Category “Bird Listing and Monitoring”

Data migration to eBird – Part 2: How

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015

[Read Part I: Why]

MW plus eBirdAs part of our ongoing effort to move the entire MigrantWatch database to eBird, we will be asking you to undertake a few simple steps. Doing this will ensure that all your existing data are safely transferred to the eBird database, and are copied to your eBird account.

Here is the sequence of events:

  1. Data submission will be disabled on the MigrantWatch website from 10 August onwards.
  2. All MigrantWatch data will be uploaded to eBird by 15 August 2015. The information will be initially stored under an account with name MigrantWatch (group account).
  3. Thereafter, your migrant observations will be ‘shared‘ with you from the MigrantWatch group account. Here is the procedure:

— Please ensure that you have an eBird account. If you don’t already, it’s easy to sign up.
— You will receive emails asking you to accept your observations (called ‘lists’ in eBird) into your eBird account.
— As soon as you accept these lists, they will be copied into your eBird account.
— You may have to accept multiple lists, but once you have done so, nothing more needs to be done.
— Any photographs that you have put up on MigrantWatch will also be automatically embedded into your observations.
— Once you’ve successfully migrated to eBird, we urge you to submit all your subsequent observations and pictures through your eBird account.

We encourage you to please visit Bird Count India for more about eBird, tips for its use, and related topics.

Please also see Part 1 of this post in which we have outlined how (and why) MigrantWatch data are being moved to eBird.

Do write to us at if you have any questions or need any assistance about migrating to eBird.

Data migration to eBird – Part 1: Why

Wednesday, 5 August, 2015

MW plus eBirdSince 2007, MigrantWatch has brought together hundreds of birders across India to pool our observations of migratory birds. Over the years MigrantWatchers have collectively contributed more than 30,000 observations — a commendable effort indeed!

in the future, we’d like to make it more enjoyable and easy to share bird sightings. We’d also like to make the information contributed as valuable as possible for research and conservation. In order to achieve these goals we need to transition to the next level. This is where eBird comes into the picture.

eBird has a lot to offer for the birdwatcher, for example:

  • a global, birder-friendly platform – eBird is used by tens of thousands of birders across the world to maintain their birding lists. It currently holds millions of bird records and is very easy to use.
  • a comprehensive database for your observations – When you go out birding you watch all birds, and not just migrants. eBird enables you to upload complete lists of the birds you saw during a particular trip. This means you have the convenience of keeping a full record of all your birdwatching sessions at one place.
  • exciting features to enhance your birdwatching experience – eBird makes it easy to upload your birding lists, allows you to explore your records through exciting visualizations, helps you maintain your life lists and makes sharing your bird lists very simple. You can also embed photos, videos or sound files to accompany each sighting. What’s more, you can use a smartphone app to submit data to eBird.
  • higher quality data for research and conservation – Complete lists, as encouraged by eBird, provide information on not only which species are present, but also about which ones are absent. This kind of information is of greater value than presence-only information. The data on eBird is also ported up to the Avian Knowledge Network and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, through which anyone can explore and download all the data.
  • increasing use in India – over the past 1.5 years, birdwatchers in India are increasingly using eBird to maintain their birding records and to run bird projects. eBird in India is administered by the Bird Count India partnership, of which MigrantWatch is a member, together with a large number of other Indian groups. Currently, over 1.7 million bird observations have been uploaded by Indian birders, thus making eBird the largest database on birds of India.

As you know, MigrantWatch has been partnering with eBird since 2013 and we have been encouraging you to upload your observations through eBird. A large number of MigrantWatchers have now completely moved to eBird to log their observations. Our next step is to migrate the entire MigrantWatch data to eBird during which all your MigrantWatch observations will be safely transferred to the eBird database and to your account in eBird.

As part of this exercise you would be required to do a few simple things to transfer your MigrantWatch records to eBird, which are described in Part 2 of this post: How.

Monthly eBirding Challenges

Monday, 5 May, 2014

challenge-logoAs we announced earlier, MigrantWatch is working more and more closely with eBird to make the two databases compatible such that sightings reported to either website can easily be collated to understand patterns of bird migration in India.

We encourage you to submit you observations to eBird, especially if you are listing all species (resident and migrant) that you observe on a bird outing. Now, a new series of monthly birding challenges for India adds a bit of fun to our birding and listing activities. Bird Count India, a consortium of organizations and groups interested in bird listing and monitoring, is running these monthly challenges, which has a particular goal or target for participants each month.

Do take a look, and we encourage you to participate! The challenge for May is to upload at least four complete lists to eBird each week of the month. The details are here.

MigrantWatch and eBird

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Over the past year, we at MigrantWatch have had a series of discussions with the people who run the global bird listing platform eBird. The motivation for these discussions was this question:

How can we make it more enjoyable and easy to share bird sightings, and at the same time make the contributed information as valuable as possible for research and conservation?

MW plus eBirdMigrantWatch has limitations in both of these respects. One of the main aspects of sharing bird sightings is having a user-friendly and feature-rich web platform. We haven’t done all that badly in this regard, and take the opportunity to thank Pavithra Sankaran (web design) and Anush Shetty (web development), and a list of many others, for all the volunteer effort put into making the MigrantWatch website and database. But at the same time, it is a huge task to maintain and further develop the site so that it best suits the needs of all of us birders.

A second limitation is the kind of information that MigrantWatch asks for. We collect “presence-only” information, which means MigrantWatchers upload the date and location of sightings of migrants. This says when a species was seen, but, crucially, doesn’t say when a species was not seen. So, for example, it’s difficult or impossible to tell why there are no reports of Grey Wagtail from Indore in August 2013: is it because no-one was looking for them, or because they truly weren’t there? One solution to this problem is to collect complete birding lists of all species seen on a trip. This says: “X went birding at this location on this date and saw a number of species, but not Grey Wagtail”.

Also, in addition to regular queries about migrants, we get a lot of questions from participants related to non-migratory birds too. Clearly, migrants are not the only birds of interest!

For the above reasons, we are forging a closer relationship with eBird. The main reasons are that (a) eBird is a very easy-to-use and feature-rich site for maintaining your birding records, and (b) it focuses on encouraging birders to upload complete lists of the birds they saw during a particular trip. More details in the following points.

  • It is a mature platform, used by tens of thousands of birders across the world to maintain their birding lists. It currently holds more than 150 million records of birds globally. This means it is a safe and reliable platform for our bird lists.
  • It has many features to make it easier to upload your species lists, including species with uncertain identification. It also has features to explore your own lists, and you can download your lists into an excel file for use offline.
  • Another nice feature of eBird is that your day’s list is available at a unique URL, which means that you can share and email your list with your friends as soon as it is entered into the system. An example of such a list is here:
  • You can also embed photos, videos or sound files to accompany each sighting: these are particularly useful as supporting information for the identification of difficult or unusual species.
  • There are multiple ways to use eBird: through the website (; this is the preferred way) or using a smartphone app.
  • All information on eBird is available to explore through maps, charts and tables. The data on eBird is also ported up to the Avian Knowledge Network and the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, through which anyone can explore and download all the data.

Do try out eBird is you haven’t already, and let us know what you think.

From now on, we recommend the following:

  • If you have a complete list from a birding trip: upload to eBird only
  • If you have a partial list, with migrants and non-migrants: upload to eBird only
  • If you want to report individual sightings of migrants, first or last of season, or general sightings: upload to MigrantWatch or eBird, not both
  • For any individual sightings of Pied Cuckoo: upload to MigrantWatch or eBird, not both

We will integrate the information coming into both sources (eBird and MigrantWatch) into our monthly email round-up and in future reports. So even if you switch completely over to eBird, you will still be contributing to MigrantWatch!

What will happen to your existing sightings in MigrantWatch?

For the time being, these sightings are safe in the MigrantWatch database, which of course will continue to grow. At some point in the future we may consult you about whether you would like to import your sightings into eBird, which we can help you do. Either way, the main thing is to continue to go birding, note your bird sightings, and share them on a free and open platform!

We look forward to hearing your feedback on these changes.

Great Backyard Bird Count 2014

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

GBBCblogbutton_En_7_2014.gifMany MigrantWatchers participated in the first global Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) in Feb 2013. People across India watched birds for 15 min or more, wherever they were, and uploaded the lists to the eBird listing platform. The results (pdf) were very impressive! It’s very easy to take part in this year’s GBBC, and if enough birders in India take part, it may be possible to track the changing fortunes of Indian birds through this activity, just as others do for the US and the UK through similar events. So please do join in, with your friends and family! The GBBC2014 announcement is pasted below.


The Great Backyard Bird Count–India is back! The dates are 14-17 February 2014. Join in this global birding event.

GBBC is a worldwide event. Last year birders from 111 countries took part, counting around 35 million individual birds of 4,000 species. Indian birders submitted 400+ lists of 500+ species. You can see a summary of the global results here and the India results here.

Most importantly, it’s fun! More seriously, these annual snapshots of bird populations help to answer a variety of important questions, including how birds are affected by habitat changes and weather, and whether populations and distributions are changing. More details are here:

Any or all days between 14 and 17 February 2014

Go birding for at least 15 min, listing all the species you see, with rough count of each. It doesn’t matter if you can’t identify every single species — what you can identify is good enough! Login to and submit your species list.

More details at

In brief:
1. Go to and create an account (Do familiarise yourself).
2. Select your location on a map.
3. Choose kind of count you have made (e.g. travelling or stationary).
4. Give start time and duration.
5. Enter your list.
6. Share your list with others via email, Facebook or Twitter. Some examples of lists from 2013 are here:

As in 2013, this year again people all over India are participating. Some are also organizing small events at local parks or lakes for the public, including children, to take part in the count and learn more about birds.

If you are feeling ambitious, your local birder/naturalist group could use GBBC to carry out a more formal project. For example, you could ask “what is the importance of green/open spaces for urban birds?” To answer this, one could organise groups to go out and generate one set of lists from open/green spaces (eg, wetlands, parks); and another set of lists from from other kinds of city habitats: commercial areas, residential areas — basically, highly built-up areas. Then one could ask how many and which species are restricted to open/green spaces, and how many appear to be adaptable and occur also in other city habitats. A possible conclusion could be “Green spaces are essential for the survival of 60% of [your city’s] birds”. With some planning and enough birders, such a project would be possible to do in the four days of the GBBC.

Regardless of what you plan, do consider joining this Google group:!forum/birdcountindia
which exists so that we can keep each other informed of our plans, as well share what we see with fellow birders during the days of the Count.

You can also join us for updates on Facebook:

Looking forward to seeing you at GBBC-2014!

Regional bird listing and monitoring, Jan/Feb 2014

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Apart from the national-level (and some global-scale!) bird listing and monitoring events planned for Jan/Feb 2014, some groups are planning State-level events too. Here is a listing of what we are aware of. Please do let us know in the comments if there are other events we are missing!

  • Kerala: Common Bird Monitoring state-wide on 14-17 Feb, as part of the Green Partner’s Initiative. More details here and here.
  • West Bengal: Bengal Bird Day on 19 Jan, where teams will watch and list birds from any location in the State. More information available from the bengalbird e-group.

Big Bird Day 2014

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

Continuing with bird listing and monitoring events for Jan/Feb 2014, the countrywide Big Bird Day will be held on Sunday 16 Feb 2014. The idea here is for individuals or teams to conduct a dawn-to-dusk search for birds at any location(s) of their choosing.

Last year, a large number of teams from across India took part. More details about BBD 2014 are at this link.

Asian Waterbird Count, Jan 2014

Wednesday, 8 January, 2014

The Asian Waterbird Count started in 1987, and many birders (of a particular generation!) were initiated into bird counting and monitoring through this project. In the early years, the AWC was very popular in India, but it then went through a bit of a slump. In the past year or two, however, it is gaining momentum again, and we encourage you to take part.

Here is more background information about the AWC. To take part you simply visit a wetland and count the birds you see there. So that there is some consistency in dates, the AWC recommends that you carry out your counts between Saturday 11 Jan, and Sunday 26 Jan 2014, although counts from any date in January are welcome.

Before you plan your counts, please contact the AWC Coordinator for your state, who will be able to provide more guidance. You can take a look at the AWC India Data Entry Form as well: scroll down the page to find the link to the excel file.

The main webpage of the AWC is here, and linked here is the text of a message sent by AWC coordinator Taej Mundkur.

If you do take part in the AWC this year (which we strongly recommend!), do drop us an email or leave a comment below.