2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!

It is now ready!  What?  The 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!  Umm.  What is that?  And why should anyone be excited?  Well, on a cold day in February in Sugarcreek, Ohio, some guy got a hair-brained idea to download eBird data from every State in the Lower 48 States–and every Province in Canada–and Alaska.  Then he tinkered with the data for the next 6 months in his spare time with nearly 6 million checklists.  The result of all this?  Well.  The first information to really come out of this that may be useful to other birders is the 2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America.  It is a roll up of all this data at the State and Province level in a handy, little 3-page format.  Use it to plan where you want to go birding!  I will explain.

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America

Checklists Submitted:

From January of 1900 through December of 2012, birders submitted 159,869 checklists
into the eBird database.

Total Species:

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012.  Note that this number is filtered using the ABA Checklist v7.4 (from the American Birding Association http://aba.org).  For Ohio, a total of 402 species have been reported to eBird.

Total Species (>=2%):

The total number of species recorded in eBird from January 1900 through December
of 2012 that have a Frequency of Checklists value greater than or equal to 2%.  The
eBird Frequency of Checklists represents the number of checklists reporting a species divided by the total number of checklists.  Say, for a bobolink, it is the percent of the total number of checklists that reported a bobolink.  For Ohio, the number of species reported that have a percent of checklists value of 2% or more is 230.

Best Week for Total Species:

This column is a month_wk#.  EBird splits each month into 4 weeks.  So an eBird year
is only 48 weeks.  The 1st week represents days 1-7, 2nd week is 8-14, 3rd week is  15-21, and the last week is the 22nd through the end of the month.  So the peak weak
for total number of species recorded in Ohio (from 1900-2012) is April_wk4.  But, of course, you can’t come to Ohio and realistically expect to see over 300 species of birds.  But this does give you and idea of the trend of the number of species reported over time.

Species Count for Best Week:

This is the maximum number of species recorded for any week of the year in Ohio and corresponds with the previous column for month and week.  A total of 302 species have been recorded in the 4th week of April in Ohio.  That is about 75% of all the birds recorded in eBird for Ohio.  Again, one cannot expect to see 300 species of birds if they spend a  week in Ohio during the 4th week of April.  But what can be expected? (this is why there is
more data!)

Best Week for >=2% Species:

Remember the Frequency of Checklists described before?  This is the peak time when the number of species meeting the 2% or more of checklists criteria is recorded. This is May week 1 for Ohio.  This is a much better number for a one week trip to Ohio.  Why 2%?  It is completely arbitrary.  If you are a good birder or you have local information you number could be higher.  If you birding is more limited and you do not get out as much
your numbers may be lower.  According to eBird data, your best bet for a trip to Ohio should be May week 1.

Species Count for >=2% Best Week:

This is roughly the number of species an average birder on a week-long birding trip could see.  Again, your numbers may vary but this at least gives you an idea of what to expect.  The very best part of this is that the same measure is used for all the states and provinces.  Of course, you need to think about the size of the area–birding all of Alaska or
Texas or Ontario would be right out.  The area is just too large to cover in a week.  But, this is the best measure this amateur researcher could come up with in his spare time.  Enjoy!

It is completely free for download in PDF format.  I did the research for myself and figured there may be a few other birders (like maybe 5…or 12 folks, or so) who might be interested as well.  Here it is:

2013 Impatient Birders Cheat Sheet to North America


6 thoughts on “2013 Impatient Birder’s Cheat Sheet to North America!

  1. Wow! This is great, because my 11 year old and I are trying to plan a birding trip to either Texas or Arizona. We are printing this for further study! Question: Do you have any explanation for the split in the dates for most species seen in Arizona vs. the 2% list? In Ohio, the weeks are quite close, but for Arizona, they split to spring and fall. Not sure when to go to Arizona.

    • Hi Kisa,
      Texas or Arizona sounds like a lot of fun! Yes there are two numbers for specific weeks in Arizona, one in spring (September week 4 with 378 species; and April week 4 with 180 species). The higher number (378) represents every species ever recorded in eBird for that week, 1900-2012. This is a time that not only includes fall migrants, but vagrant and accidental species. If you were doing a Big Year and didn’t have anything to chase that week, going to Arizona at this time might be of some value. But if you are planning a first time trip and want to maximize the number of species you see, you should gravitate toward the April week 4 with 180 species. It is a number that more closely represents what you may typical see in a full week of birding. Of course, there is no guarantee. This number only gives you a measure of what you might expect. You should also take into consideration what Arizona species you are after. A species like Varied Bunting is a very late migrant. And if you do not already have it, you should by a copy of the ABA Birdfinding Guide to SE Arizona to help plan your trip. And you can use eBird to look at individual species as well. Check out the fabulous line charts for timing of species.

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