[Tweeters] RFI: confusing EBird posts

Josh Adams xjoshx at gmail.com
Mon Mar 3 13:18:53 PST 2014


Ann Marie,

The article Doug linked provides an excellent summary of this issue and I'd
encourage anyone who uses eBird to read it.

To answer your question, I typically mark with an X when I feel any count
that I could give might be very inaccurate. At my home, for instance, I
typically mark both European Starling and American Crow as X's. The former
is audible almost any time I step outside, but I rarely take the time to
scan the trees and see if I'm dealing with one bird or many. The latter can
be found in small numbers around my yard from morning until evening, but at
evening I can stand outside and count dozens flying over as they head to
the Bothell crow roost. Do I count the 3 I saw simultaneously or the
hundred I might see if I stood outside for the hour before sundown? Other
birds I frankly don't pay a ton of attention to. How many House Sparrows
were there near the beach when I was looking for marine birds? I couldn't
care less most of the time.

I also find X's very frustrating when I'm using eBird to try to track down
uncommon or rare species. I'm sure anyone who subscribes to the rarity
alerts has seen reports come through the raise eyebrows. Of course, there
are some species deemed common enough to not trigger as rare (and therefore
require comments to be posted), but unusual enough to be intriguing. In
these cases the difference between an X and a number can tell you an awful
lot about the validity of the report. An X'd report of a House Wren (an
unusual bird in Snohomish county, but one that appears to have been moved
off the rare list last year) could be a legitimate sighting, but could also
just be another Wren species identified incorrectly. If that person
reported 5 House Wrens the report looks pretty questionable, and if they
reported 1 the report might be more credible.

Josh Adams
Lynnwood, WA
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