Where are the birding gaps?

By Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi

Birders like me use eBird to maintain our sightings in a single place, to keep track of what we have seen where, and to prepare for our next birding outing by looking at the barcharts and range maps to look up what we can expect to see.

The larger purpose of eBird, of course, is to document the distribution and abundance of birds, and to investigate how this changes over the seasons and over the years. Doing so requires a large amount of information from all parts of the country. It relies on individual birders and birding groups going out birding frequently and uploading their bird lists. On the surface, we seem to be doing well in India. After all, over half a million bird records from India are now available on eBird, and the numbers are growing rapidly. Overall, 35,522 hours of birding effort in India are documented on eBird as of 9 September 2014.

These numbers sound impressive, but do they mean that we now have a good idea of distribution and abundance of Indian birds? Unfortunately, not, because all this birding effort is not spread uniformly across the country – some areas have relatively large amounts of information, and others virtually none.

About 40% of all districts in India do not have even a single effort-based list on eBird! (Effort-based lists are those that report duration and distance covered.) About 61% of districts have less than 10 hours of birding and about 87% of districts have less than 100 hours of birding reported on eBird. About 31% (10,962 hrs) of the total birding effort comes from just 10 districts in all of India! This means that the eBird database contains a woefully incomplete picture of the birds of the vast majority of districts.

To provide a quick look at how birding effort on eBird is distributed across the country, we have calculated, for each district, the total number of hours of birding represented on eBird (as of 9 Sept 2014), and have colour-coded this on the map below.


A quick glance at this map shows large gaps in information. UP and Bihar comprise a major gap which continues through Jharkhand, Orissa, Telangana and parts of Maharashtra. Parts of Madhya Pradesh, Haryana, Punjab and Kashmir are just as empty. North-east India may be highly biodiverse, but except for a few sanctuaries most of the other districts do not have any information in eBird. Even states such as Gujarat and Rajasthan, with a fair number of resident and visiting birders, have districts with no effort-based lists: twelve in Rajasthan and five in Gujarat.

Before eBird data can be used at the scale of the country, these gaps have to be filled as best as possible — which is where all of us birders come in! If you know a birder in these districts please introduce eBird to them. They will be the pioneers for their districts in contributing bird information to the largest online database of Indian bird records!

If you are yourself travelling to some of these places for work or holiday, please don’t forget to upload your bird lists from the front yard of your hotel or from a dhaba stop. If you can visit a local park or a sanctuary that would be even better!

Attached is an excel file listing the birding effort represented in eBird for all districts of the country. Take a look and identify the gaps that you can fill. If you are planning a Big Bird Day event or a Bird Race, see if it is possible to organize it in one of these unrepresented districts. Birding in less-documented areas can be fun because you don’t know what surprises may be in store!

Another way to help fill these gaps is to dig through your birding notebooks to see if you have old bird lists from these areas. If you do, it would be great to upload them and help fill in the blanks!

Appendix: Top 10 districts in terms of birding hours represented on eBird
Congratulations to the top 10 districts! If you are a birder from here, don’t slow down. Do keep birding where you are, but also consider making a trip to a neighbouring district to help fill in the gaps.

State District Effort (hours)
Goa North Goa 1842.7
Kerala Idukki 1491.1
Karnataka Mysore 1336.2
Karnataka Bangalore 1295.7
Kerala Thrissur 1026.6
Rajasthan Bharatpur 1007
Kerala Alappuzha 763.3
Goa South Goa 758.2
Uttarakhand Nainital 734.8
Maharashtra Pune 706.8


And here is a complete list for all districts of the country.


Filed under Patterns and Analysis

Half a million bird records from India

Earlier this month, we crossed the (half!) milestone of 500,000 bird records from India in the eBird database. A ‘record’ describes the occurrence of a species together with information on location, date and time.


The 500,000th record was that of Blue-faced Malkoha, uploaded by Rahul Matmari. This record was part of a bird list Rahul made during a visit to Valley School in Bangalore on 24 August 2014.

Rahul writes:

The richness of species in the Western Ghats enticed me into bird watching and from the last year and a half, my weeks are not complete without a bird watching trip. I am awed by the beauty of nature and evolution’s creation of such diverse and rich species of birds and for me, bird watching is more about enjoying the beauty of the birds than anything else!

As an online bird listing portal available across the globe, eBird is a repository of publicly available information on the distribution and abundance of birds worldwide. Until late 2013, eBird in India was used mostly by tourists and birders visiting from other countries. From December 2013, this has changed and now the vast majority of contributors to eBird from India are Indian birders.

If you aren’t yet on eBird, do give it a try! You can maintain your birding lists and total species seen, and can download your data for your records. Better still, you can explore the entire dataset of 200 million records worldwide, to look at a map of House Crow distribution, for example, or to investigate the seasonality of birds in Kerala, or to see the latest sightings from Uttarakhand.

eBird is easy to use, and also has an accompanying family of smartphone apps to make bird listing more convenient. Take a look at the beginner’s guide we have put together, and then take part in the Bird Count India consortium‘s monthly eBirding challenges. The whole idea is to have fun birding, and at the same time contribute to a better understanding of the distribution and abundance of India’s birds.

See you on eBird!


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Seasonality in birding!

Calling birders to help fill seasonal gaps in bird information across the country


We all know that some birds show distinct seasonality. In India, the vast majority of long-distance migrants arrive in the build-up to the winter, and leave as the days get hotter in March/April.We birders also appear to show a fair amount is seasonality in our behaviour. We are hesitant to unpack our binoculars and cameras to traipse around under the blazing sun, or in torrents of rain. But as the days get cooler and (more importantly perhaps) as migrants begin to fill our wetlands, forests and other habitats, we alter our time-activity budgets. More weekends are devoted to birding than before, perhaps some weekdays thrown in as well. Longer trips are planned to exotic places. Birders from other countries visit our national parks and sanctuaries. Many photos are posted, lists uploaded.As the migrants start returning to their summer homes, so do we return to non-birding parts of our lives. Fewer birders out and about means fewer lists and photos, and less information about birds from that part of the year.For tracking and monitoring our birds, however, information is needed from all across the country and from all different times of the year. The maps on the right show areas of the country that have at least one complete eBird list (coloured in grey); and this is separated into two-month intervals.

As you can see, the best coverage is in Jan-Feb, when birding excitement is high, and there are a large number of visiting birders too. (Which is not the mean the coverage is in any way complete — there are large gaps in the country even in these months; and remember that a single list — inadequate as it is — will colour a square grey!)

Other months have relatively poor coverage in comparison, and your help is needed to remedy this!

If you have a chance to go out birding in a place that has no lists at a particular time of the year, whether you live there or are visiting, please make sure you note all the species you see (preferably splitting your lists by location, and into short time intervals), and upload the lists to eBird.

You’ll have the satisfaction of playing your part in filling an important gap in information on Indian birds.

Do leave a note in the comments below or on Facebook if you plan to bird in a blank region!

Note: the maps to the right were generated in the first week of September 2014. To see the current situation, click on one of the maps.


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August eBirders of the month

challenge-logoThe eBirding challenge for August 2014 was a repetition of that for April: upload at least 20 complete listsicon_tooltip during the course of the month. In April, 17 birders met the target. In August, the number of birders meeting the same target was 23.

In all, 182 birders uploaded 1,819 lists of all types in August, together accounting for 28,131 records. These numbers are the highest since February! (In that month, the numbers were all very high because of the Great Backyard Bird Count, Kerala CBMP, Big Bird Day, and Bangalore Bird Count.)

The 23 eBirders of the month for August are:

Abha Manohark
Abhijith surendran
Able Lawrence
Aidan & Savio Fonseca
Arjun R
Arya Vinod
Bala S.
Bela Arora
Castro Karthi
Chithrabhanu Pakaravoor
Dhanesh A
Ganeshwar S V
Hari Kumar
Kiran More
Manju Sinha
Panchapakesan Jeganathan
Shivaprakash Adavanne
Shivashankar Manjunatha
Sreekumar E R
Suhel Quader
Sumesh  b
Syamili Manoj
Vivek Puliyeri

Many congratulations to all of them!

One of these 23 was chosen using a computer-generated random number to receive a small gift, and that person is

Syamili Manoj

who receives a copy of Bird Sense: What it’s Like to be a Bird by Tim Birkhead. (You can read a review here, and there is a website devoted to the book too.)

Here is the full list of contributors from August 2014:

abha manohark, abhijeet  avate, abhijith a.p.c, Abhijith surendran, Able Lawrence,  Aidan & Savio Fonseca, Ajit A, Ameya Deshpande, Amith Kumar, Anand Radhakrishnan, anant pande, Aneesh Sasidevan, Anil  Mahajan, Anish Aravind, Anjali J, anshuman sarkar, Anvith KS, Arjun Guneratne, Arjun R, arun  lal, Arya Vinod, Ashritha Anoop, Ashutosh Singh, Bala S., Bela Arora, Bhagyashree Ingle, Bhakti Salgaonkar, Bhalchandra Pujari, Bird Sonic, Castro Karthi, chithrabhanu pakaravoor, Chris Bowden, Conrad Pinto, Delson Roche, Devika Sanghamithra, dhanesh  a, Dilip Polpakkara, dineshbharath kv, Dipu Karuthedathu, Dr George P J, Dr. Utkarsh Betodkar, Emanuel george , Erle Brito, Eveny Luis, Ganeshwar  S V, Garima Bhatia, G Parameswaran, Hanuman Gawas, hari kumar, HARSHADA GAUNS, harsha nr, James Williams, Karthikeyan Sivagnanam, Kiran bagade, kiran mohan, kiran more, Krishnadas Mallya, Krishna Girish, Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi, Kyle Elliott, madhushri mudke, Mandar  Bhagat, Manish  Kumar, Manju Sinha, Mike Prince, Milan Sojitra, Mohith Shenoy, Monica Kaushik, Mrinmayee Thakur, Nandkishor Dudhe, nilanjan chatterjee, Nisha M, nithin mohan, Omkar Dharwadkar, omkar naik, Panchapakesan Jeganathan, pankaj misra, Patrick David, Patrick Wheeler, Prafulla  Sawarkar, Prakash G, Prasanna Parab, Praveen J, Premchand Reghuvaran, Pronoy Baidya, Prosanta Mukherjee, Rahul Matmari, RAINOLD LAZAR, Raja Simma Pandiyan, Rajesh Balakrishnan, rajesh nayak, Rajgopal Patil, Rajiv D’Silva, RAJU MENON, Raman Kumar, Ranjith Tn, raphy kallettumkara, Raviprakash KB, renju tr, RESHMA  BHAT, Ridhima Solanki, Rohan Bhagat, Rohan Chakravarty, Rohit Chakravarty, Ronit Dutta, RSS Moorthy, Rudraksha Chodankar, Sagar Adhurya, sahana m, Sam Bhagat, Saneesh  C S, Sanjay Thakur, sarayu ramakrishnan, Shariq Khan, Shashank Birla, SHESHGIRI BAGDE, Shivaprakash Adavanne, Shivashankar Manjunatha, Shubhadeep  Mukherjee, Shwetha Bharathi, Sidharth  R Prakash, Sita Rama Raju, Sivakumar SS, Sivaprasad R, Sivashankar Ramachandran, skanda sn, Soni Nambiar, Soumya Aon, Soumya George, Soumya Prasad, Sreekumar E R, Sreekumar PK, Srikanth Bhat, Sritha A G, sugadev sugathan, Suhel Quader, Sumesh  b, SYAMILI MANOJ, Taksh Sangwan, TheNatureTrust (GroupAccount), Thomas Job, Thorkild Michaelsen, TKS Thathachari, Utkarsha A Singh, vaisakh george, vedant kumbhar, Vignesh Menon, Vijayalakshmi Rao, Vinaya Kumar Thimmappa, Viola Rodrigues, vishnudas ck, Vishwanath Bhagwat, Vivek M, Vivek Puliyeri, Yagnesh Desai, Yogesh Malkhare, Yogesh Parashar.

Now on to the eBirding Challenge for September!

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Sept 2014 eBirding Challenge: as many lists as possible!

challenge-logoWe hope that you are all uploading your August lists to eBird towards the August challenge — there is time until 5th Sept to do so. In the meantime, here is the challenge for September: upload as many lists as you possibly can!

Until now, we have had certain fixed targets for each monthly challenge. For example, the August challenge was to upload 20 complete lists and the July challenge was to upload lists totalling at least ten hours of birding. But this month, the sky is the limit — the more lists you can upload the better.

As earlier, each list should be an effort-based, complete listicon_tooltip of at least 15 min duration. There is no target, the more such lists you can upload the better.

Instead of listing only those names who have met a monthly target, we will display names of all those who have uploaded at least five effort-based, complete lists of at least 15 min duration. But we will do it as a wordcloud (see wikipedia), so that those birders with the highest number of lists will stand out!

What about the monthly gift, you ask? Well, instead of putting all names in a pool and choosing one name at random, we will be putting all eligible lists (effort-based, complete, 15min or longer) in a pool, and will choose one list at random to find the recipient for September. This means that the more lists you have contributed to the pool, the more likely you will be to get an interesting book about birds. (We hope this is clear — if not, please do ask in the comments section below.)

Between March and August, the average number of effort-based, complete lists of 15 min or longer submitted to eBird from India has been just over 1,000 per month. Here’s looking forward to a large increase in this number as the winter migration seasons hots up!

Please upload all your September lists by 5 October so that we can announce the results on 6 October.

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.

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