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New eBird data entry tools nearly here: we need your help!

Data entry is the engine that drives eBird. Without birders entering their data every day, eBird would cease to exist. The first thing birders want to do when getting back from the field is to get their observations into the database and onto their various bird lists. Because of this, we consider any change to these tools very carefully. Over the past year we’ve been developing a new set of online tools to streamline the eBird data entry process, based largely on the feedback of our users. These tools will not only help flatten out the data entry ‘learning curve’ for new users, but will also help eBirders deliver timely supporting documentation to the editors working behind the scenes to verify records of rare and unusual birds. Right now we are alpha-testing these tools with a very small group of mostly ‘in-house’ users, gathering feedback, and updating then before making them available to a wider audience.

There are a few big changes in the look and feel of the new pages. The most striking difference is the shift from a three-column format to a scrolling single-column format. We found that the single-column tested better in all demographics, and it has been popular so far with the small group of alpha-testers we have using the tools now.

We’ve moved the ‘species comments’ and other ancillary data onto the primary data entry screen, making it easier for birders to add more details about the birds they’ve seen. Part of the new data entry will be the addition of ‘highest level breeding codes’, essentially allowing birders to now record breeding bird information when they see it.


Screen shot 2011-03-31 at 5.55.34 PM

We are also working on smarter ways to deliver checklists to people. Instead of having to scroll through hundreds of probable species in a county, we can now customize a list for a site based on the likelihood of species occurrence. This makes data entry shorter, and gives you a better idea when you’re seeing something of local interest.

We expect to have these tools ready for the public sometime in May, and we’d like to tap this audience to help us test them. If you’re a hardcore eBirder and you’d like to help test these tools, we welcome your comments. If you’re new to eBird and would like to give us your impression, that’s equally important. To ensure your spot on the list of beta-testers just send an email to ‘[email protected]’ with the subject line ‘Beta-tester’. If you’d like to indicate your experience, or lack thereof, with eBird, please do so in the body of the email. We’ll send you a note as soon as the tools are ready for prime time, and we appreciate your future feedback.

Brian Sullivan

Team eBird

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Brian Sullivan

Brian Sullivan

Brian L. Sullivan conducts fieldwork on birds throughout North America and beyond. He is Project Leader for eBird and the Avian Knowledge Network and Photographic Editor for Birds of North America Online. Sullivan has written and consulted on various publications on North American birds. Among his numerous articles are several that have appeared recently in Birding magazine—on such topics as molt in migrating raptors, Harlan's and Krider's hawks, thrush identification, birding in hurricanes, and of course eBird. Sullivan lives in central coastal California, and birds everywhere.
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