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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.
  • Jim M.

    I think the eBird data entry interface is already quite good, but it is good to see efforts being made to make it even better. The most frequent reason I hear birders give for not using eBird is that they don’t have the time, so making data entry more efficient of course makes this less of an obstacle.

    One thing I would like to see the new interface do is take advantage of the widescreen monitors most of us have these days. Shifting to a single column format is going in the opposite direction, however, and also means that even more scrolling through long lists will be required. (At least if I am understanding correctly). I think the solution is to combine the single column and multi-column formats. By this I mean you could display the taxonomic order vertically in columns (rather than partly left to right as in the current interface), but have four or five columns displayed on the screen. (Perhaps the number of columns displayed could be a user option). This type of display is exactly what is used in most field checklists, so it would facilitate data entry for those transferring data from such checklists.

    One thing I would like to see retained from the current interface is family/group names in the list of species. I do not see any in the screen shot shown. Lack of family names makes it more time-consuming to locate the species in the list.

  • Jim

    You are right that ‘don’t have time’ is the biggest reason people don’t use eBird. To that end, perhaps data entry from mobile devices will be a real game changer. The folks at BirdsEye (iPhone app) ( are actively working on that now, and this functionality is on the near horizon.

    We did retain the species group names, so that should be ok. Thanks for the thoughts on wide screen monitors. I hope you have a chance to take it for a test ride in May when we make it available to beta-testers. Please send me an email at ‘[email protected]’ if you’d like to be on that list.



  • Hi Brian, I am a hardcore eBirder (enter 3-4 plus checklists per day), and think this new data entry format is a great improvement. One of my only qualms with the old format was having the age/sex/comments section on a different page, so am looking forward to that change! Being able to add the breeding confirmations is also a “dream-come-true” for me. I will definitely put my name on the list for the beta-tester pool.


  • Brian,
    The new interface looks great. I have been using eBird for years and this is going to be a great improvement. I am looking forward to the comments section being on the same page. Page seems much more simplified, Keep up the good work

  • Ali Iyoob

    I’m definitely interested in testing it too, I snore almost everything I see and would love to try this new setup out. Breeding confirmation looks so cool, I’ll have to go back and add it to some of the rare nesters I’ve found!

  • Hi Brian I think this new data entry format is a great improvement. The old format was having the age/sex/comments section on a different page, so am looking forward to that change!I will definitely put my name on the list for the beta-tester pool.

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