July 2015 eBirding Challenge: 20 hours for birds

challenge-logo-2015We have had several comments from eBird users that the challenge for June (20 lists in the month) was too easy, so July’s challenge is considerably tougher!

In July last year, the challenge was to spend 10 hours birding  through the month, and this proved rather easy, with 36 birders meeting the target. So, for this July, we have decided to raise the game by a fair margin.

In July 2015, the target is to spend an aggregate at least 20 hours eBirding through the month. Each individual list can be of any duration, but all lists must be complete (containing all species that could be identified) and effort-based (ie, Travelling or Stationary, but not Incidental or Historical in eBird parlance).

Twenty hours of birding in a month is not a short time by any standard! One way to approach this challenge would be to look for birds for 30 min each weekday, and for a little over 1 hour each Saturday and Sunday. This should get you to the target. Remember, that you can make a birdlist whenever you spend a bit of time outdoors — while talking a walk, waiting at a bus-stop, eating a packed lunch on a canteen balcony, and so on.

Do remember to add descriptive notes if we see anything unusual. And, of course, please record any signs of breeding under Add Details–Breeding Code; and embed photo, audio and video files to make your lists richer and more memorable.

Please upload all your lists by 5 August so that we can announce the results on 6 August. All birders who reach the target will be named and recognized on this website. One of these names will be chosen at random to receive a small birding-related gift in appreciation.

Here are the general rules of our monthly challenges. You can keep track of fresh lists coming in from India at this page.

Important. if you are new to eBird, please read this description first, and do take a look at the Beginner’s Guide.

Leave a Comment

Filed under eBirding Challenge

Endemic Birds T-shirts available for purchase!

endemic tee 400px

T-shirt artwork (front)

We are happy to announce that the Endemic Bird Day t-shirts, adorned with wonderful caricatures of our endemic birds by Rohan Chakravarty, are now available on sale. The t-shirts are priced at Rs. 350  per piece (including shipping charges). The t-shirts are unisex and available in the following sizes.

M (19” chest, 26” length) Sold out

L (20” chest, 27” length)

XL (21” chest, 28” length)

XXL (22” chest, 29” length)

Please select your size carefully, since they are on the smaller side!

The artwork is screen-printed onto the t-shirts. The material is a blend of cotton and polyester. We should warn you that some people like this blend and others don’t! There is also a small flaw in the Bird Count India logo, which isn’t really noticeable (ie, we didn’t notice it for a while!).

To Buy

Please fill out this form, which asks for which sizes you want, and how many; and also your contact details and address. Once we receive your order we will email you instructions for how you can pay. Currently the only way to pay is through a bank transfer (ie, netbanking).

We have less than 100 t-shirts available, so do order soon.


PS. Many thanks to our wonderful and patient models, Akanksha and Tsomjing!


Filed under Uncategorized

Bird Count happenings, June 2015

Here is the next in our irregular series of updates: Bird Count happenings. The previous update was in October last year, and it’s time to take stock of what has happened over the last nine months and to look at what the future holds.

The Bird Count India Partnership

Bird Count India is a collective of a large number of groups that share our goals. The partnership conducts workshops, organizes monthly birding challenges, and coordinates birding events. Our new logo was designed by Rohan Chakravarty: our thanks to him!


Our partnership of groups and organizations has grown bit by bit, and now stands at over 34 organization and 25 online groups and websites. If you’d like your institution or group to join, please let us know. All you need is a passion for birds and an interest in documenting and monitoring their populations.

Workshops and outreach
In December 2014, we embarked on a series of workshops on bird monitoring and using eBird. So far, sessions have taken place in Amravati (Dec), Nagpur, Pune (both Jan), Ahmedabad (Feb), Guwahati, Aizawl (both March), Kolkata, Gangtok and Jalpaiguri (all three in May). In all, about 300 birders have taken part in these events. Our sincere thanks to our partners who helped organize these events: Wildlife and Environment Conservation Society, Wild-CER, Nature Walk Charitable Trust, Bird Conservation Society of Gujarat, Aaranyak, Biodiversity and Nature Conservation Network, Pachhunga University College, Prakriti Samsad, Sikkim Ornithological Society, Sikkim Forest Department, and Society for Preservation and Awareness of Wildlife and Nature.

SOS eBird Workshop 2May2015-1a

Workshop in Gangtok, Sikkim. Photo: Usha Lachungpa.

Birding challenges


eBirders of the month for May 2015

We continue to run our monthly eBirding challenges to provide that little bit of extra fun and motivation to the daily birding that we all do. The targets for these challenges change every month, and include making 20 birdlists from a single location, twenty ‘shared’ lists, 25 days of birding in a month, and so on. Each challenge focusses on the effort spent in birding rather than the number of species seen or the rarity of species. All birders who reach the monthly target are recognized on the website and one among these is selected at random to receive a small bird-related gift. Roughly 10-25 birders from across India manage to meet the target of the challenge each month — congratulations to them!

In addition we have a menu of birding challenges that run throughout the year of 2015. Do take a look.

Past events
Various birding events took place over the past winter, designed to document our birdlife and to reach out to new birding audiences. Here, we list those events where the bird sightings were documented on eBird, and thus collated for public access.

Newly-initiated events included the All-Goa Waterfowl Count (18 & 25 Jan), Pongal Bird Count in Tamil Nadu (15-18 Jan), Manipal Bird Day (1 Feb) and Endemic Bird Day (9 May, coincident with Global Big Day). Other events were repeated, on their annual schedule, from previous years: Uttarakhand Spring Bird Festival (4-8 Feb), Bengaluru Bird Count (15 Feb), Kerala Common Bird Monitoring Programme (CBMP, 13-16 Feb),  Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC, 13-16 Feb), and Big Bird Day (8 March). Highlights of these include a great performance by Indian birders in the Global Big Day, and record participation in the GBBC and Kerala CBMP. Indian birders constituted 6 of the 10 top birders worldwide in terms of the number of checklists contributed during the GBBC, and 4 of the 10 top birders in terms of number of species seen!

A special mention must be made of the inaugural Campus Bird Count, which took place alongside the GBBC. An amazing 84 school, college and other campuses from 17 States took part in this event, contributing over 2,300 lists containing over 400 species. You can see a google presentation of the GBBC/Campus Bird Count results here.

Winning photo from the GBBC 2015 Photo Contest, By Gopi GV.

Winning photo from the GBBC 2015 Photo Contest, By Gopi GV.

The Mysore City Bird Atlas, run by the highly motivated and coordinated Mysore Nature group is now completing its second year. Results from the first two repetitions, in Feb and June 2014 can be seen here. This year again, the atlas surveys were repeated in February, and June is also complete! See the section Coming up soon, below for an example of how this superb effort is motivating others.


Different parts of Mysore city have different numbers of species. From the Mysore City Bird Atlas, Feb & June 2014.

The eBird-India database

The eBird database for India continues to grow rapidly, although there is still large variation across the country, with many parts being poorly represented.

Since the database crossed 1 million observations in February, it has continued to grow at roughly 1 lakh observations per month, and now stands at just over 1.5 million. This has been driven by an increase in the number of birders using eBird, and also by historical records being uploaded in bulk. For example, nearly 8,000 observations from L. Shyamal’s BirdSpot database were uploaded in December, and BirdSpot users who have eBird accounts have had their observations ‘shared’ with them.


Growth of eBird observations from India, until Feb 2015.

Participation from India in eBird is also gradually rising. Since October last year, 1,400 new users have contributed to the database, bringing the total number to 3,500. In this period, the total number of users per month has ranged from 350 to 600 (excluding February, when 1,060 birders used eBird). Of these, an average of 130 people per month are new to eBird (the exception is February, when 550 birders contributed lists for the first time, mostly during the GBBC). Like in most citizen science projects, participation in eBird is highly uneven, with just 100 participants contributing a full 50% of all observations.

Despite increasing participation, information on birds from across the country is far from uniform. A recent analysis shows that although eBird database now contains over 80,000 hours of documented birding effort in the country, 182 districts (covering 20% of India’s land area) are yet to see a single effort-based list in eBird. The districts with the most birding effort are North Goa, Idukku, Thrissur, Bangalore and Pune, all with more than 2,000 hours of birding so far.

Birding density 2015-06-18

Variation in ‘density’ of birding effort across districts, in terms of birding minutes per sq. km.

Coming up soon

Several interesting things are planned for the coming months.

In Kerala, the Onam Bird Count will happen in August; but the big news is that Kerala is embarking on the first systematic and planned State-level Bird Atlas in India! The atlassing will begin this year in Thrissur and Alappuzha districts before spreading to other districts in subsequent years. More details are available here, and we wish Kerala birders all the very best in this ambitious and wonderful endeavour!

Two existing bird databases for India are to soon be integrated into eBird: the South Asia Birds section of Worldbirds,  and MigrantWatch.

A very significant development is the upcoming creation of an India Portal on eBird. eBird has a number of regional portals that are customized for birders from a particular region. We are happy to announce that Bird Count India is partnering with eBird to create a separate portal for India. Once this is done, the landing page for birders in India will be http://ebird.org/india (link does not work yet, of course), and we will have news and events that are India-specific, together with a number of other small customizations that will make eBird easier and more useful for all of us. More news about this soon!

If you are planning a bird documentation or monitoring event/project, please do let us know so that we can feature it on the Bird Count India website and help spread the word about it.

Do join us!

If you are  interested in birdwatching and in helping better document and monitor the distribution and abundance of India’s birds, please do join us. There are several ways in which you can make a difference.

To get updates from Bird Count India automatically into your email inbox, you can sign up here. If you are on Facebook and would like to join our discussion of bird listing and monitoring in India, do join our Facebook group.

To add your organization’s name to the list of Bird Count India partners, please email us at birdcountindia |at| gmail.com. And please do get in touch if you have any questions or comments about what we are trying to do.


Filed under Happenings

Important Bird Areas and eBird data

Important Bird Areas (IBAs) are key sites for bird conservation, so it is important to carefully document the birds they contain, and subsequently monitor the sites to assess the efficacy of management and to detect early signals of trouble. In this post, we explore the possibility of using eBird lists as a way of documenting and monitoring birds in Indian IBAs.

eBird now contains roughly 1.5 million observations of Indian birds, organised into over 70,000 birdlists. These lists have accompanying information on date, time, location and effort (eg distance covered and duration spent). To examine how much of this information comes from IBAs, we used shapefiles kindly provided by the Indian Bird Conservation Network and BNHS-India to identify lists from within IBAs. The maps below show the locations of eBird lists from India (left) and the boundaries of Indian IBAs (right).


Roughly 300,000 bird observations from within Indian IBAs are contained in the eBird database. These are from c.11,300 birdlists. A listing of the 10 IBAs with the highest birding effort (total number of birding hours) is given below.

IBA-Table1This table shows that a large volume of information is being uploaded from IBAs by birders and tourists visiting these birding hotspots. But clearly the effort is highly skewed. For example these IBAs are represented in eBird by only two records or fewer: Kalesar Wildlife Sanctuary, Tirthan Wildlife Sanctuary, and Kumbalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, among others.

To examine the feasibility in using eBird data to monitor changes in species sightings over time, we looked at birdlists from Thattekad Wildlife Sanctuary, Kerala. In all, 254 ‘complete’ lists have been uploaded from Thattekad to eBird. A complete list is one in which the observer has included all identifiable species, and these allow one to calculate the frequency with which a species is seen (eg, a common species might occur in 90% of lists and a rare one in only 5% of lists). For the period 1999-2013, 97 complete lists exist in eBird and for 2014-215, 157 lists are on eBird from Thattekad.

Extracting only birds endemic to South Asia, the table below shows the change in the frequency of sighting of the most common 10 endemics in Thattekad between the two time periods.

IBA-Table2Note that the calculations for Thattekad have been made with all ‘complete’ lists in the eBird database. It is likely that the reason for the apparent decline in reporting rate for all the species in Table 2 is that the duration of lists has reduced over time. Indeed, the median duration of birdlists in 2014-2015 was c.60min, while in 1999-2013 it was 180min. Shorter lists mean fewer species on each list.

The purpose of making these calculations is not to accurately assess changes in status of birds; this would require more detailed analysis and more data. Rather our intention is to illustrate the possibility of using lists from birders to monitor, in a crude way, possible changes in the status of bird populations over yearly (or longer) durations.

Some other countries (for example, Canada) use eBird as a data gathering platform for their IBA monitoring through a specific protocol, and this is a model that we could think of adapting for India.


Filed under Patterns and Analysis

Where are the birding gaps? Part II

By Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi

Over the last year, eBird’s popularity amongst birders in India has grown rapidly. An increasing number of birders are using eBird as a platform to keep track of their bird sightings and locations and for planning their upcoming bird trips. A new feature, Target Species, is really helpful for people who want to be prepared in finding out potential new species they could see on their next trip.

Of course, all these features of eBird are only as good as the data that goes into it. So far, the eBird database contains about 1.5 million records from India. What is really amazing is that one million of those have been added over the last 10 months! As of June 2015, eBird contains over 81,000 hours of documented birding effort in India. It is a fairly rapid growth from about 35,000 hours of effort in September 2014. This increase is a combination of new lists from the last 10 months and older lists that people have uploaded on eBird between the period from September 2014 to June 2015.

In September 2014, I had done an analysis of the spatial coverage of sighting records in eBird database (linked here) and concluded that the spatial coverage across India was poor. A million records later, it’s time for an update.

The proportion of Indian districts with not a single effort based list has declined from 40 to 28.5%. These 182 districts with no effort based list add up to 20% of India’s total land area. Proportion of districts with less than 10 hours of birding declined from 61 to 48.5%. The proportion of districts with more than 100 hours of birding effort increased from 13 to 21.9%.

Total birding hours 2015-06-18

The comparative map above (click to see at full size) gives a fair indication of areas where birding effort has increased and areas that continue to be under-represented in the eBird database. Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Maharashtra continue to be the four largest contributors with around 55% of total effort (in terms of birding hours) concentrated within them. Gujarat has made up significant ground, both in the total number of hours of birding as well as the coverage of the entire state. Parts of central Maharashtra (Marathwada), Telangana and Andra Pradesh had major gaps in September 2014 and many of these have been closed but more effort is still required. The biggest gaps in regions of UP, Zero districts 2015-06-18Bihar, Jharkhand, parts of MP, northern Rajasthan and Punjab remain. In the list of gaps, UP leads with 36 district with not a single effort-based list followed by Bihar with 15 districts. The table to the right lists the top 10 states with major birding gaps. If you have old lists lying in your notebooks from these area then this is the another reason to bring it out. All those birders who are also avid travellers, these are the opportunities for pioneering birding!

The birding effort in relation to the size of the district is another important parameter, eg., 10 hours of birding might be a fair representation of birds in a small district with uniform habitat but the same effort is a clear under-representation for large districts like Leh with a large diversity in habitat. The following map (click to see full size) represents birding effort standardized by the size of the district (total birding effort divided by the area of the district).

Birding density 2015-06-18

The only two states with high birding density are Kerala and Goa, and to an extent, Karnataka and Delhi. Most districts in Kerala have at least 5 minutes of birding effort per square kilometre (sq km) while 5 districts have more than 20 min per sq km and one district, Thrissur, has more than 60 min per sq km. Similarly North Goa has over 60 min of birding per sq km and South Goa has more than 20 min of birding effort per sq km. But the leader across the country is Chennai with over 6 hours of birding effort per sq km. Of course, coverage within these districts may also be highly uneven.

What is surprising is that despite the 1.5 million records, over 88% districts, adding up over 93% of India’s land area have less than 5 minutes of birding effort per square kilometre of their area.

Top-districts-2015-06-18_300pxFinally, a quick look at the leader board in terms of total birding hours per district (chart to the right, click to view full size). Thrissur, Pune, Palakkad, Amravati, Udupi, Thiruvananthpuram and Chennai have all moved up in the order. Mysore, Bharatpur, Alappuzha have moved lower. But, mind you that Mysore is currently doing its second year of the city atlas and much of this information is yet to arrive. Alappuzha and Thrissur are also doing their first year of district atlas so can expect to see rapid information coming in from there. North Goa and Iddukki continue to lead. Does this mean that visiting birders continue to contribute more to eBird in India than the local Birders?

If you are curious about the status of birding information from your district on eBird then follow this link (‘Explore a Region’) and type-in your district name. Here you will get an updated summary of the birding being reported from your district. You can look at India-level summaries, State summaries or District (called ‘County’ in eBird) summaries (eg Districts of Gujarat) . If you are uploading an effort based list from a district with currently zero birding effort, please drop us a comment here or at the Bird Count India facebook group.

Note: if you would like to explore the raw numbers underlying the summaries described above (perhaps you’d like to see all the districts with zero effort), then you can download an excel file of the data here (corrected version 2015-06-19).

Leave a Comment

Filed under Patterns and Analysis