Using the eBird Basic Dataset (EBD)

The eBird Basic Dataset (EBD) is in broad use by researchers, conservation practitioners, students, and educators around the world. This openly available dataset is attractive because it provides location-specific information for millions of bird occurrences, and these data can be applied in myriad ways to better understand bird occurrence and abundance. This dataset presents eBird data in its most basic form, and includes all the relevant information associated with each observation, including the metadata on the sampling event—in other words, exactly how the data were collected in the field by the observer. This information is critical for filtering out data that may not be appropriate for a given use, and allows the analyst to determine how similar, or different, records are in the downloaded dataset. Care should be taken when preparing eBird data for analysis or use in any decision-making process. In almost all cases some filtering of the data is required to get a dataset ready for analysis; this filtering would take the form of either exclusion of some records from use, or correcting for biases in the process of analysing the data. Understanding several caveats around eBird data use is required, and we feel that there are 6 questions that need to be answered by anyone when they use these data:

  1. Do I need to include information on “zero observations”?
  2. What is the appropriate way for me to handle duplicate or near-duplicate observations in “shared checklists”?
  3. How do I deal with variation in temporal precision of observations?
  4. How do I deal with variation in spatial precision of observations?
  5. Which count types (‘protocols’) contain the data that I want to use?
  6. What version of the data am I using?

Anyone using eBird data should answer these questions for themselves prior to working with the data.  When describing how the data were analysed, for example for a technical report or peer-reviewed paper, the description of methods should always include the answers to these questions and justifications for the decisions that were made.

Click on a question to see a page containing associated information.