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Use of eBird data to determine occurence

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Old Tuesday 24th January 2012, 16:14   #1
MichavdB
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Use of eBird data to determine occurence

I (and others as well) often use eBird to narrow down my choices when it comes to making the correct id on some birds. eBird now has a great map online that shows the amount of data that gets submitted. It makes me rethink my stance on the issue a bit. While the map is only for January, but it's pretty evident that using eBird data to determine the occurrence of a bird in the Mid-West is often not very useful. It would be interesting to see the same map for other months.
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2012, 16:26   #2
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ebird is really only good for an area if there is lots of checklists submitted for said area. There are still vast swathes of the nation that are poorly birded, or poorly ebirded. For instance, I wouldn't put a WHOLE lot of faith in the range distribution for birds in Wyoming, simply because there are not a lot of Wyoming birders.

At any rate, I think range should only be used as a general guideline for identification, since birds do vagrate and other species have shifted their ranges recently.
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Old Tuesday 24th January 2012, 16:35   #3
Jim M.
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Originally Posted by MichavdB View Post
I (and others as well) often use eBird to narrow down my choices when it comes to making the correct id on some birds. eBird now has a great map online that shows the amount of data that gets submitted. It makes me rethink my stance on the issue a bit. While the map is only for January, but it's pretty evident that using eBird data to determine the occurrence of a bird in the Mid-West is often not very useful. It would be interesting to see the same map for other months.
Don't think this is a deficiency in eBird--think it's actually a strength. Before eBird, you'd get summary reports from a region noting birds observed, but would have no indication of how heavily birded the region was. With eBird, for the first time, you can now see how heavily birded a region is and take that into account when assessing the significance of sightings.

Also note that a lot of the underbirded areas in the midwest are likely low diversity agricultural areas. The reasons these are rarely birded is that there's not much to see there. And it's often pretty easy to extrapolate what might be seen there if you have general knowledge of the avifauna.

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Old Tuesday 24th January 2012, 17:05   #4
MichavdB
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Originally Posted by J. Moore View Post
Don't think this is a deficiency in eBird--think it's actually a strength. Before eBird, you'd get summary reports from a region noting birds observed, but would have no indication of how heavily birded the region was. With eBird, for the first time, you can now see how heavily birded a region is and take that into account when assessing the significance of sightings.

Also note that a lot of the underbirded areas in the midwest are likely low diversity agricultural areas. The reasons these are rarely birded is that there's not much to see there. And it's often pretty easy to extrapolate what might be seen there if you have general knowledge of the avifauna.

Jim
Very good points. For the record, I love eBird. I just wanted to point out that before using the data (from any source) one really needs to consider the amount of data that make up the record and as Jim points out, the geography of the area in a broader sense as well.

I myself grew up with a bird book in hand and got into the habit of using the maps provided in it pretty much as gospel. If I confidently identified a bird outside of the boundaries shown on the map, I pretty much thought it was a major rarity (this is as a teen in the 80s in the Netherlands). So every time I check maps or records on eBird I have to perform a little mental check to make sure that I interpret those records correctly. The map I linked to above illustrates this need, I think.

I've come across quite a few people out in the field recently that use eBird and/or an app on their phone while birding and have never owned a bird book. Not a problem of course, but I thought it was worth pointing out the need to calibrate the perception we have when we look at maps and data.

On another note, the 1970s book I had growing up is still sitting at my parents house and when I visited the other day I browsed through it and noticed how incredibly outdated the maps in it are. Ortolan Buntings are gone, White-Tailed Eagles now nest in the area whereas before they were a major rarity.
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