A Wake-up Call for Alabama’s Birders

anne-millerBy Anne G. Miller, President, Alabama Ornithological Society

This is a wake-up call for Alabama’s birders. Most of us know how important it is for us to contribute our bird sightings to eBird, but too few of us are doing it. Sponsored by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, eBird compiles records of bird sightings from birders and ornithologists around the world. The database is now one of the world’s largest biodiversity resources for scientists, educators and conservation managers. In the month of May, 2015, more than 9.5 million bird sightings were reported from around the world!

Unfortunately the eBird database of bird occurrences in Alabama is incomplete, because Alabama is under-reported compared to many other states. This is a serious problem, as the eBird database is being used to decide conservation priorities nation-wide. The Alabama Ornithological Society is working in collaboration with the Alabama Department of Conservation to make all Alabama birders aware of how important it is for us to contribute our bird sightings to eBird.

Membership in eBird offers huge advantages to birders. Besides enabling you to contribute your sightings to science and conservation, eBird keeps all of your lists for you, and provides various ways of analyzing your data. Also, eBird offers birders access to detailed information about the distribution and migratory behavior of individual bird species. Recently, eBird produced an animated map called ‘Mesmerizing Migration’ which shows the month-by-month movements of 118 species of migratory birds as they travel from North America to Central and South America and back, revealing patterns of bird migration that were mysteries only a few years ago. If you haven’t already seen this map, you can find it at allaboutbirds.org. You can join eBird (free) at ebird.org. Once you’ve joined, I highly recommend Cornell’s free eBird app, which makes it easy to file reports from the field.

The Alabama Birding Trails system also deserves more support from Alabama’s birders. This network of birding trail sites in every Alabama county provides a boost to our state’s economy from out-of-state birding tourism while also serving Alabama birders. In addition, the birding trails system quite literally puts birding on the map, making more Alabamians aware of birding as a mainstream activity worth learning about and enjoying. It is an essential element in building broad support for the protection of birds.

AOS member John Trent, of the Alabama Department of Conservation, has entered all of the Alabama Birding Trail sites into the eBird database as ‘hotspots’, which makes them easy to locate when you want to report your sightings. However, many of these sites are rarely reported to eBird, so the database does not reflect the actual bird populations at the sites.

Note: we are in the process of adding these hotspot links to individual locations

In the coming year, AOS will be asking members to ‘Adopt a Birding Trail Site’. Participants will commit to filing eBird reports from their chosen birding trail site or sites at least once for each season of the year. We hope to cover every region of the state. This will help build the bird lists for the various sites, and will also be a practical way of increasing the number of eBird reports from Alabama. If you’d like to participate, you can begin at the birding trails website (alabamabirdingtrails.com) by selecting from the sites in your area. If you’re interested in participating, please contact me by email, and I’ll add your name to the list.

Alabama’s birding trails offer a great way to explore Alabama while enjoying your favorite outdoor activity. Now, thanks to eBird, you also have a chance to contribute to science and conservation at the same time. If birders around the state will join with AOS members and take part in this initiative, we can use our birding skills to support the Alabama Birding Trails while helping to protect the birds we all love.