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eBird submission issues

12:23 pm

As an eBird reviewer, I have noted a couple rather common practices by observers re: eBird list submissions which I believe are negatively affecting the data by under-counting birds.
The first is to go to a site to primarily chase some stakeout rarity, see it and perhaps subconsciously note just a small number of other birds while waiting around, and then submit a list of just a handful of species but on a list that lasted almost an hour or even longer, and done so as a COMPLETE LIST. But this really is an incomplete/incidental list, where one was not really birding for birding’s sake, and the variety and totals of species reflect that! Please use the incomplete/incidental option more often so that the data are not skewed to show a complete list with a woefully low number of birds detected over a reasonable length of time, appreciably lower than the observer’s abilities would normally produce.
Another common practice is to submit a group list but which was a list actually noted only by the ONE person who created the list. If a group is formed, then really all members of the group should pool their numbers near the end of the period. Sure, sometimes this is tough because members come and go at different times. And yes, some folks then, once they accept the shared list, then add additional missing species they alone saw–but typically this is done just for a very few uncommon/scarce species, and almost never does the observer “up” the totals already on the list. Lots of us are busy, and any such time-saving, “group” methods are appreciated, but it seems like a good percent of time that folks are being just a tad lazy. The problem of course is that now a list has been submitted that involved three, five, or seven, or however many observers, but the species seen and especially the number of individuals seen are those of only ONE observer.
Somebody else more in tune with the statistical side of such data would need to address how large an issue this could be in generating under-counts of many birds.
–Paul Lehman, San Diego