eBird: A Comprehensive App Review

A Review of the eBird App

As a dedicated birdwatcher, it is always exciting to discover new tools that can help enhance my experiences in the field. The eBird app by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is one such tool that has truly revolutionized the way birders approach birdwatching. eBird, available for both Android and iOS, is a free app designed for bird enthusiasts of all levels, from casual observers to professional ornithologists. With a wealth of features and a user-friendly interface, eBird has become an indispensable part of many birdwatchers’ toolkits. In this review, we’ll discuss the various aspects of the eBird app, its strengths and weaknesses, and how it has transformed the birding community.

User Interface and Design

The eBird app features a clean design although it is somewhat dated and could do with a refresh. The app is easy for users to navigate although most users will not find it’s features intuitive at first. We recommend taking the ‘eBird Essentials Course’ before using eBird.

The navigation tab presents the key features of the app, including options for submitting sightings, viewing your checklists, exploring hotspots, and viewing personalized life lists. The app is relatively feature rich but takes a bit of research as there are a number of different icons which are not self-explanatory.

Integration with other apps

Exporting data from eBird is a straightforward process, allowing users to download their bird sighting records as a CSV file. This flexibility in exporting data enables seamless integration with other birding apps, such as the very popular birding app called Birda. By importing your eBird data into Birda, you can take advantage of Birda’s unique features, such as its great challenges, birding groups and even fun badges. This interoperability between eBird and other birding apps adds value to the overall birdwatching experience and ensures that your data remains accessible and useful in various contexts.

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The eBird app also integrates seamlessly with another of Cornell Lab’s tools, the Merlin Bird ID app. Merlin is a free, AI-powered bird identification app that helps users identify birds based on their appearance or sound. By connecting eBird and Merlin, users can easily access Merlin’s identification features directly from the eBird app, streamlining the process of recording sightings and enhancing the overall birdwatching experience.
For instance, if a user is unsure of a bird’s species while submitting a sighting in eBird, they can tap on the ‘Identify with Merlin’ button to launch the Merlin Bird ID app. Merlin will then guide the user through a series of questions about the bird’s appearance, size, and behavior or analyze a photo or sound recording to generate a list of possible species. Once the correct species has been identified, the user can return to the eBird app, and the species information will automatically populate the submission form.

Birdwatching and Data Collection

The primary function of the eBird app is to provide a platform for users to record and submit their bird sightings for conservation research. Once you have taken the ‘eBird Essentials Course’, the app makes this process relatively simple, allowing users to either manually enter the species they’ve observed or use the ‘Quick Entry’ feature, which suggests species based on location and time of year.
When submitting a sighting, users can provide additional details, such as the number of individuals seen, behaviors observed etc. These submissions help create a vast global database of bird sightings, which is invaluable for research and conservation efforts.

Hotspots and Local Exploration

Another fantastic feature of the eBird app is its hotspot explorer. Hotspots are user-designated locations known for diverse and abundant bird populations, making them ideal destinations for birdwatchers. The hotspot feature allows users to search for nearby hotspots or explore hotspots worldwide, making it easy to plan birdwatching excursions.
The app also provides information on recent sightings, species checklists, and bar charts detailing seasonal abundance for each hotspot. This information is invaluable for users who want to know what species to expect and when to visit certain locations.

Personalized Data and Achievements

eBird offers a personalized experience by allowing users to create a free account, which enables them to access their historical birding data. This includes personal checklists, life lists, and year lists, which are automatically updated as users submit sightings. It’s incredibly satisfying to watch these lists grow over time, and they serve as a testament to one’s birding progress.

Community and Global Impact

One of the standout aspects of the eBird app is its ability to foster a sense of community among bird enthusiasts. Users cannot however connect with other birdwatchers through the app. eBird hosts events such as the Global Big Day, which encourages birders around the world to submit sightings on a specific day, promoting camaraderie and raising awareness about bird conservation.
Moreover, the data collected through the eBird app has a significant global impact. Sightings submitted by users contribute to the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, helping researchers and conservationists monitor bird populations, migration patterns, and habitat changes. The app has played a vital role in advancing our understanding of bird ecology and informing conservation efforts worldwide.

Room for Improvement

While the eBird app offers a wealth of features and benefits, there is always room for improvement. One area where the app could be enhanced is in its offline functionality. Currently, users need an internet connection to submit sightings and access certain features, which can be challenging when birdwatching in remote areas. Expanding offline capabilities would make the app even more useful for birdwatchers in diverse settings.


The eBird app is an important addition for experienced birdwatchers whose main purpose of using the app is to submit data to conservation research. With its user-friendly interface, seamless integration with the Merlin Bird ID app, and impressive database of hotspots and bird sightings, eBird has become an indispensable part of most pro birders birding toolkit.

If you are interested in something more feature rich and community oriented, then take a look at Birda as an alternative. You can find a short comparison of Birda and eBird below for those who are interested.

Birda vs eBird: A Guide for Beginner Birders and Enthusiasts

Birdwatching is an awesome pastime that allows all types of nature lovers to connect with the natural world around them. As technology advances, so do the tools available for birders, allowing them to locate, identify, and record bird sightings with ease. Two prominent apps in the birding world are Birda and eBird.

While both are excellent choices and have their strengths we’ll look at why Birda stands out as the better option for most birding beginners and enthusiasts – especially those looking for a friendly community and exciting birding challenges.

Spoiler Alert: They complement each other well so you can use them both! If you prefer logging sightings on eBird but love Birda’s community and challenges, then you can simply export your sightings from eBird and import them to Birda!

Ideal for Casual Birders and Hobbyists

Birda is a great choice for all levels of birders looking for an easy-to-use, comprehensive and fun, app. With its intuitive design, a peer-to-peer bird identification system (that uses HI – Human Intelligence), locations feature, and engaging social capabilities. Birda encourages users to get outside and explore the birdlife around them. While eBird is a fantastic option for those who prioritize data collection and scientific research, its interface may be less appealing for those who prefer a more feature rich experience.

All-in-One Solution

Birda offers an all-in-one experience that simplifies the birding process for users. With its built-in species guide, users can quickly identify birds and log them all from a single app. In contrast, eBird requires users to switch to a separate identification app in order to identify birds.

Compete, Connect and help Conservation

If connecting and competing with family, friends and other birders from around the globe in birding challenges sounds like fun, it is because it absolutely is! With an array of different challenges that span from logging a certain number of species, to spending time connecting to nature, there are challenges for all birding tastes; where you can win both prizes and receive badges. Who doesn’t like to win a cool badge?

Birda uses healthy competition as a driving force for good. The challenges you compete in motivate you to get outside and connect to nature, you learn about the wildlife around you and end up interacting with a super friendly community.

eBird is undeniably robust as a citizen science platform, but where Birda differs from eBird is its ability to get you to interact, compete and connect with a global community of birders all from within the app.

User-Friendly Interface

Birda boasts a modern, intuitive and user-friendly interface that makes it accessible for both beginners and seasoned birders. eBird’s user interface is a little dated and caters for more expert users so you will really need to complete the ‘eBird Essentials Course’ before using the app.

Offline Functionality

Birda provides offline functionality, enabling users to continue their birding adventures even in remote areas with no internet access. Birda does this without the need to download any expansion packs. eBird on the other hand requires users to download expansion packs before they go birding in an offline environment so don’t forget to download the necessary pack before heading out birding with eBird!

Engaging Social Features

Birda offers engaging in-app features where the global birdwatching community can post their sighting, share photos, discuss sightings, ask questions and learn. Birda also includes badges and challenges with leaderboards that foster friendly competition among users. While eBird has a large global community, it lacks dedicated in-app social features.

Locations Map

One of the unique features that set Birda apart is its locations map, which displays over 200,000 birding locations around the globe and is designed to help users find birding locations and the species that occur at each location. The ‘Species’ tab shows a list of species that have been seen at the location over the last decade to give users an indication of what they could see if they were to visit a location. The ‘New for you’ tab shows users the list of species that they have not yet seen and that are known to occur at a location. This is a really useful way to help users grow their life lists.

eBird provides location-based species lists but they are not ordered by species rarity and do not have the option to show users species they have not yet seen.

Birda’s Sessions vs eBird’s Checklists

Birda’s sessions allow users to log what they see over the course of a birdwatching session. As each sighting on Birda has its own GPS coordinates attached to it, you can log anything from a few sightings of birds on your home feeder to logging everything you see on a 10 hours cross country road trip.

eBird’s checklists on the other hand are bound to a checklist location. This means they work well when you are stationary but if you are moving, you will need to create new checklists over and over as you move. This can be a real burden! Furthermore, as the sightings are tied to a checklist location your sightings all share the GPS coordinates of the checklist location rather than each having their own GPS coordinates.

Data for conservation research

Both Birda and eBird submit their sightings data to the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF). The GBIF is an international network and data infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere, with open access to data about all types of life on Earth.

Birda vs eBird Conclusion

Both Birda and eBird are excellent apps for birding enthusiasts, but in our opinion, Birda stands out as the better choice for most users due to its all-in-one solution, offline functionality, exciting challenges and friendly community. The good news is that, no matter where you log your birds you can still upload your sightings to Birda from most birdwatching apps.

Whether you’re a complete beginner or an experienced birdwatcher, Birda offers an incredibly enjoyable experience, allowing you to dive deeper into the fascinating world of birds.

Disclaimer: This is obviously our most ‘modest’ opinion and we are certainly biased, so we recommend you don’t take our word for it, get outdoors, look up and have a try.

Connect to nature and like-minded people while you discover and explore the birdlife around you! Amplify your birdwatching experience with Birda today. 

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