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eBird Mobile data entry tips and tricks

The eBird Mobile app makes it is possible to collect and submit bird observations directly to eBird from the field. If you have a smartphone, we strongly recommend using this app as it streamlines the process of recording birds in eBird.

eBird Mobile is already having profound effects on the quality of eBird data submissions. It is now so easy to create and submit a checklist, that eBirders are submitting more checklists in general, and more data from areas that are not “good” for birding when they did not record anything considered noteworthy. Checklists from a city parking lot or while waiting for the bus can actually be very useful for eBird. Any time you're outside observing birds, do a checklist. Furthermore, the location services in the phone make it easy to determine if you are birding at a hotspot, resulting in more consistent data displays. The time and date services in the phone reduce accidental date and time typos and assist with automatic calculation of duration. And, perhaps most importantly, the act of recording birds in the field as you go makes for more accurate counts. While you previously might have rounded a number to 25 Black-capped Chickadees on a walk, it is now much easier to tally as you go and realize that there were actually 38!

As you begin to get more in the habit of using your smartphone as your primary means of data entry in eBird, we'd like to provide some recommendations for how to make your lists entered through eBird Mobile as valuable as possible.

Creating your list - Try to get in the habit of capturing the start time as soon as you start birding. The more accurate the time, the better. By the same token, be sure to capture the duration as soon as you finish your birding. To do this go to “Review and Submit” and click “Calculate” next to duration. This will automatically add in the duration spent birding.

Using quick entry - The best part of eBird Mobile may be the ease of entering sightings using the Quick Entry options. Learn them. Love them.

Entering comments - Perhaps the biggest difference between entering a checklist through eBird Mobile and doing it online through the eBird web interface, is the ease of entering comments. For most of us (especially the older generation!) typing on small smartphone keyboards is much slower and more difficult than a full-sized keyboard. Since detailed comments are important to document rare birds that you report to eBird, we hope that use of eBird Mobile does not reduce the quality of comments that you enter in eBird. Here are a few recommendations.

  • If you report a rarity with few or no notes, please remember to enter comments when you return home. Just log back in to eBird, open the list in “Manage My Observations” and edit the species comments.
  • If reporting a rarity, please enter at least brief comments through eBird Mobile. These can include: “Continuing rarity” or “Species not exceptional at this location”. If it is a rarity that deserves better notes--especially one you are reporting for the first time--then you can write “*Rarity; notes will be added later”.
  • For those with a newer model iPhone (i.e., one with "Siri"), the voice to text option actually works very well for creating initial text in the species comments field. Simply place the cursor in the species comments field and speak your text. Although certain bird names and birder jargon may not translate well, it can overall make it easy to add detailed notes for rare bird sightings. Be sure to reread the transcription before submitting though!
  • Age/Sex, photos, and other details cannot be entered through eBird Mobile in its current iteration. We do plan to add these moving forward. For now, please be sure to log back in to eBird to record these details. Breeding behavior can be added through eBird Mobile.

Entering locations - The in-phone GPS makes it easy to select your location or create a new one. Please use the “Choose a location from a map” option when birding outside of your local area so that you can see the existing locations around you (e.g., hotspots) before plotting your new location. The "Create a new location" option should be used only when birding in areas that you know do not have an existing location (i.e., random roadside spot, a friend’s house etc.). In general, we think renaming the location is good practice, but it is certainly not required.

eBird Mobile is a great way to see if you have multiple locations, or if you have a personal location that duplicates a hotspot. If you are asking the app to show you a nearby Personal Location, and you end up seeing two spots with similar names that represent the same point, chances are you have either created two Personal Locations for the same spot, or you have a Personal Location that duplicates a Hotspot. To fix this, go to Manage My Locations where you can merge those two spots into one (your Personal Location should be merged with the hotspot).
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