eBird allows you to upload photos (and audio) directly to your eBird checklists. When you upload these images to support your records, it not only provides our regional data-quality reviewers with excellent information to evaluate your observations of rare and unusual species, it also gives other birders a beautiful illustrated checklist of the birds you observed. Who doesn’t like seeing more pictures of birds? Uploaded media provides valuable data for projects like MerlinVision, our computer vision project which helps birders identify the birds they’ve photographed and will play a large role in future data quality initiatives. Additionally, these media contribute to a vast multimedia catalog of the birds of the world at the Macaulay Library. eBirder-uploaded photos also help other Lab educational projects to illustrate species accounts, including the Merlin Bird ID app, Birds of North America, Neotropical Birds, and All About Birds.
Importantly, these tools are part of a significant partnership between eBird and the Macaulay Library, whereby each piece of rich media uploaded in eBird automatically becomes a part of this valuable scientific research collection.
eBird Photo Upload Guidelines
Take a look at these summary points for what images we are looking for, or skip ahead to our Photo Guidelines and Best Practices page for full explanations of these points.
- Photos you upload must be of the individual bird you're reporting–not a bird you saw like it last year or someone else’s photo
- Upload photos for both rare and common species
Crop and edit your images before upload, but try not to over-crop or over-edit
Upload your full-resolution images, as long as they are JPG and under 10 MB each
Refrain from adding a watermark or other text to your images
Add comments, metadata, and quality grade after upload
Don’t upload composite images or back-of-camera photos
Upload multiple photos (up to 10 per species) but only if they are sufficiently different
Photos must be your own and adhere to the media licensing agreement
How do I upload a photo?
- Take a picture of a bird.
- Download the photo to your computer, and know where you downloaded it (folder, desktop, etc.).
- Crop and edit the file as desired (more on this below).
- Go to your eBird checklist containing the record for that specific bird (any photo you upload must be of the individual bird you're reporting–not a bird you saw like it last year or someone else’s photo).
- Either drag the image from your folder into the media window, or “Select” it using the file browser.
- Rate the quality of your image from 1-5 stars (see guidelines below).
- Add sex or age information that is associated with the bird in that specific image.
- Repeat as desired (up to 10 files per species).
- Hit Submit, sit back, and enjoy the beauty of your eBird checklist!
When you are entering species in your eBird checklist, you will see the Media option either available as a drop target, or as a button in the "Add Details" section. Once you've found the location, either drag-and-drop, or "Select" your image. These two screenshots below give an idea of the two potential views for this system. In the future, adding images through the eBird Mobile app will also be possible.
eBird Photo Upload Best Practices
Which Birds Should I Upload Photos For?
All of them! As long as the photo is identifiable, we want it. It could be of a notable sighting—a species that is rare for the location or season, an unusually high count of a species that itself isn’t rare, or a species that you consider to be unusual. Or maybe it’s a bird that simply offers a good photo opportunity: a cooperative bird in good light, aesthetically pleasing images of common birds, and photos documenting interesting behavior and birds in their habitat. And finally, projects like MerlinVision thrive on photos that may not be magazine covers, but are still identifiable. This means that we’d like photos for a first country record for Emperor Penguin, a Rock Pigeon outside the local McDonald’s, or a great picture of a Northern Shoveler on the local pond.Documenting a high count of Red-winged Blackbirds
Best Practices for Resolution and Size
If possible, keep your uploaded photos at their original resolution. eBird accepts images up to 10 MB in size, in JPEG, PNG, and GIF (non-animated) formats. Each species on a checklist can accept 10 images.
Whether you shoot your images in RAW format or JPEG, please submit the images as <10MB JPEG files.
High resolution images are important because these photos are becoming part of a permanent scientific archive at the Macaulay Library, and may be used for computer vision learning. The higher the resolution of images uploaded, the more useful they can be. Although images are displayed in checklists and search at a smaller size than most uploads, the full-resolution original uploaded image is always stored in the archive.
How to Crop and Edit Your Images
Crop photos so that the bird is large and visible in the frame; we want to avoid distant photos that could be improved by a quick crop. However, when cropping, make sure to leave ‘canvas’ around the edge of the bird—having that wiggle room will usually make the image look nicer and leave more room for adapting it later on. More cropping can always be done later, but there’s no way to get tight crops back. Also, keeping more room in front of the bird than behind it gives an image a more balanced feel.
In this example of a distant oystercatcher, cropping in makes the bird more visible.
These images would have benefited from leaving more space around their edges. They look cramped and show little context. A good photo of a bird is more than just a photo of the bird, it is a photo of the context and habitat the bird was in.
When editing, aim to make the bird look as it did in the field. Avoid over-saturation, over-sharpening, or augmentation of the image beyond what you observed in the field. The idea is to create a natural reproduction of how the bird looked in life. Many editing tools found in Photoshop can improve an otherwise backlit or hard-to-see image, but they can also result in very strange results and should be used sparingly. Similarly, avoid cosmetic Photoshopping like removal of branches or other major changes. These artificially created images are not appropriate for inclusion in a scientific collection.
Examples of over-edited images. The Swallow-tailed Kite (left) has been augmented using the Shadows/Highlights tool, leaving an unnatural “halo” around the bird. The Magnolia Warbler (middle) has been very over-saturated, resulting in an image that does not represent what the bird looked like in the field. The Song Sparrow (right) has been over-sharpened to the point that grainy artifacts have been introduced on the bird and its background.
Multiple Images of the Same Species
If you have several photos that show different individuals, parts, angles, or behaviors of the species, uploading multiple images is encouraged. Different photos illustrating different individuals seen during the checklist are also useful. However, multiple images should illustrate differences and not be nearly identical frames from the same burst of shots.
In the checklist view, images will sort in the order in which they finish uploading. If multiple images are selected or dropped in at one time, they may finish uploading in a different order depending on the file size. If the order of images in your checklist is important to you, make sure that they finish uploading in order.
Watermarking and Other Text
Please refrain from adding any kind of text or watermark to your uploaded images. Your name will always be associated with your uploaded images when they are displayed or used anywhere. Watermarks and text additions only mar the aesthetics of the photograph, as well as making it harder for computer learning projects such as MerlinVision to use the images as data to help with identification. If you insist on watermarking your images, please try to keep the watermark small and subtle, not overlapping the bird or taking up a large amount of the frame. This includes not only name or copyright watermarks but also any other text on the images, including the species name, date, or location, none of which should be written on the photo since they are all included in the checklist. If you have data you want to include, type it in the comments for the image. Similarly, if your camera puts a time and date stamp onto the image automatically, consider disabling this function. We also ask you refrain from adding any kind of border around the image.
Please refrain from uploading composite images (images that include more than one photo). Each image should be uploaded separately, document a single moment in time, and display an individual no more than once.
When you’ve photographed a rare bird, it can be tempting to take a shot of your camera’s LCD screen and upload it to your eBird list for quick documentation purposes. While this can be a reasonable method of getting the word out in a hurry, please remember to go back and replace these placeholder images. Besides looking unappealing, they often are not high enough resolution to show critical details, lack important metadata that might be necessary for checking validity, and are not useful for projects like MerlinVision.
Because each image you upload has its own stand-alone data record in the Macaulay Library, it is important that any image uploaded to a particular species actually contains that species. At this time we ask you to refrain from uploading habitat shots, pictures of your birding companions, scenery, etc. to your eBird checklist. We plan to add the ability to upload these checklist-level photos in the future. Similarly, photos of animals other than birds cannot be uploaded to eBird at this time.
Each image can have a star rating associated with it, ranging from 1 to 5. You can rate the images you upload, but they can also be rated by anyone signed into eBird through our community-based rating system. For guidelines on how to rate photos, see our photo quality rating page here.
The comments section below the media is different than the one attached to the entry for that species. Media comments refer to that specific image, whereas the species comments refer to that entire observation, which is often not just the bird that you photographed. This is a subtle yet important difference.
Adding comments to an image can provide specific information about the bird in the photo, whether to designate an individual among photos, or to provide comments on behavior, context of the photo, background species, or anything else worth mentioning about the individual image.
Adding Age/Sex Information
Additional information can be added to each rich media file uploaded to eBird. It’s important to remember that this photo or sound may be accessed away from the eBird checklist (e.g., as a stand-alone media specimen in the Macaulay Library), so the more information you can add to describe what’s happening in the image the better. Age and sex should correspond directly to the bird in the image.
So, if you upload a picture of an adult male Northern Cardinal, you should select ‘Adult’ for age, and ‘Male’ for sex in the drop down menus accompanying the uploaded file on the checklist page. In many cases you won’t know the age or sex, and it’s fine to choose ‘Unknown’ for both. In some cases more than one age/sex combination is represented in the image. For these cases leave these dropdowns blank and consider providing further details in the ‘Comments’ section that accompanies the file. In the future, it will be possible to add age and sex information for multiple individuals in a photo.
Adding Age and Sex information is very useful, allowing anyone to search for specific age/sex categories using the Media Search tool.
Sharing Checklists with Photos
With the magic of eBird checklist sharing, if you upload a photo to a shared checklist, your photo will be visible in your friends' checklists too (even if it’s uploaded after sharing), so there's no need for them to try to upload the same photo to their checklist. Only the person who took a photo can upload it for copyright reasons. If you were with someone and want to have their photo show up in your list, ask them to share their checklist, or share yours with them and see if they will upload their photos!
There is a 10 photo limit for each species on a checklist. If you have photos to upload and there are no remaining spots, you can remove their photos from your version of the checklist to make room. Click the “Delete” button next to one of their photos to clear a spot for yourself, more if you want to upload more photos. Don’t worry, though–even though it says delete, you are only removing it from your view, not permanently deleting the photo. Only the uploader is able to delete their own photos. Make sure it’s not your photo before deleting it!
We recently released new functionality to make it easy to change the identification of photos and audio in your checklists. Just open the checklist, click edit, and use the "Change Species" button to change the entire observation, all the media, or selected media. Read our full story describing the process.
Multiple Species in the Same Photo
Many images contain more than one species, so how do you note this? We’re working on a way to tag background species in photos, but for now each image must be uploaded to only one species at a time. Additional species present in the image can be listed in the Comments field. If you have multiple photos that each emphasize different species in the group, feel free to upload these to different species as you see fit. Uploading identical photographs to two or more different species is not encouraged but is an option.
eBird Rich Media Upload FAQ
Thanks for reading! Now have fun uploading your images to eBird and the Macaulay Library, or get started exploring all photos from eBirders here.