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One million and counting

Ranked second nationally in birdwatching participation and a longtime high flyer in bird monitoring, conservation and citizen science, Wisconsin has added another feather to its cap. The state’s bird lovers have submitted more than one million checklists to eBird, the popular online platform for reporting bird observations.

Birders can use a customized eBird platform for Wisconsin, to submit checklists encompassing all the bird species they see at a given place and time, whether watching birds at their feeder or rare sightings in the field. Only one state with a smaller population – Oregon – has reached this feat.

“Reaching the one-million checklist mark is a big accomplishment,” said Ryan Brady, avian citizen-science coordinator for the Wisconsin DNR. “When it comes to bird monitoring, there is strength in numbers and the more data we get from a broader swath of individuals, the more our sightings can make a difference for birds.”

That information has become increasingly valuable in avian research and conservation, and gives birders an electronic journal to track the birds they see over the years. They can also explore data from all users, revealing birding hot spots in any given area, when to expect certain species to arrive or depart, and where specific target species have been sighted.

Wisconsin was an early leader in promoting the tool, and soon became one of the first states to develop its customized portal to the eBird database, Wisconsin eBird. eBird was released in 2002, and gained popularity later that decade.

After years of ranking near the top in submitted checklists, Wisconsin pioneered another novel effort, by becoming the first state to use an integrated eBird platform for collecting breeding bird atlas data.

“eBird was critical as a data collection tool to the success of the Atlas and has been equally valuable in tracking the distribution, movements, phenology and annual relative abundance of Wisconsin’s birds,” said Brady.

Information received from eBird reports, help the Wisconsin DNR track the locations and status of rare bird populations, state property assessments, and where and when to find hundreds of bird species. Land managers and other natural resource professionals also rely on publicly available eBird data from local parks, recreation areas or habitat projects.