Ask SIB: What do I post in eBird?

Question: I’m preparing for a trip to Florida and I’m confused about which birds should be posted in eBird and which should not. Some of the birds that led to my confusion are Monk Parakeet, Nanday Parakeet and Black Swans? Can you give me some guidance? – Judy Morr

Answer: The question above was sent as a text to my eBird experts, Aija Konrad, Bob Mercer and Nancy Brown. Several texts later we decided it merited a blog…possibly only interesting to bird nerds like me.

eBird’s Frequently asked questions starts with: eBird is intended for observations of wild, living birds. Please do not report dead or captive birds (e.g., do not include birds in a zoo exhibit or pheasants on a farm). I knew about living bird idea but some of the other aspects took more study. (Note: Italics below are all quotes from eBird web pages.)

Captive birdsdo not include caged or pinioned birds. You may report wild birds you see at outdoor zoos, but birds that are part of a zoo or collection should not be reported. Do not report free-roaming pets, such as birds used in falconry, or birds that return to a pen or cage regularly. I already knew that I shouldn’t report chickens I see or hear in someone’s yard. That white “domestic” duck I saw at Christmas, I didn’t report. The peacock (aka Indian Peafowl) I saw at Magnolia Gardens was considered “captive” and Keith McCullough correctly told me to delete from a list submitted. The Great Blue Herons, American Cardinals, etc. I reported in the same list were valid as they weren’t captive. Similarly, the Indian Peafowl I saw roaming down River Road one day was a valid submission.

Captive Species: Indian Peafowl (aka “peacock”) photographed at Magnolia Gardens by Bob Mercer

Exotic Species – are any species that occurs somewhere as a direct result of transportation by humans. These are further broken down into three subcategories: Naturalized, Provisional and Escapee. All should be reported in eBird but some may not count on some reports. This gets trickier (and some interesting considerations).

Naturalized: this exotic population is self-sustaining, breeding in the wild, persisting for many year and and not maintained through ongoing releases (including vagrants from naturalized populations). These count in official eBird totals and, where applicable, have been accepted by regional bird records committee(s). Examples of this are House Finch, Eurasian Collared Dove and European Starling. They are commonly seen here but still will have a black asterisk when you later look at checklist in eBird. For my trip to Florida, the Monk Parakeet and Nanday Parakeet will fall into this category.

Provisional: Provisional is often used for species that are established (i.e., occurring in substantial numbers in the wild for many years) but have not yet been declared Naturalized by a local ornithological authority. Provisional species count towards your eBird life list and appear in all public outputs, including Alerts. If on my trip to Florida I saw an Indian Peafowl (as someone reported on January 4) that would fall into this category. It appears on eBird with a rust asterisk.

Escapee: This is really the fun one. Escapees are exotic species known or suspected to be escaped or released, including those that have bred but don’t yet fulfill the criteria for Provisional. Escapee exotics do not count in official eBird totals. They are also not included in ABA countable birds for Big Year, etc. There is a whole list of escapees I hope to see in Florida: Graylag Goose, Black Swan, Swan Goose, Black-necked Swan, Red Junglefowl. If found, these will appear on my eBird checklist with a rust background around a white asterisk. Aija knows of a town in Georgia where the Red Junglefowl is ABA countable…so the category the bird falls into is dependent upon geography. Note, this nuance applies to all categories as my Indian Peafowl sited on River Road wasn’t even flagged as Provisional or Naturalized.

Red Junglefowl, taken in Key West, FL by Nancy Brown, April, 2011

If you want to know more about all this, you can find detailed descriptions at: and

Submitted by: Judy Morr

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