The Competitive World of Bird Watching

…anyone can view rankings of the top eBirders in different hot spots, counties, states, and entire countries. You can even peruse a list of the top 100 eBirders in the world. These types of competitive lists have birthed trends like endless Big Years, in which birders constantly compete to see who can spot the most species in a year. In turn, such fads have spurred counterinitiatives, like the five-mile-radius challenge, which encourages birders to enjoy birds in local areas rather than seeking them out in far-flung places.

That is from a profile of eBird, an online database of bird sightings.

As of 2020, it has collected more than 860 million global bird observations from over 597,000 registered eBirders. By sheer numbers alone, eBird is one of the world’s largest citizen-science projects. It is now used to understand species distributions, population trends, migration pathways, and even habitat use….

At least 120 million observations are submitted per year, many through the handy eBird app, a kind of Strava-Yelp-Pokémon Go hybrid for birders. The app doesn’t ID birds for you—Cornell offers another app called Merlin for that—but instead provides an easy way to record and upload the birds you spot. To log sightings, you start a checklist (similar to the way you’d start a run on a smartwatch) and the app automatically pulls your location via GPS. You can choose hot spots near you, which generate lists of species you’re likely to see created from data submitted by users in those areas. The app tracks time and distance traveled while you “tick” species and numbers of birds seen and heard. It even lets you keep an offline checklist, so you aren’t inconvenienced without cell service. On the web platform, users can upload photos and audio recordings to beef up checklist documentation. Once submitted, the observations join thousands of others being made on the platform at any given time.

We’ve probably only started to scratch the surface of the things that we will track and catalog.

Here is the full story on Outside Magazine from Jessie Williamson.