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Getting Started with eBird Mobile

Want to keep track of your sightings on eBird, but don't have the time to enter them on the computer after birding? No worries—eBird Mobile makes it easy to record the birds you see in the field, and seamlessly link these observations with eBird—a global online database of bird records used by hundreds of thousands of birders around the world. This free resource makes it easy to keep track of what you see, while making your data openly available for scientific research, education, and conservation. eBird Mobile is the only app that passes information directly from iOS and Android devices to your eBird account on the web. It should be easy to use (we think so!), and this guide can help with any additional questions

Download eBird Mobile

The first step is to get the app—available for free on both the Google Play and App Stores. Click the above links to go to the respective download pages. 

NOTE: If you are using eBird Mobile on Android, on the latest 2.0 version, click here instead of this article.

Set your preferences

Once you've downloaded the app, you'll be prompted to enter your user information. If you don't have an account at this time, you can create one within the app. It's easy. After you've entered your user information, there are a couple more ways that eBird Mobile can help you: your Species Name Display (the language you want your bird names in), and your units of distance.

You can choose whether you want Common Names or Scientific Names to show during data entry. If you pick Common Names, then you choose your Common Name Language, for which we support more than 28 languages, and 24 more regional dialects within these options. So if you prefer to have your names in English, but would rather have Australian or South African English—we have that option! The last piece is distance units—whether you prefer metric or imperial. 

Entering Sightings

The Start New Checklist button is the place to begin; tapping this button will begin the checklist creation process.

Selecting a Location

Almost all birding and eBirding can be covered by the top three options: Choose a Recent Location, Choose a Location From Map, and Create Offline Checklist.

Choose a Location from Map
Tapping this option uses the GPS to determine where you are and deliver all the nearby eBird locations using a data connection: both nearby public hotspots and your personal locations. You can choose a location for your checklist—either pressing to make a new personal location, or choosing a hotspot or previously eBirded location. If you create a new location, consider choosing a location name that reflects the location, if it would be more meaningful than the automatically-generated name. Tap Next/Select, and you're all set with location selection. 

Choose a Recent Location
This is a very useful feature if you regularly bird the same areas. This has your last 50 locations that you've used on eBird Mobile, and you're able to choose from these locations without the need for an internet connection. As you use locations within the app, this list will automatically populate. 

Create Offline Checklist
This option lets you create a checklist without an internet connection anywhere in the world. It uses the GPS within your phone that comes from satellites, so your location is gettable anywhere. When you tap Create Offline Checklist, you'll be asked whether you want to choose a checklist of birds from the Full Taxonomy (all 10,414 species), or a checklist of birds from a Recent Checklist. You'll want to always use the Recent Checklist if possible. As a result, the best Offline Checklist functionality requires a small amount of preparation—since you'll want to have a list from the area you're going to be offline in. This could be a list from your normal birding, or a 'dummy' list. Learn more about Using eBird Mobile Offline

After you've selected the location, you'll be taken to the Date & Time screen, where you can choose your start time for the checklist, the day, and confirm the location name. On this screen you can also choose whether or not you want to 'track' your checklist. We strongly recommend using the automated 'tracking', since that keeps a GPS path of your walk, allowing automatic calculation of distance and time in the field, while all you have to do is go birding!

Entering your sightings

Okay, now we're at the fun part—keeping track of what you saw! The checklist page lets you enter every bird that you see, numbers of each species, and comments to go with those sightings. The best part of eBird Mobile are the eBird Mobile Quick Entry techniques. You can use the search bar to search for a species and automatically add a number (e.g., '2 peregrine' or '2 pefa' will bring up the option of Peregrine Falcon, and when you tap the name it'll automatically add two to the current total), or you can tap the left of a species name to add one to the total. Tap on a bird's name to enter comments about that sighting, or to add breeding & behavior codes

There are three lists of birds: All, Likely, and Checked, each of which displays different species lists. All is the list of all birds that are possible or have been reported in that region at any time of year, according to eBird. This includes very rare birds at any time of year, or species that are around sometimes but not at that time of year. Likely is the list of species that are only likely at that location at that time of year. Checked is the list of species that you've reported on this specific list that you're keeping, starting at 0 and increasing with each species that you enter. 

Note your sightings throughout the duration of the checklist, and when you're done you can tap Review & Submit to be taken to the Checked page. Here you'll have to answer the most important question in eBird: are you reporting all species? If you're using 'tracks', your protocol, distance, and duration will be automatically filled in for you. At this time you can also view the map of your track if you were traveling (tap on the icon next to the distance number). After that, just note how many people were in your party and you're good to go. You can store as many checklists in the app as you'd like, and then submit them as you go or when you get back to a place with internet.

Submitting checklists

Once you've filled out all of the information that you need, tap "Submit" in the lower right corner of the list, and you're all set! You'll need internet connection in order to submit the checklists. This will then take you to your My Checklists page within the app; which shows all sightings that you've entered through the app. It's important to note eBird Mobile currently does not 'sync' My Checklists with your eBird account or across devices. We intend to change this in the future. Once a checklist is marked as "Accepted", it will be a part of eBird. Once it's Accepted, it'll appear in all of your My eBird tools across eBird Mobile devices as well as

NOTE: Once a checklist is submitted to eBird, it is preserved as a part of your eBird account. These data are not ever lost. If it is on the phone and not submitted, if something happens to the phone the information will be lost. Make sure to submit your checklists!

My eBird

The My eBird tool in eBird Mobile is fun and easy to use. It lets you easily keep track of your life, year, and month lists for anywhere in the world, from your yard or favorite place down the road, to your state/country or the entire world! It also compares your sightings between years, letting you know how your progress is compared to your own past birding. Can you beat your past self?

Tap on any of the green numbers in My eBird to see your list for that place and time period. If you want to search for a location, use the location icon in the upper right to look at nearby locations on the map, or search at the top for counties, states, provinces, or countries. Have fun!

Best Practices for eBird Mobile 

Allowing birders to easily enter sightings through your smartphone has revolutionized the collection of biodiversity information worldwide. With great potential comes great responsibility. Here are a couple ways that you make sure that your mobile eBirding is as valuable as possible—both for you and the birds that we all care about. 

Keep multiple checklists

When you're out looking for birds, break up your birding into multiple checklists! If you get into a car to go to another birding spot, stop the checklist that you're currently keeping, and start another one when you get back out of the car. If you're walking three trails in a park over the course of a morning, keep three lists—one for each trail. If you're standing in one spot for 8 hours, breaking up the count into four two-hour counts will provide much more specific information on what birds are occurring there at what time of day. 

Track sightings in the field

The best way to have an accurate and complete list is to keep track of the birds as you're seeing them. This doesn't mean that you should whip out the phone every time you see a new individual, but if you update the list every few minutes you'll have a much better list than if you do it all at the end of the checklist. This also lets you know in real-time if a sighting is considered "RARE" for where you are—you'll get a prompt when you enter it, which can be a great chance to document the bird in the field, or enter comments during observation. 

Collect complete checklists, with counts of species

eBird data are most useful when collected as complete checklists. This just means that you're reporting the common stuff as well as the uncommon stuff. These checklists are then collecting both the presence data (on what you reported), as well as the absence data: by saying that it is complete, that means that you didn't detect all the other bird species in the world on that checklist. This absence data is incredibly valuable, since it lets researchers and conservationists know what birds you DIDN'T see, which informs their work far beyond what is available with just presence (or 'incidental') sightings.

Having count data (e.g., a number instead of X), lets us conduct research on abundance of birds, which is a more meaningful metric for research and conservation. If you have $100,000 to spend on conservation, would you want to know where you're likely to encounter one or more individuals of a species (e.g., occurrence information), or how many individuals of that species you're likely to encounter? The latter scenario is abundance, and this is why you should always estimate numbers
This species distribution model was generated using information collected entirely by eBirders. It shows abundance of Tree Swallows throughout an entire year, and is only possible due to complete checklists and count information. Click to see an animated version.

Most important, enjoy using the app, and contributing your sightings! By using eBird you're getting to keep track of your own lists on a free and easy platform while also providing resources for your fellow birders, researchers, and conservationists. Thank you for being a part of eBird, and we look forward to seeing what you find!

If you have more questions, please check out our eBird Mobile FAQs
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