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Understanding the eBird checklist sharing process

Do you have a group of birding friends that are all devoted eBird users? Has it been frustrating that each of you has to enter your joint birdwalks into eBird separately? We are very excited to release eBird Checklist Sharing, which now allows you to copy checklists to another user’s account with the click of a mouse. From now on, when you go birding with friends you can designate who will be keeping the list and that person can enter the eBird list for the group. That checklist can be shared with the group using just an email address or eBird username. And once a checklist has been shared, you can add or delete species observed so that the list represents just what YOU saw. Read on for more information.

About Checklist Sharing

Checklist sharing makes it possible to copy an eBird checklist to another user's account. Each user can edit the checklist to more closely match the species he or she saw that day (but see the notes under "Editing a Shared Checklist"). This allows multiple copies of the same checklist to be associated with a single birding event and ensures that we do not create unnecessary duplicates for our scientific analyses. At the same time, this gives our users the flexibility to make sure that their personal records are accurate. We are excited about this release for several reasons: 1) it will make data entry easier for eBirders that bird in groups; 2) it allow us to more accurately describe your group birding events; and 3) it provides an easy way to introduce people to eBird.

When birding as part of a group, we consider there to be two types of checklists: a Group Checklist and an Individual Checklist. A Group Checklist is the summation of the highest counts of each species seen by the group. Thus, if one person in the group sees 8 Painted Redstarts and 2 Red-faced Warblers, but the rest of the group saw 6 Painted Redstarts and 3 Red-faced Warblers, then the Group Checklist would show 8 Painted Redstarts and 3 Red-faced Warblers. When a shared eBird checklist is accepted by another member of the group, a unique Individual Checklist is created which can then be edited. In addition, a Group Checklist is automatically created that is a summary of reports by all members of the group, taking the highest value for each species from each checklist. Although each user's Individual Checklist will remain unique within his or her personal account, the Group Checklist that eBird uses for output (maps, graphs, bar charts) will be a combined checklist for all individuals.

IMPORTANT: In order to receive checklist sharing requests, it is essential to make sure that your email address within eBird is up to date. You can edit your email address, name, and other personal information by logging in and going to "Edit my profile". Also, check out "My eBird Preferences", which is recently redesigned and allows you to opt out of email alerts from Checklist Share requests and also allows you to display species by their common name or scientific name.

How to Share a Checklist

When you submit a checklist, you can share it immediately by clicking the "Share w/Others in Your Party" link on the top right of the confirmation page.


Additionally, any checklist can be shared by clicking the "Share" link on the Manage My Observations page.


Any of these links will open the Checklist Sharing page. Simply enter the eBird usernames (preferable) or email addresses of the friends with whom you wish to share the checklist. Write a message if you wish, and click the send button.


This will send each person an email and they will have the option to accept or reject your shared checklist. If the individual does not yet have an eBird account, eBird will prompt them to create an account where they can view and accept the checklist.

Share with usernames when possible 

The eBird username is your login name and is displayed in parentheses when you are logged in where it says "Hello John James Audubon (jjaudubon). If you share with an eBird username--which is unique--there won't be any mistakes in what account the Shared Checklist goes to. Using an email is less preferable since a single email address might apply to multiple eBird accounts (usually by accident). When a username is used, the Shared Checklist notification will appear in the person's My eBird account, the request will never be lost accidentally, and that person will have his or her "display name" appear in your contacts. With the person in your contacts, it will also allow you to mark this person as an eBird "Friend", which allows automatic checklist acceptance (this is discussed further under the Manage My Contacts section below). By contrast, if you share using an email address, the individual will have to click the link from the email in order to accept the checklist (if the email is lost, they will never get the checklist). eBird will copy the checklist to the account that one is logged in to when the link is clicked; if you have more than one account or if your family members each have accounts, it is important to log into the correct account (where you want the checklist to go) before clocking the link. Of course, you can always delete a checklist that was accidentally shared with the wrong account. So please ask your friends for their eBird usernames (login name, not password!) so you can share checklists using that instead of using their email.

How to Accept or Reject a Checklist Share Request

Checklist share requests will come to you in an email from the checklist creator and will have the subject line that contains your friend’s name, the location, date, and start time of the checklist:

"Roger Tory Peterson has shared an eBird checklist with you from Moonglow Dairy on Jul 11, 1980 - 8:45 AM"

Within the email will be a link that will prompt you to sign in to your eBird account (be careful if you have more than one eBird account!) and will import the checklist to your eBird account. You will be brought to the My Shared Observations page where you will have a list of all shared checklists that are pending or accepted. Pending checklists will have a green button for "Accept" and a red button for "Decline".  Note that you may wish to accept the checklist and then delete it; this is OK to do and accomplishes the same result as hitting the red "Decline" button (i.e., the checklist is not imported to your account and will not contribute to your lists.)


An alert on the My eBird page also reminds you of pending share requests on your My Shared Observations page.

It is important to click the link in the email, because if your birding companion did not use your eBird username, the checklist will not be brought into your "My Shared Observations" page unless you click on the link. However, if your birding companion used your eBird username then the pending request will be imported whether you click the link or not. This makes it possible to turn off email alerts in My eBird Preferences if you wish not to receive these alerts from friends who have your username.

IMPORTANT: The checklist will not be brought into your account unless you click the green "Accept" button.

Editing a Shared Checklist

It is very rare that two birders on a bird walk together will see the exact same birds, so please do edit the checklists so that they are a record of what you saw. As with all eBird Checklists, it is possible to edit a shared checklist by clicking the "View or Edit" link from Manage My Observations; you can also go to My Shared Observations which provides a list of the Shared Checklists only.

If you wish to add or change the comments, species, species count, or duration, please do so, since you may want to personalize your records. Any species you add that differ from other copies of the same checklist will be displayed at the bottom under the heading "Species seen only by YOU", while those seen by others that are not on your list will also be shown. It is possible to add or remove these species from your list with a single click.

VERY IMPORTANT: Please make sure at least one of your friends has accepted the shared checklist before you edit it. Otherwise, any species you delete will not be visible to them. If you have entered species that you will later want to delete, you might ask them in an email to let you know when the checklist has been accepted.

IMPORTANT: If you spot any errors in the date, location, or effort information (i.e., miles traveled, acres covered), please ask the original checklist creator to fix these and then re-share the list. If you alter them in your account it will be corrected in your personal account and lists, but the master checklist will always represent the date, location, and effort information from the checklist owner. Obviously it is essential that we have correct date, location, and effort information so please help to make sure that your friends that share checklists with you also correct these crucial fields.

Manage My Contacts

eBird maintains a list of your contacts under the Manage My Contacts page, which can be found on the My eBird page on the bottom right of the page. This page shows a list of all people with whom you have shared checklists and it is also possible to add a contact by entering an email address or eBird username in the "Add a Contact" box at the top of the page. Whenever possible, it is preferable to enter an eBird username, which will be displayed in the left column (username) and the individual's alias (their real name) will be displayed as well. Simply ask your friends for their eBird username (log-in name). If you enter an email address but wish to provide an "Alias", please note that you can edit the "Alias" column. Contacts can be deleted as needed.


When an eBird username is provided, it is possible to mark an individual as a "Friend". An "eBird Friend" is defined as someone from whom checklist sharing requests will be automatically accepted. Simply checking the "Friend" checkbox will add them to your Friends list. When your eBird Friends send you checklist sharing requests, you will not receive a sharing request email and nor will you be required to accept them from the "My Shared Observations" page (although those checklists will still appear there, they will have been automatically accepted.)

Share, share, share!

Field trips: Many bird clubs have regular bird walks and field trips. If you lead or participate on one of these bird walks, consider proposing that one person be assigned to collect email addresses (and eBird usernames) for a checklist sharing at the end of the day. The group could keep the bird numbers as a team and then the one volunteer could enter the checklist and share it with all members of the bird walk. The same approach could be applied to formal birding tours as well. If you are birding multiple locations in a day, you can divide the data entry among several people--one person can keep a list for the first stop, another for the next two etc.

Your friends: If you use and love eBird, consider going birding with a friend who does not yet use eBird and share a checklist with her. She will be prompted to log in and create an account and will already have the shared checklist in her account. This may help the uninitiated to understand how eBird can serve as a complete bird records keeping system and how they can become part of the growing eBird community.

It is our hope that checklist sharing will be an easy way to introduce the uninitiated to eBird. We still have large areas with little coverage and there are still thousands of active birders we'd like to engage in eBird. So consider sharing a checklist with your friends and giving them a nudge in our direction!
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