eBirding your Christmas Bird Count data

Christmas Bird Count (CBC) season is here! The CBC represents one of the longest standing citizen science projects in birding, and generates a ton of interest from birders of all levels. And it is a lot of fun to participate in! From December 14 to January 5 each year, each 7.5 mile radius CBC circle (of over 60 circles in Michigan) is divided up into sections, with individual search parties sent out to cover each section carefully for a single day. At the end of the day, all of the parties’ totals are summed to gather a total count for each species detected in the circle.

Thankfully, your CBC data CAN be eBirded. However, because CBC data violate some of the standard protocol conventions we have established, there are specific requirements in order to have your data validated. Perhaps most importantly, we do not normally allow traveling counts longer than 5 miles, while virtually all CBC data involve a much longer traveling count than this. Here is how to properly eBird your CBC data so that they are validated in the eBird database:

  1. Enter only single-party checklists, never multi-party checklists. In other words, don’t add together the totals from separate search parties regardless of where each party birded. Keep these all separate for eBird purposes, even though the cumulative totals are what the CBC compilers will be interested in.
  2. Use traveling count, not area count. Enter only the one-way distance traveled, never including backtracking along the same routes. For instance, if you bird a one mile dead end road, then turn around and drive out the same road, this counts for 1 mile only, not 2 miles. There are several online utilities which will help you calculate your day’s distance. You just enter your route then it tells you the overall distance. See these links.
  3. If you lump the entire day’s count into one checklist, as most CBCers do, your location pin must be named according to this convention: “CBC name–Section name“. For example: “Monroe CBC–Section 2″ or “Lapeer County CBC–north zone.” Please use the double-hypen. The idea here is that checklists will be comparable between years and traceable to the same subsections of each CBC circle. If you’re willing to separate out each location birded into its own checklist, then eBird as you normally would outside the CBC window.

Any CBC checklists which do not conform to all of these standards will be invalidated for the research outputs of eBird, but as always, will stay in your account and still populate your list totals. Obviously, your local eBird review team member will ask you to change the errors before invalidating.

More information, including how to use your eBird mobile app to create your CBC totals, can be found here (and in the links therein).

Now, get out there are have some fun, while making a significant contribution to our understanding of birds! And maybe you’ll even be rewarded with a rarity for your efforts…

Adam, Brian, Caleb, Joe, and Marc

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