What happens when I enter a hybrid, subspecies, or something like scoter sp. in eBird? Will those show up on my lists? Never fear--these will not show up on your eBird lists. If you report a subspecies, these automatically "roll-up" into the parent species. This means that the totals on the My eBird pages count species, not subspecies, hybrids, or spuhs. So, if you see a White-rumped Sandpiper and know that it's a White-rumped Sandpiper, great--enter it as White-rumped Sandpiper. But if you only know that it is some kind of peep, enter it as "peep sp."--it won't mess up your lists. The same holds true for hybrids as well, and tracking information on all of these groups (subspecies, hybrids, and spuhs) is helpful for us at eBird and is sure to be of interest for your personal records keeping as well.
Should I enter things like "scoter sp."?
Yes! Providing this is valuable to help us know when there are individuals or aggregations of birds that are just too far away or briefly seen to be identified. It allows us to differentiate when a species may be there (but was just too far away or too difficult to identity), from when it truly was not there.
I can't find "scoter sp."on the drop down menu?
We are in the process of adding some of these to the lists where they make sense. If you can't find what you are looking for click the link to show "Rare species". If it isn't there, you can search for it by entering part of the name (e.g., "scoter sp." can be found by searching for "scoter" or "sp.") in the "Add a species" box. See below for more information.
Spuhs? What is a spuh, you ask? For difficult to identify groups (like flycatchers) or distant birds (hawkwatchers regularly cope with this problem), birders often record their identifications only to the genus level, or to some other level above species. "Spuh" is our affectionate term for birds not identified to the species level. Examples include: Empidonax sp., scoter sp., Accipiter sp., or duck sp. Many birders keep track of these sightings, and they can be tracked in eBird as well.
Note that we have two ways of tracking spuhs. Some are listed with the group name and "sp." But when there are only two members of a species pair are possible, we instead have opted to list these with a slash. For example, we do not use "murre sp." but instead list "Common/Thick-billed Murre." The often-used "dowitcher sp." is instead listed as "Short-billed/Long-billed Dowitcher." Other useful listings include: Greater/Lesser Scaup, Greater/Lesser Yellowlegs, Semipalmated/Western Sandpiper, and Parasitic/Pomarine Jaeger. This winter, Common/Hoary Redpoll may come in handy in many northern states, since a record invasion of these species is underway.
You can review the available spuhs by searching for "sp." in the "Find a species" box and you can review all slash combos by searching for "/".
We have an exhaustive list of field-identifiable subspecies for North America. As for "spuhs", these may or may not appear on the entry checklist, but can always be found by clicking "Rare species" and then using the "Add a species" box. To find "Yellow-rumped Warbler (Myrtle)" you can search for "Yellow-rumped Warbler", "Myrtle", or just "(" which will give a list of all subspecies and hybrids. A few of the subspecies that are most useful include those listed under Brant, Green-winged Teal, Red-tailed Hawk, Willet, Northern Flicker, Yellow-rumped and Palm Warblers, Savannah, Fox, and White-crowned Sparrows, Dark-eyed Junco, and many others.
One advantage to entering subspecies (when you can identify them) is that if the AOU decides to "split" them in the future, the eBird will automatically update your lists. For example, Fox Sparrow is considered by some taxonomists to consist of four species: Red Fox Sparrow, Sooty Fox Sparrow, Slate-colored Fox Sparrow, and Thick-billed Fox Sparrow. If you enter your July "Fox Sparrow (Slate-colored)" sightings from Colorado and your February "Fox Sparrow (Red)" sightings from North Carolina, then eBird will currently "roll them up" to Fox Sparrow on your My eBird lists. But if the AOU should later decide that these two represent different species, then eBird will automatically change the entries on all your lists. In addition, we think it is always most useful to track your bird sightings to the most specific identification possible, whether to subspecies or even age or sex class.
Note that we draw an important distinction in the scientific names for these subspecies taxa--some are true subspecies while others are "subspecies groups". A "subspecies group" may consist of two or more named subspecies which cannot easily be distinguished in the field, but can be easily distinguished as a member of the subspecies group. Oregon Junco is one example, since it consists of up to five or more similar subspecies. You can always see the scientific names on eBird lists by going to "My eBird" and clicking "My eBird Preferences" and changing the setting to "Show Scientific Name".
We have made an effort to include as many known hybrids as possible as well. While this is not a list of every single hybrid combination reported, we did try to include those that were frequent enough and distinctive enough that they might be reported by birders. These range from the common combinations like "American Black Duck x Mallard" and "Western x Glaucous-winged Gull" to considerably rarer combinations like "Berylline x Magnificent Hummingbird" to "White-throated Sparrow x Dark-eyed Junco." Note that the hybrid names always follow phylogenetic sequence, with the first species in sequence coming first in the hybrid name. All hybrids are followed by the parenthetical note "(hybrid)"--thus you can review all hybrids by searching for "(hybrid)" within the "Add a species" text box.
The eBird Taxonomy
The lists you see when you submit observations in eBird are regional checklists developed by local experts. Rarer species are found only under rare species. The master eBird list, however, is a unique list of bird names that we have developed specifically for eBird. This checklist includes all species known from North and South America, as well as a selection of species from elsewhere in the world. We have made a special effort to allow birders to report any escapee (such as escaped parrots or escaped Zebra Finches) that are encountered. However, what sets this list apart from the lists available from the American Ornithologists' Union for North America or South America) is the fact that our taxonomy includes a number of non-species taxa that are of interest to birders but not necessarily tracked in the species lists maintained by these taxonomic authorities. This allows birders to report birds such as "Glossy x White-faced Ibis (hybrid)", "Red-tailed Hawk (Harlan's)", or "Common/Arctic Tern". All these different birds are maintained in a taxonomic order that matches the order of the AOU Checklist when possible, and follows a similar philosophy when we include birds that are not on the AOU Check-List. We are proud of this taxonomy as a definitive list of birds for birders (as opposed to ornithologists). While some of the birds included are the subjects of ongoing debates as to whether the populations represent species, subspecies, or hybrids ("Iceland Gull (glaucoides)", "Iceland Gull (Kumlien's)", and "Thayer's Gull" is one such example), our eBird taxonomy reflects the current thinking of the AOU and will reflect any future changes, but it will always allow birders to report the birds they can identify to any of these taxa.
We are pleased to share this eBird taxonomy with our eBird users. Download a version of our eBird taxonomy (Version 1.049). We welcome comments and questions as to the decisions we've made, and would certainly like to hear about any errors, typos, or omissions in the list. Please contact us with any comments, questions, or corrections.