“Your Emperor Penguin observation in eBird…”

The eBird Data Quality and Review Process

Summary (tl;dr)

As eBird data is made publicly available for use in research and conservation it is important to ensure data accuracy as far as possible. To accomplish this, eBird uses a review process comprising primarily of manually curated data filters and a network of reviewers communicating with observers by email. If a record uploaded by an observer is flagged as unusual or significant by the regional data filter, the observer is prompted to add more information and a regional reviewer will follow up. If the added information is sufficient, the reviewer does not need to contact the observer; else the observer will receive an email from the reviewer, requesting more information.

When an eBird user receives an email about one of their observations, it means that there is potentially something significant about it: for example, it could be a rare species, a species outside of its normal range, an unusually early or late date for a migrant; or, in a few cases, it could be an error, either because of data entry or misidentification. Regardless of the reason, following up on these observations increases our collective knowledge about birds in India, and improves our birding knowledge and skills.

Based on the documentation accompanying the observation, a reviewer will categorise it as confirmed or unconfirmed.

A confirmed record is one with sufficient documented to be made available for public use.

An unconfirmed record has insufficient supporting documentation to confirm it “beyond reasonable doubt”. This does not mean that the observation or ID is incorrect — it is an evaluation of the documentation, not the identity of the species.

The only implication of records being unconfirmed are that they are excluded from public output, such as the eBird species maps and other reports, plus the full dataset available for download. They remain, however, on the checklists of the original observers and are included in their personal lists and reports. And, if new information comes to light, it’s quite possible for a previous unconfirmed record to be marked as confirmed.

We are extremely grateful for the efforts put in by eBird reviewers and users, which together contribute to building a valuable, comprehensive and authoritative resource for information about the status of birds in India.

The rest of this article describes in detail how the review process works.

“Your Emperor Penguin observation in eBird”

Many of you will have received emails like this (admittedly probably not for this species though!) This article is to explain why you receive these, and why you should be pleased when you get one!

Read on, or click on a heading below to jump directly to the section.

Importance of eBird Data Quality

eBird data is made publicly available and is used heavily around the world by the research and conservation communities. This data is used for various purposes, including the designation of new Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) and Ramsar sites, contributing to Environmental Impact Assessments (EIA) for development projects, as well as many local habitat protection projects. As observers we should try to ensure the highest possible level of data quality so as not to jeopardise such initiatives; in effect, our aim is that any user of eBird data should be able to trust any record that they view.

eBird Data in India

Despite a long history of ornithology in India, it is surprising how little we know about even some of our common birds.

When do Blyth’s Reed Warblers arrive in the autumn?

How many Garganeys are normal in November?

Are Little Swift numbers similar year-round or do some migrate?

What are the year-to-year changes in the bird life in my region?

How has the abundance of Indian Rollers been changing over time?

Field guides in India provide maps for distribution, with some notes about seasonality and status. However, these have often been based on the author’s opinion, or historical records, and include some level of guesswork. In some cases, the large number of observations in eBird can already tell us better information: for example, compare the distributions of Black-headed Ibis and Black-breasted Weaver from various field guides with the eBird maps.

Black-headed Ibis Distribution

Black-headed Ibis distribution
(left to right: Rasmussen and Anderton; Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp; eBird)
Note that while one field guide includes a contiguous north-south range in western India, and one shows presence, in the east and north-east, only the eBird map confirms both of these

Black-breasted Weaver Distribution

Black-breasted Weaver distribution
(left to right: Rasmussen and Anderton; Grimmett, Inskipp and Inskipp; eBird)
Note especially the presence in the south and centre as depicted by eBird but neither field guide

How can we have confidence that the eBird maps are more accurate?

Data Errors

As with any large-scale citizen-science project, there is always the possibility that erroneous data will be entered. With eBird this could be for many different reasons, aside from actual misidentifications, a few of which are listed below:

  • simple typing errors, e.g. entering 100 instead of 10
  • selecting the wrong species by being confused with names; e.g. Common Cuckoo instead of Asian Koel

    asian koel

    Asian Koel – a common cuckoo, but not a Common Cuckoo!
    © Savio Fonseca

  • personally knowing birds by different names to the standard names used in eBird, and therefore not finding the species you were expecting and selecting another that seems correct; e.g. looking for Common Goldenback and using Common Flameback instead when Black-rumped Flameback is actually the required species
  • selecting an unintended species when using eBird short codes; e.g. Grey Wagtail instead of Greenish Warbler (both of which use the same eBird short code of ‘GRWA’)
  • having eBird preferences not set to English (India) and therefore showing international names instead of familiar Indian ones, and consequently selecting the wrong species; e.g. Plain Martin instead of Grey-throated Martin
  • selecting the wrong species when using the eBird mobile app, due to the difficulty of being precise, especially for those with large fingers!
  • actually seeing an unusual species, but having doubts because it is not on the checklist and selecting another one that is (instead of using “Add Species” to select from all other possibilities)
  • inadvertently entering incorrect dates, times, or using the incorrect eBird protocol
  • entering a complete species list when it is meant to be incomplete
  • combining lists from multiple different locations into a single list, which can lead to misleading analysis with species plotted at the wrong map locations for example

These errors can easily result in observations being submitted to eBird that seem to be of birds that are very rare, are out of their normal range, are early or late compared to their expected migration dates, or are seen in much larger numbers than expected. Of course, rare birds do turn up, birds do appear in unexpected places or unseasonal times, or in unusually high numbers. So how do we distinguish the errors from the unusual?

In order to distinguish potentially significant records, and ensure they are supported by adequate documentation, from potential errors, eBird uses a review process.

eBird Review Process

To ensure a high degree of data quality, eBird employs two main methods of “review”:

  • Data filters – these are manually curated, and thereafter, automatically check for an observation against predefined thresholds for the species, indicating whether it is potentially significant for the location, date and count recorded
  • Manual review, in collaboration with the observer and a network of eBird reviewers, to gain more information to help confirm the sighting

Every single observation entered in eBird, regardless of who submits it, goes through the same verification process.

The result of this process is that every observation is either Confirmed or Unconfirmed.

A confirmed record is one that is sufficiently documented to be made available for public use. This means that the record will be included in all eBird maps, seasonality charts and other reports, plus available in the complete datasets that are downloadable for further use by anyone. This will include records that are “regular”, and not flagged by the data filters, as well as ones that were flagged and have been marked as confirmed based on subsequent review communication between an eBird reviewer and the original observer.

An unconfirmed record is one that is insufficiently documented to be made available for public use. Note that this does not necessarily mean that there is anything wrong with the record, but purely means that the details supporting the observation are insufficient to confirm it “beyond reasonable doubt”, and therefore it should not be put on public record to be used for further research or conservation purposes. This will include records that were flagged by the data filter and are still insufficiently documented in eBird after any communication between the reviewers and observers. It also includes records that are imprecisely located – there may be no doubt about the observation itself, but if the location covered a large geographical area (eg a District) then the record could not be plotted on a map with sufficient accuracy. Although unconfirmed records do not appear in eBird maps and reports, or the publicly available dataset, they still remain in all the observer’s records and lists: there is actually no difference between a confirmed and unconfirmed record for the observer personally. In addition, the status of a record can change from unconfirmed to confirmed if additional evidence comes to light.

As mentioned above, because eBird data is increasingly being used for science and conservation, we have an obligation to try to ensure accurate data. The process for review is intentionally cautious, which means that reviewers are asked to be more worried about possible false positives (confirming a record which is possibly incorrect) than possible false negatives (leaving a correct record unconfirmed). This ensures that publicly available data, such as the species maps, can largely be trusted. Confirmed records should stand the test of time, so a user in future years can have confidence in the data.


The base for the review process are eBird filters. A filter defines:

  1. The list of species options displayed when you enter a list in eBird, using the website or the app
  2. Which records are considered potentially unusual and therefore flagged for manual review

A filter is defined for a geographical area. Across much of India these are at state level, but in more popular areas, and places where our understanding of species status is better, they are defined for smaller and more precise areas.

Each filter enables automated detection of records that potentially involve:

  • species that are not known to occur in the area
  • unusually high counts of species that do occur in the area
  • rare species, or species of conservation importance
  • species that appear during seasons when they are not expected
  • an unusual species that can be easily confused with a common species

Each filter defines, for each species, an “expected” total count threshold for a birding session at a location within the filter’s area on a given date. Any record that exceeds the expected total will be flagged for manual review.

If the total on the filter is zero, then the species is considered “Rare” (better thought of as “noteworthy”) and will only be shown on the data entry checklist if “Show rare species” is checked.

The diagram below shows how a filter has been set for Northern Pintail. Expected totals peak in mid-winter and decline gradually through March to May, with none expected (“Rare”) until September, when numbers increase through the autumn. As an example, an observation of 250 Pintails on 10 March would be automatically confirmed, but the same number on 20 March would be flagged for manual review, and any over-summering Pintail would also be flagged.

pintail filter

Filter definition for Northern Pintail (from a region in north India)

When you submit a checklist on eBird the filter processes your observations and, for any species that are either not present on the filter or exceed the filter thresholds, and are therefore considered noteworthy, you are prompted to add some documentation.

rare species example

An observation that has exceeded the filter threshold

The message given will say whether the species is considered rare for the date or location, or is an unusually high count. If you see this prompt, please double-check that you are entering the correct species, and then add any supporting details you can, e.g. circumstances of the observation, how you identified the species and distinguished it from other similar species, how you counted or estimated. (Read more about how to write an account for a rare sighting.) Your observation will then be considered unconfirmed pending a manual review by eBird reviewers, and will not show in any public output until this review is done.

Often it is not easy to add extra details at the time, e.g. if you are using the eBird mobile app and it is inconvenient to write much, or if you have photos that you haven’t yet processed. You can certainly add a note to say something like “Details/Photos to be added later” (or even “tbc” if you want to keep it quick), but please do indeed follow-up later!

Filters are set by volunteer eBird editors who have a good understanding of species status within their regions. They are adjusted regularly based on analysis of eBird records: for example, if there were several flagged records of Pintails in late March that were considered confirmed through manual review, the editor might decide to extend the period where 200 is the threshold to the end of the month, or increase the threshold to 300 say, or even make both changes.

One difficulty with setting filters is when the geographical area covers a wide variety of habitats, potentially across large distances. For example, setting a filter for Bar-tailed Godwit ideally requires very different thresholds for the coast compared to inland. Whilst separate filters can be created this requires considerably more effort to maintain, so often a compromise is required: the filter could be set with inland thresholds which would result in several coastal records being flagged, and more work in manual review, but would avoid notable records being undetected.

The large area covered by a filter is the explanation for one of the most common questions from eBirders, i.e. “why has my record of <species> been flagged as it is not rare here?” The answer is that it may well not be rare in the precise site where the observer was birding, but it is not uniformly common across the entire area that the filter covers. With the Bar-tailed Godwit example, the filter editor may well set the filter to zero, so that every inland record would be flagged and there would be no risk at all of erroneous/noteworthy records getting automatically validated. The downside of this is that a birder on the coast, seeing Bar-tailed Godwit regularly, will get every record flagged (and hence will be prompted to add additional details each time). You can just enter a brief comment such as “Common here” each time and, once the reviewer is aware of this, they will be able to validate further sightings without the need to contact you.

At the time of writing India has nearly 70 separate filters, and this will increase as eBird usage increases, and consequently our detailed knowledge of species status regionally.

Manual Review

Review of flagged records is handled by a network of volunteer eBird reviewers, who are eBird users themselves, and have good knowledge of birds within the regions they are set up to review. All areas in India have multiple reviewers assigned, so don’t be surprised to find yourself communicating with different people from time to time.

Reviewers investigate all flagged records, based on the notes provided by the observer, checking eBird species maps and seasonality charts, referring to field guides and other literature, conferring with other reviewers and knowledgeable birders etc., in order to try to determine whether the observation is sufficiently documented to be used as a public record. Often they will confirm a record fairly easily; based on the examples above, a coastal Bar-tailed Godwit, or a Pintail flock just exceeding the threshold, might be marked as confirmed from this information. In many cases though they will request further information, and will do this by emailing the original observers.

eBird Review Email

eBird Review Email

Reviewers often have a large number of records to process, so a standard email is used to save time, however they do usually add a specific comment giving more reasons why your particular observation is significant. Obviously it could be a rare species, but it might be that it is an unusually high count, or an extra early or late record of a migrant. In some circumstances you might not consider the record to be particularly significant yourself – maybe you regularly see the particular species at this location, or the sort of numbers you have reported. In cases like this it is still noteworthy as it means overall we didn’t know that the record was quite regular, and your reporting it has helped fill a gap in our collective knowledge. Over time, with a few such regular records, the eBird editors will change the filter thresholds defined for the region so that our knowledge is updated, and similar records reported in the future will no longer be flagged.

Note that a record flagged for manual review, but not yet investigated by a reviewer, will also be treated as Unconfirmed, and hence not appear on maps. In some regions of India, particularly where lots of historical records have been uploaded, it may take some time for reviewers to get around to processing all flagged records.

How to Deal with an Email Query

Reviewers cannot themselves change, edit, or delete records. Therefore observations that have an email request sent for details will remain unconfirmed until you yourself amend the observation on your eBird checklist and the reviewer revisits it.

When you receive an email from a reviewer, firstly please realise that it is because there might be something significant about your record, and information is being requested in order to confirm it for it to be made available for public use. Typically, you then have the following options:

  1. You can ignore the email – this is actually fine (although an email response is preferred even if it just says that you can’t remember, have no details to add, or don’t have time to address it). The only implication of this is that the observation will remain unconfirmed and won’t be on public record, so will not be used for any research or analysis. It will always remain in your personal account, and appear on your checklists, unless you change it.
  2. You can change the eBird record yourself – this could be adding details, such as the circumstances, a description of the bird, photo, details of how you counted; or it could be the removal of the species if you decide it may not have been correct, with maybe the addition of the correct species, or an appropriate spuh or slash. Note that photos are helpful but certainly not mandatory – an account of the sighting always adds context even where photos are available, and good field notes are often sufficient. Please also reply to the original email, so that the reviewer knows you have made a change and can check the additional details.

If you are unsure, e.g. of the identification, do discuss with the reviewer, who may also consult with other people depending on the expertise required, and hopefully will be able to help reach a conclusion. Please do ensure that you also update the eBird record, so that details are not just kept in the email correspondence and are instead visible to anyone using eBird data in the future.

eBird is used by all levels of birdwatchers from complete beginner to experienced ornithologist, from those who watch birds only in their garden to those who have travelled the world. As far as possible though, reviewers are asked to assess records objectively based on the details given in eBird, or subsequent correspondence with the observer. Those who provide clear and detailed accounts, and respond promptly, will inevitably gain a reputation as scrupulous eBirders who appreciate the importance of data quality and review. Those who enter little detail (e.g. comments such as “seen well”, “heard calling”, “confirmed”, “possibly more”, “ID confirmed by experts”) or do not respond to queries, are likely to find that more of their records remain unconfirmed.

Reviewers certainly find that being involved in the process helps them improve their own skills in bird identification and knowledge of species status, and do their best to build good relationships with observers, helping them improve their birding and eBirding skills as well.

Sometimes, it will happen that you are convinced that your observation was correct, but the reviewer feels that the documentation available (field notes, photos etc.) is insufficient for an unusual sighting to be used publicly. To ensure accuracy of data, reviews are asked to err on the cautious side; do remember that anything you submit will still remain in your personal account and appear on your checklists, whether confirmed or unconfirmed. We recognise that this can be frustrating if you have a correctly-identified bird excluded from public use, but we hope that the wider research and conservation goals are understood and appreciated by all. Being questioned about a record is not personal – it is simply a request for more information so that your record will stand the test of time. It is almost certain that all eBirders, including those with many years of birding experienced, will have some observations that remain unconfirmed.

Re-Review and Ad-hoc Review

One great advantage of a dynamic and up to date database such as eBird, when compared with a book or other publication, is that it is easy to revisit assessments in the future. Further records of a species in an area may provide more evidence of a pattern that could make it possible to confirm earlier unconfirmed records. As an example, because reviewers err on the side of caution, extremely early or late migrant records that may well be correct, are often left unconfirmed because they have insufficient supporting documentation. Over time, with more data coming in to eBird, we may see more “extreme” dates for these migrants, including some with sufficient documentation. Reviewers can then reassess earlier records based on this updated knowledge.

One of the most difficult areas of review is for species that are genuinely difficult to identify, often not adequately covered in field guides, and particularly where the level of detail required to confirm observations beyond reasonable doubt is almost impossible to achieve with normal field views and even photographs. Well-known examples include distinguishing between female Common and Rain Quails, Sand Martin and Pale Martins, Hume’s and Lesser Whitethroats: if records are flagged because of the filter settings, it is unlikely that the details that the observer could add can really be sufficient to confirm them satisfactorily. In these cases, reviewers may confirm more borderline cases, so that records are publicly available for any person worldwide to investigate in more detail, hopefully furthering our overall knowledge. Similarly, a reviewer, having researched themselves (and feeling up to the challenge!), may undertake an ad-hoc review of a single species, or group of species, potentially country-wide. This means that observers may get contacted about sightings that were not flagged originally, and potentially a long time after the actual sighting – please do your best to help out the reviewer with any requested information, and hence help further our collective knowledge.

Dealing with Errors

Despite the various effort described so far, some errors will inevitably go undetected. For example, in areas where in-depth knowledge of species status is lacking, maybe a filter threshold is set higher than it should be, resulting in records not getting flagged and hence not seen by a reviewer. Also, filters cannot detect all possible error cases, such as when two very similar species are regular in the region, and could easily be misidentified – Little and Indian Cormorants, Montagu’s and Pallid Harriers, Golden-fronted and Jerdon’s Leafbirds, Booted and Sykes’s Warblers, are all good examples.

out of range

Species map highlighting a potential error with an out of range record in central India

Because of this, eBird editors also use the tools provided by eBird to detect these for further investigation. The bar charts are great for highlighting potentially out-of-season records, the species maps for out of range species, and the photo and sound search for misidentified ones. These tools are available to everyone, so if you think you have spotted an error that a reviewer should check, please contact us with details. (In time, eBird will introduce better functionality to enable you to report potential errors directly.)


Congratulations if you have managed to get this far! We hope this article has given you a good understanding of the importance of the review process, and the practicalities. If you have any unanswered questions, then please contact us and we will update this article accordingly.

In less than three years since the launch of eBird India all of us collectively have built up an incredible database of over four million observations, which should prove invaluable in improving our knowledge of India’s birds, and helping initiatives to protect them and their habitats. We are very grateful for the dedication and hard work put in by the team of eBird editors in order to make this such an authoritative resource, but of course none of this would be possible without the efforts of all you eBirders in India. Many thanks to each of you, and do keep eBirding!

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Filed under Bird Count India

Cormorants Clarified

Ever seen a V-shaped flock of black birds flying purposefully in the sky near a water body? Or a black bird sitting still with its wings spread out in a small village pond? Or a bird’s head sticking out of the water at a lake or pond? Did you notice any large colonies of black birds nesting on tall trees by a wetland? These were all probably cormorants!

From L to R: Little Cormorant, Great Cormorant (with wings open), Indian Cormorant. Little Cormorant is the smallest of the three cormorants while Great Cormorant is the largest. © Albin Jacob (See in checklist

From L to R: Little Cormorant, Great Cormorant (with wings open), Indian Cormorant.
© Albin Jacob (See in checklist)

A Great Cormorant © Pramod Dhal ( See in checklist

An adult Great Cormorant in non-breeding plumage
© Pramod Dhal (See in checklist)

There are three species of Cormorants regularly found in India. All three are widespread, with a largely overlapping preference in habitat and are often mistaken for each other. This article takes a step by step approach on distinguishing between the Little Cormorant Microcarbo niger, the Indian Cormorant Phalacrocorax fuscicollis (also known as Indian Shag) and the Great Cormorant Phalacrocorax carbo

Head and bill: Shape and colours

Shape of head

Little Cormorant: The Little Cormorant has a small head which can appear rectangular due to the steep forehead. The bill is short.

Indian Cormorant: The Indian Cormorant has an elongated, oval-shaped head with a long, narrow and finer bill than the other two cormorants.

Great Cormorant: The Great Cormorant has a large head (and a much thicker neck than the other two cormorants) with a long but thicker and larger bill.

(From L to R) All in non-breeding plumage: Little Cormorant © Arindam Saha, Indian Cormorant © Praveen J, Great Cormorant © Albin Jacob

(From L to R) All in non-breeding plumage: Little Cormorant © Arindam Saha, Indian Cormorant © Praveen J, Great Cormorant © Albin Jacob

Colours on head

Little Cormorant: The breeding adult appears all black on the head, whereas a non-breeding adult has browner pouch and bill with some white on the chin. 

Indian Cormorant: The breeding adult appears glossy black with greenish-blue eyes and a white tuft on the ear-coverts. The non-breeding adult is browner with a yellowish gular pouch and white on throat.

Great Cormorant: The breeding adult has extensive white on head with a red spot at the base of the bill. The non-breeding adult has a yellow gular patch with white throat and cheeks.

Note: In breeding plumage, the Great Cormorant also has a white spot on the lower flanks.

(From L to R) All in breeding plumage: Little Cormorant © Albin Jacob, Indian Cormorant © Sanjay Malik, Great Cormorant © Shwetha Bharathi

(From L to R) All in breeding plumage: Little Cormorant © Albin Jacob, Indian Cormorant © Sanjay Malik, Great Cormorant © Shwetha Bharathi

Shape when perched

Little Cormorant: Smaller than the Indian Cormorant and appears stockier/more compact in built. The neck is short but the tail is proportionally the longest of the three cormorants.

Indian Cormorant: Most slender-looking of the three cormorants. Smaller than the Great Cormorant, with slimmer and longer neck and relatively long tail. 

Great Cormorant: The largest of the three cormorants, with a thick neck, large head and stocky appearance. The heavy beak and the short tail are quite apparent when it is perched as well.

(From L to R) Little Cormorant © Shreyan M L, Indian Cormorant © Hari Kumar, Great Cormorant © Harshith JV

(From L to R) Little Cormorant (non-breeding adult) © Shreyan M L, Indian Cormorant (immature) © Hari Kumar, Great Cormorant (non-breeding adult)© Harshith JV

Shape in flight

Cormorants are often seen moving around between waterbodies and are frequently encountered in unlikely habitats as they fly over. Cormorants can easily be told apart from other groups/species in flight but they are often the most difficult to ID to species in flight.

Little Cormorant: In flight, note the small size but proportionately long tail and short, thick neck, and the fastest wingbeats.

Indian Cormorant: May appear as big as a Great Cormorant or as small as a Little Cormorant, but is the most slender of the two with a long, thin neck and long tail.

Great Cormorant: This species appears quite large in flight with thick neck, short tail, heavy body and broad wings, with the slowest wingbeats.

(From L to R) Little Cormorant © Albin Jacob, Indian Cormorant © Albin Jacob, Great Cormorant © Albin Jacob

(From L to R) Little Cormorant (non-breeding adult) © Albin Jacob, Indian Cormorant (breeding adult) © Albin Jacob, Great Cormorant (immature) © Albin Jacob

Note: Although not always true, the following formula may be a quick way to ID the species when seen from directly below/sideways:

a. If the bird appears large; neck and tail appear short and the body is bulky, then the cormorant is likely to be a Great Cormorant.

b. If the neck is as long as, or shorter than the tail; and both neck and tail are almost as long as the body, then the cormorant is likely to be a Little Cormorant.

c. If the neck appears longer than the tail but the bird retains an overall slender look, then it is likely to be an Indian Cormorant.

Juvenile/Immature Plumage

Little Cormorant: Juveniles/immatures of the Little Cormorant have brown underparts with some pale mottling.

Indian Cormorant: Indian Cormorant juveniles and immatures have a paler breast and lower belly.

Great Cormorant: Juvenile/immature Great Cormorants are very distinctive with all-white underparts from throat down to the base of tail.

(From L to R) Little Cormorant (immature) © Rama Neelamegam, Indian Cormorant (immature) © Dr George P J, Great Cormorant (immature) © Vaidehi Gunjal

(From L to R) Little Cormorant © Rama Neelamegam, Indian Cormorant © Dr George P J, Great Cormorant © Vaidehi Gunjal


All the three species are associated with wetlands and waterbodies across India.

The Little Cormorant may be found in small village ponds, garden ponds as well as large freshwater bodies such as rivers and lakes and even estuaries.

Cormorants in a large lake amongst other wetland species

Cormorants in a large lake amongst other wetland species
© Nate Swick (See in checklist)

The Indian Cormorant is a bird of larger freshwater wetlands and seems to do quite well even along mangroves and estuaries.

The Great Cormorant is usually partial towards larger wetland systems and waterbodies, and seems to be largely absent from parts of the western coast. 


Little Cormorants are generally not as gregarious as Indian and Great Cormorants. While Little Cormorants may usually be seen feeding singly or in small groups, larger congregations and loose flocks are also seen in bigger waterbodies.

Great Cormorants at roost

Great Cormorants at roost
© Sourav Maiti (See in checklist)

Both Indian and Great Cormorants tend to be quite gregarious. Great Cormorants form communal roosts even outside the breeding seasons and large numbers may be seen adorning tall trees around big lakes and rivers. They usually move and swim together as well.

Indian Cormorants are known to fish cooperatively – where a number of them gather in a big waterbody and round up fish and other prey items to eat.

A flock of Indian Cormorants fishing together
© Sivashankar Ramachandran (See in checklist)

Table: A quick glance at the differences

Little Cormorant Indian Cormorant Great Cormorant
Head Small with rectangular forehead Oval-shaped head Large and angular head
Beak Small Long and narrow Large and thick
Breeding plumage All dark All dark with white ear tufts Extensive white on head, flanks
Structure Compact with long tail, thick neck Slender with long tail and thin neck Heavily built with short tail and thick neck
In Flight Tail longer than or same as neck; compact Neck longer than or same as tail; slender Large with short tail and neck; broad wings
Juvenile/immatures Pale mottling on underparts Pale from breast down to belly White on breast down till vent


Filed under Species Information

Sept 2016 eBirders of the month

ebirding-challenge-logo-800px-281x300Our apologies for being a day late with announcing the September eBirders of the month — we’ve been caught up in the excitement of launching the Patch Birding Challenge and the eBird-India Data Challenge — do take a look if you haven’t already! While you are clicking about, do also check out What’s on in October in terms of birding and eBirding.

But for now, let’s look at the break-up of eBirding in India in September (with previous month in brackets).

Number of birders: 779 (709)
Number of lists (all types): 8,303 (9,562)
Number of lists (complete, 15min or longer): 7,187 (8,525)
Number of observations: 1.33 lakh (1.48 lakh)

The challenge for September was to upload at least 6 eligible lists per week to eBird, with eligible lists being defined as no-X, complete birdlists of 15-minute duration or longer. Of the 779 eBirders in September, 19 met or exceeded the target for the month. They are (as always, excluding group accounts):

Ajay Gadikar
Ajinkya Supekar
Ashwin Viswanathan
Avishkar Munje
Govind Girija
Hari Kumar
Jayadev Menon
Lakshmikant Neve
Lekshmi M K
Manju Sinha
Namassivayan Lakshmanan
Panchapakesan Jeganathan
Prashanth N S
Ramit Singal
Sasidharan Manekkara
Shanmugam Kalidass
Subbu Subramanya
Vidhya Sundar
Vinay Nadig

Many congratulations to all of them!

One person from these 19 was chosen using a computer-generated random number to receive a small gift. That person is

Avishkar Munje

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.)

Small Pratincole, from this checklist by Pankaj Gupta.

Here is the full list of all 779 eBirders from India in September 2016:

Aadil Shamsi, Aarav Sheth, Abdul Raheem Munderi, abha manohark, Abhijeet Avate, Abhijith AV, Abhijith surendran, Abhimanyu Lele, Abhinand C, Abhinav R, Abhirami C, Abhiram Sankar, Abhishek Bhargava, abhishek gopal, Abhishek Gulshan, Abhishek Jamalabad, Abhishek Maiya, abhishek ravindra, Abinesan S, Able Lawrence, Adesh Shivkar, Adithya Bhat, Aditya Banerjee, Aditya Chanekar, Afshan Husain, Aidan Fonseca, Ajay Gadikar, Ajinkya Supekar, Ajinkya Vaskar, AJU RAJU, Akash Gulalia, akhil ashok, Akhilesh Bharos, akhil johny, AKSHAY LONARE, Akshay Mokal, Akshay Surendra, Albin Jacob, Amal U S, AM AMSA, Aman Gujar, Amarendra Konda, Amith Kumar, Amol Bapat, Amol Lopes, AMRITHA A NAIR, Amul Mutha, ANAND Osuri, Anand Pendharkar, Anand Sundaram, Aneesh Sasidevan, Anindya Naskar, Aniruddha Bade, Aniruddha Ghosh, Anish Aravind, Anish MC, Anish Mohan Thampi, Anjali Aggarwal, Anjali HR, anjana hari, ANJU S V, Ankit Choudhary , Ankur Shah, Anoop CR, Anoop King, Anoop palode SS, Ansar Khan, Anupam Sanker , Anup Chavda, Anup Prakash, Anuradha Krishnan, Anurag Chandak, Anurag Singh , anzal faham, Aparajita Datta, Aparna K, APARNA NEVE, Apeksha Darshetkar, APITHA NAMASSIVAYAN, Appavu Pavendhan, Apurva Chawre, Arabinda Pal, Aravind AM, Aravind Amirtharaj, Arjun Kannan, Arjun R, Arnab Pal, Arnav Anish, Arnold Goveas, Arshad Hussain, Arun Bhaskaran, Arun C.G, Arun Chungappally , Arun kumar, Arun Kumar Mathivaanan, arun lal, Arun M K Bharos, ARUN PRABHU, Arun Prasad, Arun Singh, Arya Vinod, Ashcharya Rishi, Ashin Rita TA, Ashish Babre, Ashish Bhatt, Ashish Jha, Ashis Kumar Pradhan, ashiya salim, Ash J, Ashlesha Pandit, Ashok Bhatt, Ashokkumar Mohanarangan, ashok raj v m, Ashritha Anoop, Ashwin Bhat, ashwin mohan, Ashwin Viswanathan, ASWATHY SASIDHARAN, Aswin Nisanth, ATANU MODAK, Avinash K Mon, Avishkar Munje, AWC Pathanamthitta, Ayan Khanra, Ayesha Sequeira, Ayush Ankit, Balaji P B, balakrishnan pakaravoor, Balasubramanian S, Balbir Arora, Balwant Negi, Bela Arora, Bhanu Prakash, Bhanu Sridharan, Bhaskar pandeti, Bhaskar Sati, Bhavesh Mengar, BIBIN PAUL, Bijoy Venugopal, bijumon ke, Biju PB, BIJU THENKUDI, Bimalnath Punnassery, BINU SREELAKAM, Bird Atlas Kannur (Group Account), Bird Atlas Palakkad (Group Account), Bird Atlas Thrissur (Group Account), Bird Snappers, Biswanath Mondal, Brett Shelton, Brihadeesh Santharam, Brodie Lewis, bulbul muruges, Calicut Bird Club, Chaatak Nature Conservation Society, Chagsaa odonjavkhlan, CHANDRA BHUSHAN, Chandra SG, charles naveen, Chayant Gonsalves, Cheran Jagadeesan, chetan harikishandas joshi, Chetna Sharma, Chirag Munje, Chiseena CT, chithrabhanu pakaravoor, Chris Bowden, Cinchona GHS(Group account), C K SMITHA, CLAREENA JOSE, CNS Nature, Colin Braganza, Cristeena TA Cristeena TA, Dakshina Sudhir, Damodaran Pallath, Danival santhosh, david stanton, Dayani Chakravarthy, Debashis Chowdhury, Deepa Chandran, Deepak Balasubramanian, Deepak Jois, Deepa Mohan, Deepanker Mukherji, Deepika Karanth, Deepthi Chimalakonda, denzil britto, Desmond Lobo, Devathi Parashuram, Devnath C, Devu Mohanebird, Dhananjai Mohan, Dhanesh Ayyappan, Dhaval Vargiya, dhiren malani, Dhruvam Desai, Dilan Mandanna, Dilip Joshi, Dilip K G, DINESH G K, Dinesh kumar, Dinesh Pundir, Dinesh Singal, Divin Murukesh, Divya L V, Divya Mudappa, Douglas Ball, Dr George P J, Dr. Jayant Wadatkar, Dr. Krishna kumar, Dr Sumit Chakrabarti, Edison Jose, EKM Bird Atlas(Group Account), Elias Rowther B., Elrika D’Souza, Emanuel george , Esha Munshi, Ezhupunna Birders (group account) , fermin jose, Gagan Mittal, Gaja mohanraj, Ganesh Datar, Ganesh Honwad , Ganesh R Mandavkar, Ganesh Subramaniam, Ganeshwar S V, Garima Bhatia, Gaurang Bagda, Gaurav Nalkur, Gaurav Shirodkar, Gautam Krishnan, GAYATHRI GK, Geeta Viswanathan, Geetha Venkataraman, Gijitha G, Gillian Wright, gireesan tu, Gireesh Pallikkara, Girish Jathar, GirishMohan P K, Gitanjali Katlam, gohil jayveersinh, gokul vadivel, Gopalakrishna R, Gopal bhagavatula, Gopal Bhaskaran, GOVIND GIRIJA, Gowthama Poludasu, Gowthami Gowda, G Parameswaran, Graham B Langley, greeshma paleeri, Grishma Jain, Guhan Sundar, Gurjeet Singh, Haarish Mohammed, HANNA THOMAS, hari b, Harikrishnan S, hari kumar, HARI MAVELIKARA, Harish Chandra, HARISH K, Harsha Jayaramaiah, Harshavardhan Jamakhandi, Harshith JV, Harshit Singh, Hemanth Byatroy, Hemant Khedkar, Hemant Kirola, Himadri Banerjee, Hiren Khambhayta, Humayun Taher, Hyderabad Birding Pals, Ikshan Ganpathi, Induchoodan A Sreedharan, Irshad Theba, Jadeswamy Madaiah, Jafer Palot, Jaichand Johnson, Jameela Parampatt, janani r, Janhavi Rajan, Janhvi Vyas, Jaswinder Waraich, Jayadev Menon, Jayan Thomas, Jaydev Mandal, Jayesh Ghanekar, Jeet Sheth, Jeyakumar Johnson, Jibin Abraham, jisha s, jishnu kizhakkillam, Jishnu R, jithesh pai, Job Joseph, Joby Joseph, jolly kv, JOSE RANI BABU, joshua Dsilva, joydip mukherjee, juee khopkar, JUGAL PATEL, Jyothish Nelson, Kaajal Dasgupta, Kadambari Devarajan, Kalyan Ramakrishna Chowdary Vundavalli, Kalyan Varma, Karthikeyan G B, Karthikeyan Ponnambalamoorthy, Karthik S, Karthik Teegalapalli, Kashyap R, Kausthubh K Nair, Kaustubh Rau, Kiran bagade, kiran more, Kiron Vijay, Kirubhanandhini V, Kishore Kumaran S, Kishore P, Kishore Raj, Kit Britten, Komal Agrawal, Krishna Bhavar, krishna kumar, Krishnamoorthy Muthirulan, Krishna Murthy, Krishnamurthy Vijaykumar, Krishnapriya Tamma, krishna ramanayak, Krupa Patil, K.Sravan Kumar, Kulbhushansingh Suryawanshi, Kumudwathi Vemanna, Kunan Naik, lakshmibharathi V, Lakshmikant Neve, Lakshminarasimha Ranganathan, Lawrence Mathappan, Laya Sriraam , Lekshmi L J Nair, Lekshmi M K , lingesh kalingarayar, Loukika Neve, Lovis Wittenberg , Madhura Niphadkar, Madhurima Das, madhushri mudke, Magesh Ram, Mahathi Narayanaswamy, Mahesh madhu, maithreyi m r, Malini Gupta, Mallika Rajasekaran, Mamta Megha, Mandar Bhagat, Mangesh Prabhulkar, Mangirish Dharwadkar, Manikandan V, manish kerkar, Manjula Ravi, Manju Sinha, manoj a, Manoj Karingamadathil, Marissa Menezes, MARUTHI PRASAD B P, Maulik Varu, MAXIM RODRIGUES K, M D Madhusudan, Md Shafi, Megha Chagtoo, meher preetham, Mike Prince, Mikma Tamang, Milan Sojitra, Milind Ganatra, mini v, Misha Bansal, misriya v.y, Mohak Katvi, mohammad sulaiman, mohammed hirash, Mohandas Giriyappa, Mohit Aggarwal, Mohith Shenoy, Mohit Mehta, Mohit Sahu, Monica Kaushik, Monika Gandhi, Mou Jana, mridul anand, MS Raghunath, mujeeb pm, Mukesh Sehgal, Mukundan Kizhakkemadham, MUNEER THOLPETTY, munish sawant, Murtuza Hussain Abrar, Muthukumaran Balasubramanian, Muthu Narayanan, M V BHAKTHA, NAFIA N S, Nagappan R, Nagendra Nayak, namassivayan lakshmanan, Nameer PO, Namrata Narkar , Nandini Rajamani , Nandita Pande, NARESH G, Naresh Vadrevu, naseer parayil, naturesociety kottayam, Naveenlal P, Neeraj Amarnani, Neha Waikar, Nelson George, netra prasad sharma, Niketan Kasare, Nikita Khamparia , Ninad Raote, Niranjan A, Niranjana C, NIRANJAN S.NAMBIAR, NIRJHAR Banerjee , Nisanth Raveendran, Nishant Shah, nishith Kumar, Nishit Soni, Nitin Tomer, Omkar Dharwadkar, omkar naik, Onam Bird Count (Group Account), Panchapakesan Jeganathan, PANKAJ GUPTA, PANKAJ KOPARDE, Pankaj Lad, Pankaj Sharma, paresh gosavi, paresh poyarekar , Parikshit Khisty, PARVATHY AS, Pavithra Sankaran, Pawan Pareek , Payal Mehta, P. B. Samkumar, Phani krishna Ravi, Polly Poulose, Poojan Gohil, pooja pawar, Prabhanjan Behera, Prabhat Kumar, Prabhavathi Sudhakar, Prachi Galange, PRADEEP CHAUDHARY, PRADEEP KM, Pradheep J, Prakash G, Pramod Nair, Pramod Venkatesh murthy , Prasad Natarajan, Prasanna Gautam, Prasanna Parab, Prasenjeet Yadav, Prashanth N S, Prashant Kumar, Prashant Pimpalnerkar, Prashant Tewari, Prathamesh Desai, Praveen es, Praveen J, praveen shenoy, PREETHI RAJENDREN, Premchand Reghuvaran, Prem Kumar, Prem Prakash Garg, Priyanka Bhagyavant, Pronoy Baidya, Punit Mehta, Purab Chowdhury, Purvash Jha, Pushkar Chaubal, Pushpa C R, Pushpa P, Radha Rangarajan, Raghavendra Mukundarao, Raghu Nathan, Raghurama Hegde, Rahul Jawalge, rahul narlanka, Rahul Padwal, Rahul Paranjape, Rahul Wakare, Rajah Jayapal, Rajaneesh Ghadi, Rajarajan V, Rajashree Khalap, Raja Simma Pandiyan, Rajeev khandelwal, Rajendra Gadgil, Rajendran. T.M., Rajesh Bhatt, Rajesh Panwar, Rajesh Prasad, Rajesh Radhakrishnan, Rajneesh Suvarna, Raju Kasambe, raju stiven crasta, Rama Neelamegam, Ramanjinaiah v Siddu, Raman Kumar, Ramesh Ganeshan, Ramesh kumar Selvaraj, Ramesh M, Ramesh Zarmekar, Ram Gopalakrishnan, Ramit Singal, Ram Vikas, RANJINI MURALI, raphy kallettumkara, Rathish RL, Raveendran Natarajan, ravi patel, ravi pn, Rebecca Samuel, REEF RCOEM, Regin George, Rejin R S, Renjan Mathew Varghese, renju tr, renuka Vijayaraghavan, RESHMA B, RESHMA SANTHOSH, Ribish Thomas, Ritesh Dighe, Ritesh Sharma, Riyan Konkath, Rohit Hirway, Rohith Rajan, Rohit Mudadi, Rohit Naniwadekar, ROJA ROY P, Ronit Dutta, Roshan Kamath, Roshin Tom, Roshnath R, Rudraksha Chodankar, Rujuta Phadke, Ruma Sinha, Rushil Fernandes, Rutuja Kukade , sabeer ali, Sachin Chandran, SACHIN KRISHNA M V, Sachin Main, Sagar Adhurya, Sahana M, sahil joshi, sahithya selvaraj, Sai Vivek, Sajeev Krishnan, SAJILA` S, Sajith Komath , sakthi manickam, sakthi pp, Samuel George, Sandeep Sakhare, Sandeep Sathyan, Sandhya Lenka, SANDIPAN GHOSH, sandip das, Saneesh C S, Sangeetha AB, Sangeeth Sailas Santhosh, Saniya Chaplod, Sanjay Karanth, Sanjay Kulkarni, sanjaykumar daramwar, Sanjay Malik, Sanjay Sondhi, Sanjeev Goyal, sanju majumder, Santharam V, santhosh kumar, santosh thakur, SARANGI N . V, Saravana Moorthy, saravanan ajith, sarbjeet kaur, Sarrah Reshamwala , Sashi Kumar, sasidharan manekkara, Satheesan K V, Satheesh Pullippadam, sathya kumar, Sathyan Meppayur, satish siwatch, Satypal Singh, Saurabh Agrawal, Saurabh Sawant, Savio Fonseca, Selvaganesh K, Selvarajan V, Shafeeq Wilson, Shameena S, Shanmugam Kalidass, Shanmugarajan G, Shanmukharaja Muroor, Shantanu Mukherjee, shantilal Varu, Sharang Satish, sharmila Abdulpurkar, Shashikantha Koudur, Shashikant S. Naik, sheeba nanjan, sheeja vr, Sheela Panwar, shishir shendokar, Shivangi Jain, Shivi Mishra, Shreyan M L, Shrikanth nayak, Shriranjani L . Iyer, shruti sengupta, Shubhadeep Mukherjee, Shubha Nava, Shwetha Bharathi, Shyam krishnan, Sibin Thomas, Siddharth Bhatt, Silpa A R, Sita Susarla, Sivadas Chettur, Sivakumar AK, Sivakumar R, Sivakumar SS, Sivakumar Swaminathan, Sivashankar Ramachandran, Siva T, Siyad A Karim , Sneha Gupta, Snehasis Sinha, Soham Sinha, Soma Ateesh, Somraj Gupta, Soni Nambiar, Soorya S, Soumya Shubhra Nag, Soumya V, Sounds Roy, Sourav Dinda, S R Aamir, sravan kumar, Sreehari OK kuttu, SREEJESH NELLIKODE , Sreekanth P , Sreekumar E R, sreekumar mahe, sreelekshmi s, Srikaanth Sekar, Srikanth Bhamidipati, Srinivas Daripineni, Sriram Reddy, sruthy rs, sruthy sankar, S S Cheema, SS prasanth, steffin babu, Subbu Subramanya, Subhasmita Patro, Subin Sudheendran, Subramanian B, Subramniam Venkatramani, sudeep r, Sudeshna Dey, sudhakaran kk, Sudhir Moorti, Sudhir Reddy, Sugandha Gosavi, Suhel Quader, Sujata Phadke, Sujith soori, Sujith V Gopalan, Sumedh Jog, Sumesh b, Sumin George, sumi Panniannur, sunil kumar, Sunil Kumar M T, Sunil Moteria, Suniti Bhushan Datta, SURAJ NAIK, Surendhar Boobalan, suresh sharma, SURYANARAYANAN S NAMBIAR, Surya Prakash, susanth madapurakkal, sutirtha lahiri, Swapnil Wankhede, Swathi Bhat, Swati Sidhu, SYAMILI MANOJ, Syed Mustahsen, Syed Muzamil, Taksh Sangwan, Tanmay Jain, Tanweer Alam, Tanya Seshadri, Tapas Misra, Tara Rajendran, Tarun Menon, Taukeer Alam Lodha, Tejasvi S Acharya , TheNatureTrust (GroupAccount), The Pollachi Papyrus, thirupam reddy, Thomas Falk, Thomas Job, Thorkild Michaelsen, tony antony, Trilok Rana, Tropical Forest Research Institute Jabalpur, T R Shankar Raman, Uday Kiran, Udita Bansal, Udiyaman Shukla, umar khan, Umesh Mani, Umesh Vaghela, Vaidehi Gunjal, vaisakh george, varghese george, Varsha Karumampoyil, Varun Kher, vasaibirds vasai, vedang saunt, Vedant Jasu, Velsina Rodrigues, Venkatesh Prasad, Venugopalan R, Vidhya Sundar, Vidyut Jauhari, Vignesh Menon, Vijaya Lakshmi, Vikas Madhav Nagarajan, Vikas Sharma, Vinayak Pakhre, Vinay Bharadwaj, Vinay Das, Vinay Nadig, Vineeth Malabaricus, Vineeth Viswanath, Vinod Puri Goswami, Vinod Venugopal, Vinod Verma, vipin cg, viral joshi, Viral Pankaj, Virender Sharma, Vishal Dutta, Vishambhar Agarwal , vishnudas ck, Vishnu Lal m, Vishnupriyan Kartha, Vishnu Vinod, Vivek Puliyeri, Vivek Rawat, vrinda lath, Wayanad Atlas, Wesley Rajaleelan, World Shorebirds Day, Yadu .., Yogesh Parashar, Yogesh Patel, Yousaf olavilam, Yusufkhan pathan, Zareef Khan Lodha

Are you doing your best to match the target for October (15 hours of birding through the month)? And there is also a set of yearlong challenges for 2016 to bird towards!

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October 2016 eBirding Challenge

ebirding-challenge-logo-800px-281x300With September and its monthly challenge coming to an end, it is time to announce the challenge for October. Migrants are streaming through various parts of the country and October marks the start of the wintering season in most places. This means more birders are now active and there are more birds to see! Birding activity, too, shows a marked increase in this season and this month, the challenge is to spend as much time listing as possible.

The challenge for October is to spend an aggregate of at least 15 hours birding through the month. Each individual list must be at least 15 minutes long, and all checklists must be effort-based, no-X and complete. icon_tooltip

15 hours is not an easy target to meet! One way to reach that number would be to bird for about 30 minutes each day, with more time put in on the weekends. Remember, you can make a birdlist whenever you spend some time outdoors. It could be while taking a walk from one place to another, or waiting at a bus stop, eating by the roadside, sipping coffee on the balcony, and so on. 

Please upload all your lists by 5 November so that we can announce the results the next day. 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. Do check out the yearlong challenges as well! 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.

Pacific Golden Plover © Renuka Vijayaraghavan (See in checklist)

Pacific Golden Plover © Renuka Vijayaraghavan (See in checklist)


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Announcing the 2016 eBird-India data challenge!

datachallengepromo-400pxA large number of birdwatchers across India have been using eBird over the last 2-3 years, and have collectively generated a huge amount of information on the birds of our country.

The eBird-India Data Challenge invites anyone interested to download the information collected and use it to tackle any interesting question or problem — limited only by your creativity!

Even if you aren’t sure you know how to handle a large dataset, you can still contribute your ideas for what can be done with the information — and perhaps someone will take up the question or problem you pose.

The eBird-India data challenge: help bring meaning to the largest database on Indian birds!

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