manage my imported data." You should then see the result of your latest import.

If you file has formatting errors you are required to fix these before trying the import again. You'll receive a message detailing the first 100 errors in your file, after which the import tool will deem your file "Incorrigible!" Oh no! In most cases, if a file is deemed incorrigible during the import process the problem is generally tied to formatting. This will cause a cascading stream of errors. Return to the "Formatting your file for import" portion of these instructions to try again! Look for errors such as an entire column of data in the wrong place, make your adjustments and try again. If you can't get your file formatted properly, email eBird@cornell.edu for further support.

Step 7.--Once your file has been successfully imported you'll see a happy message at the top of the "Manage my imported data" page to this effect:

Step 8.--Species Matching. You'll now need to fix the items that eBird was not able to match during the import process. Typically these are locations that are unknown to eBird or species common names that do not match those in our taxonomy. Let's go through the "Species Matching" process by clicking "Fix Species" (see above).

In this first example we've misspelled "Herring Gull" as "Herrings Gull." Click "Choose Species" to tell eBird about your correction (see below).

You can then choose "Herring Gull" from the suggested options on the resulting drop-down list (see above). Once you've clicked the radio button next to "Herring Gull" click "Match Species." eBird will remember this match for all future imports.

In the example below we realize that we've forgotten the hyphen in the name "Dark-eyed Junco." Click "Choose Species" to tell eBird what species you'd like to match this with.

In the example below we'll use the "Search for a species" option. Simply type in the species you're looking for, in this case "Dark-eyed Junco," and then click "Search."

The resulting drop-down list contains all matches in our taxonomy for the words you type in the search box (see below).

Click the radio button for "Dark-eyed Junco" in the resulting list and then click "Match Species."

You've now matched both of your species and it's time to apply your fixes to the database (see below).

Once your fixes have been accepted you will be returned to the "My imports" page where you'll receive the happy news that your species are "Fixed!"

Step 9.--Location Matching. In the same way that eBird was unable to recognize some of your species; it is likewise unable to match some of your location names with those in our database. eBird then requires you to go through and match these locations by using a suite of options. Click the "Fix Locations" option (see below) and let's get started.

A.) Previously matched locations--eBird is able to recognize locations that you've matched from previous imports. It remembers the match we made previously for "Ferry Neck" (see below).

In the case of "Ferry Neck" above, a location called Ferry Neck was previously known from a prior import, thus eBird automatically matched it. If the match is incorrect you can still change it by clicking the "Change" option.

B.) My locations--If you are a current eBird user the program will give you the option to match an import location with a location from your "My Locations" list in eBird (see below).

On the resulting page there is a drop-down list containing all of your current eBird locations. If the location you wish to match in your imported data matches a location in your list, simply select it from the resulting drop-down and then click "Match Location."

C.) Find it on a map--If this is a new location for you in eBird there are several ways to tell us where it is. The fastest and easiest way is to use the "Find it on a map" feature. Let's try it with "Spring Oaks."

The resulting "Google Map" is already zoomed into the most refined area available in your location information--in the case Maryland. Using the zoom tools to navigate around the map we can zoom in to Spring Oaks (see below).

As we zoom in more detail becomes available. We can then zoom in to the maximum extent to ensure that our location is plotted accurately and then click on the map to plot your location with a red balloon (see below).

The location name is pre-filled in the location name window. Once you are satisfied that the location is accurately represented on the map click "Continue."

D.) Find it by city, county or state--Occasionally your data might contain a location that is not site-specific, such as a city, county, or in the worst cases a state or province. In order for your checklists to be of the highest possible scientific significance you must strive to plot your locations with as much accuracy as possible!

In the example above the program already knew the state was Maryland so that field is filled out. You can enter a town name here, or a county. We do not recommend entering data at these gross scales, however, in cases of historic records lacking location details this option can be useful.

E.) Use latitude/longitude--If you bird with a GPS unit or use an online application (e.g., Google Earth) to retrieve coordinate information for your birding locations you can easily enter them here.

The location name will be pre-filled. Enter your coordinates either using the decimal degrees or degrees, minutes, seconds formats. Remember that almost all longitude values are negative in North America! When you are finished tell us how you got the coordinates (e.g. GPS) using the drop down at the lower right and then click "Continue."

F.) Choose from Birding Hotspots--eBird has over 10,000 previously defined birding hotspots--or locations that are popular with birders and open to the public. If a location in your import file fits these criteria you should look for it and match it with one of the locations in our hotspot list. This ensures that your data will be combined with others' data from the same location for more powerful output. Let's try it with our "Assateague Island" location.

We can tell eBird that we want to see all the birding Hotspots in Maryland and then choose our match from the resulting drop-down list (See above). Once you've matched the location click "Continue."

Step 10.--Applying Fixes. Once we've completed our species and location matching we can click the "Apply Fixes" button.

After applying fixes we are returned to the "My imports" page where we can see the results of our most recent import at the top of the page (and all previous imports below), and the statistics associated with the work we've completed fixing locations and species, as well as how many observations were submitted.

Step 11.--My eBird. At this point you'll want to click the "My eBird" tab at the top right portion of the eBird home page. You can then check and see that your newly imported data is appearing on the appropriate lists. If all looks well, HOORAY YOU'RE DONE!

Managing Imported Data

1.--Editing an imported record. In some cases you may wish to edit your imported records to provide more details, add or delete species or change numbers. You can do this by click the "My eBird" tab and then selecting "Manage my observations" from the options on the right hand side of the page. Follow the user instructions found there to edit each checklist created during import.

2.--Deleting an imported file. At any time you can revisit your imported data and delete those records. To do this click "My eBird" and then "Manage my imported data." On the upper right portion of each import you'll see a "Delete import" option that will allow you to remove all these records from your data and from our database. This process is not recommended, but we realize that it might be necessary in some rare cases.

Formatting Data in Excel

After choosing a format for your files, either "eBird Checklist" or "eBird Record," you'll almost certainly need to restructure your data. In Excel you can do this easily by shifting columns around, and by adding/deleting columns. Check the supplemental documents below to download a PDF describing optimal techniques for formatting your data using Microsoft Excel.

Again, make sure your computer is using commas as the delimiter. If it does not, the file will not upload correctly. This tutorial helps to navigate to your computer's settings to change from a semicolon delimited file to a comma-delimited file.

State and Country Codes

Previously we provided these as Excel-compatible file for download. Since these codes do change from time to time, these can now be accessed as a live file download from our database. The files are in CSV format so can be opened with any spreadsheet program, including Excel. The file formats are explained in this page from our API pages. The country, state, and county downloads will download immediately if you click the links below; note that county codes are not needed for uploaded files, but they are provided below in case they are of interest.

Country codes
State codes
County codes
 

Supplemental Documents

Below are a series of documents containing supplemental information that might be helpful to users wishing to import data.

ebirdhelp@gmail.com
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