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Avibase and Ebird (1 Viewer)

Streesh

Member
My apologies if there are past discussions on this subject - I did a short search and couldn't find any. I am trying to understand the similarities and differences between ebird and avibase. I had thought they were possibly competitors for the same user, but they do appear to have some sort of complementary relationship. I'm not really asking whether one is "better" than the other, rather, I'm trying to understand if they are the same sort of program, or cater to different nationalities, or whatever. It's possible that their relationship is generally well understood, but somehow I've missed it!
 

THE_FERN

Well-known member
My apologies if there are past discussions on this subject - I did a short search and couldn't find any. I am trying to understand the similarities and differences between ebird and avibase. I had thought they were possibly competitors for the same user, but they do appear to have some sort of complementary relationship. I'm not really asking whether one is "better" than the other, rather, I'm trying to understand if they are the same sort of program, or cater to different nationalities, or whatever. It's possible that their relationship is generally well understood, but somehow I've missed it!
Avibase's main focus is to provide a concordance between various different taxonomic systems, and to outline the history of particular [esp scientific] bird names. Ebird focuses on one taxonomic system and [at its heart] attempts to gather information about the occurrence of birds in time and space. It largely shoehorns records into the particular taxonomic view of the world it uses [which is different from that used by, e.g., Xeno Canto]. As a quid pro quo, and as part of its quest to become the single source of information about world birds, the ebird website also includes information on distribution [drawn from records its users submit], appearance and sounds [through images & sounds submitted to one or other of the public databases it administers like the Macauley image library; click on the more images button and it's that dataset you're seeing—you can tell because the search doesn't work (it does in the main ebird screen)].

I'm sure you realise this but worth restating as not everyone does: bird names are changing all the time. One reason is improvements in knowledge [new species discovered, more information about which forms interbreed etc]. Another is different interpretations of the existing information. This might be because one or other taxonomic "authority" decides that particular characters [bone structure, mating display, plumage colouration or whatever] are more or less important in defining "species". Alternatively or underlying this might be differing species concepts—the philosophical basis for deciding what is or isn't a species. The best known of these is the "biological species"—a species is something which interbreeds with itself and not with other species. However, there are many more. This points up the fact that the division of things into "species", "subspecies" etc is and probably always will be a subjective matter. You can tell this because the c6 different main world taxonomic authorities have different opinions.

From the [general] user's point of view, ebird is probably the more useful in that many of the things you might be looking for are "right there". As a member you can upload and store your lists and it'll nicely summarise them for you. The associated infrastructure is convenient [ebird mobile app, merlin etc]. For more technical users, you can obtain at least some of the whole database of observations and do stats analyses etc with that. If you're using Xeno Canto for calls and perhaps for maps, you'd first start with one of the XLS which lists the main taxonomies and the relationships between them, and then you'd resort to avibase for anything you can't understand [e.g. you find a taxon under the Clements taxonomy and you can't figure out what it is under the IOC one Xeno Canto uses so you look for likely matches in Avibase].

Avibase is probably of most use to more technical users or "world listers" trying to understand the relationship between different taxonomies. Unfortunately, last time I looked there was no easy way to download the whole dataset and nor was there an API [bear in mind this was before lockdown so more than 1 yr ago]. You can now generate species lists for areas and you can do this in various different taxonomies. You can do similar with ebird, but only if you like their particular choice of taxonomy. In principle you can get finer-grained data from ebird [e.g. a list for a particular hotspot]
 

njlarsen

Gallery Moderator
Opus Editor
Supporter
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One little supplement: The Macaulay library is (according to them selves): "the current Macaulay Library: a digital archive accessible to the public and containing the world’s largest collection of animal sounds as well as a rapidly growing video library of animal behavior."

Niels
 

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