Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is Birdata?

Birdata was formerly the online tool for entering data into the Atlas of Australian Birds. With the redesign, Birdata expands to take in data from the Atlas project and also from various dedicated monitoring projects such as Shorebirds 2020 and WA Black-Cockatoos.

Registering to use Birdata

No, anyone is welcome to contribute. Sign up, learn the Birdata basics, and make your birding count for conservation.

Everyone is required to sign up for a BirdLife username to access the Birdata web portal and app, including existing Birdata or other program users.

  • Click on the Sign Up button at the top of the page or ‘Create a new account’ in the app
  • Fill out the online registration form

Your new login details will be sent to you in a confirmation email. Once you have your login details you can start using the app and web portal immediately.

Existing Birdata or other program users will not be able to see historical data, existing surveys, or access the reporting functionality for up to 48 hours until your new login is synchronised with our database.

Note: Organisations, groups, and schools are unable to sign up online. Contact us at birdata@birdlife.org.au with your details and we will set up a BirdLife username for your group to access the web portal and app.

Yes, existing Birdata users need to sign up for a BirdLife username that will provide access to the Birdata app and web portal, as well as other premium content if you are a BirdLife member. You can choose to keep your Atlas number as your new username if you wish. Your data from the old Birdata website has been migrated into the new portal, and will be visible once your new username is synchronised with our database.

Click on the Login button at the top of the page. Then click on ‘Forgot username or password?’ to be taken to the login page and click on ‘Forgot username or password?’ again. You will be sent an email with your current username and a link to reset your password.

No, you do not. We have plenty of resources available to help you along the way. Everyone’s birdwatching skills are different and we encourage all people with a love of birds to tell us what they are seeing and contribute their data to this valuable project.

For people new to birdwatching, BirdLife Australia’s Birds in Backyards and the Atlas & Birdata projects are a good place to start improving your identification skills and familiarise yourself with survey techniques. Learning what birds are found in your local area and going birding with experienced birders are the best ways to gain the skills you need to start collecting data. For new users we suggest that you do a few practice surveys before you start submitting data.

We expect Birdata users to be able to identify most of the birds they encounter on their survey. If there are species which you aren’t sure about, please don’t guess; just leave them off your list.

There are a number of species which are difficult to identify in the field, such as ravens, crows and prions. A generic number is available for a few groups of hard-to-identify birds, such as Crow/Raven sp, which can be used when specific identification is not established.

Birdata Functionality

The species list is currently sorted in taxonomic order. Many would like the ability to sort the species list alphabetically, by common name, or by reporting rate. This is on our wish list for future upgrades.

To delete an incorrect species entry, go to the ‘Sightings’ tab within ‘Record Survey’ and to the far right of the screen there’s an X to delete that entry.

When recording sightings within the Record Survey page it is possible to use only the keyboard, which makes data entry much more efficient. Here are the keyboard shortcuts displayed next to the Search box and dynamically changing depending on the context. Start typing a species name and then:

  • Choose a species – Up/Down arrows
  • Add sighting – Return
  • Add and edit sighting details – Shift + Return
  • Move through the sighting details fields – Tab

Sites – now referred to as “survey points” to avoid confusion with shared sites – are not listed as such in the new interface.

Favourite sites are not listed anywhere in the new Birdata, but we may bring them back in a future update. However, with the updated interface, the concept of favourite sites has much less value than in the old Birdata as it is now very easy to search your sites.

Survey points are searchable using the search bar on the Location tab when recording a survey – you don’t have to remember the whole name, just any part of it.

If you can’t remember any part of the survey point name, you will have navigate the map to the relevant area. You don’t necessarily need to zoom in a long way, just enough to see the red dots which represent your survey points. Then by hovering the mouse over the red dots, you can see the names of the survey points.

Also note that an easier way to zoom in is to double click on the map, or use the mouse wheel if you have one, rather than using the “+” button.

Favourite sites are not listed anywhere in the new Birdata, but we may bring them back in a future update. However, with the updated interface, the concept of favourite sites has much less value than in old Birdata as it is now very easy to search your sites.

Existing survey points and shared sites cannot be renamed.

To move a survey, you have to select the survey and start editing it, then go to the Location tab, click with your mouse on the place where you want to move the survey to. Note, that if you move a survey point you need to re-enter the site location name. You then need to resubmit the survey from the Review & Submit tab for the changes to be saved.

You can move a survey and merge one with an existing site in the Edit Survey function. With the current system you have to do one survey at a time, so if a lot of surveys have been done at the one site and need moving, they have to be moved separately. We plan to introduce upgrades which will allow for sites to be merged and moved shortly

In “My Data”, if you zoom to the survey point (or type the survey point name in the relevant field under the Filter, then click ‘Restrict to visible map area’, this will show a species list for just the survey point(s) currently shown on the map. You can further refine this list by setting a date range and if you hit the Export data button, that will export all of your records for those sites.

This function is not currently available. It is on our wish list for future upgrades.

Yes, in the My Data section. You can:

  • view your own data in the form of your life list, year list, site lists, backyard list, etc.
  • download your own data by year, site, etc.
  • view other information on Birdata, including species maps and site lists.

There is currently no way to delete surveys or survey points. This will be considered in a future upgrade.

There are still several species that do not have updated range files in Birdata, such as Seabirds and several vagrant species. In this case you may get a “Notes required for out-of-range sighting” message which will require you to fill in Notes on the species in the ‘Sightings’ tab when recording a survey. We are updating these as quickly as possible, so please be patient and continue to enter your surveys.

We do not make records of sensitive species available to general users. Species listed under our sensitive species policy, such as Rufous Scrub-bird, will not appear in the ‘Explore’ and ‘Programs & Regions’ pages, only on your records in ‘My Data’. Click here for more details of our sensitive species policy.

We had a few teething problems with the Shorebirds 2020 data import and were unable to connect users with their existing surveys. That has been fixed and Shorebirds 2020 counters should be able to see their data on the ‘My Data’ page. If you cannot see your data, please click on the blue ‘Send Feedback’ button at the bottom of the web portal.

eBird and BirdLife share data, and the last import of eBird data was in September 2015. There is always at least a three month lag on eBird data being incorporated into Birdata, though we hope the transfer will be more efficient in the future.

Birdata mobile app

Yes, but they operate together. Data from the app and the web portal feed into the same database. The web portal has expanded functionality that is unavailable in the app. All editing has to be done through the web portal. If you are doing a program-specific survey in the app, you will be directed to the web portal to fill out required additional fields.

In the app you can:

  • search the maps to see where to find surveys and group sites
  • enter and submit surveys
  • view existing, historical, and incomplete surveys

In the web portal you can also:

  • edit surveys that have been submitted
  • fill out additional fields required for other programs, such as Shorebirds 2020 or WA Black Cockies
  • use the Embedded Survey type

Yes you can. It is important to open and login to the app and zoom in on the map to select your survey location before losing internet connectivity. Any surveys you submit while not connected to the internet are stored in the ‘Incomplete Surveys’ section and will automatically upload when you have a connection again. In some cases, this can take several hours, so please do not redo or resubmit the survey.

Some elements will not function while offline:

  • Map detail and map search function will not work; cached map detail may be visible
  • Bird images will not show

Submitting data

No. Birdata is the place for data collected for many of BirdLife Australia’s monitoring programs, eg. data collected on a Shorebird 2020 survey will also be available to other projects via Birdata.

When entering a survey into Birdata:

  • basic Birdata fields will be required for all surveys
  • you choose which project the data is allocated to
  • you fill out additional fields required for specific programs

The value of the data you collect during a survey in Birdata is determined by the type of survey you conduct. The most valuable surveys are the 2-ha,20 min Search, Area Searches and Embedded Surveys.  Incidental and Fixed Route Searches provide only observation value and are not used to estimate population trends of species. Bird Lists only have recreational value indicating the presence or absence of a species.

If you’re doing a 2-ha, 20 min Search, it’s often frustrating if birds are seen before or after the survey or simply outside your survey area. In these instances choose an Embedded Survey from the Survey Type menu. An embedded survey is two surveys in one – a 2-ha, 20 min Search  + 500 m Area Search. Conduct your 2-ha, 20 min Search and add all other species not recorded on that survey to the Area Search. Please include all species heard and seen in the surrounding area. Note: the embedded survey type is only available in the Birdata web portal, not the app.

The polygons represent existing mapped survey areas.

There are a number of different BirdLife Australia programs which use mapped sites, such as the Atlas, Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas and Shorebird 2020 programs. When you choose a program from the drop-down menu, only the polygons relevant to that project are displayed.

When you collect data from these sites it should be collected using the same methodology as recommended by the project to which the polygon relates.

For example, the Atlas has a network of mapped sites which show areas that have been identified for repeat surveys. Data collected from within these polygons contribute to the State of Australia’s Birds reports and anyone is able to enter a survey, using the appropriate methodology. Information on the type of survey required within each polygon can be found on the Shared Sites page. This network of sites is being added to on an ongoing basis.

Likewise, the Shorebird 2020 program has mapped all of its survey areas to assist counters at those sites. For this program, only surveys done within the shorebird count area polygons can be added. New polygons can be added to this network by contacting the program manager at shorebirds@birdlife.org.au

ome examples of 2ha areas are:

  • a rectangle 200 metres by 100 metres
  • a circle of 80 metres radius (160 metres diameter)
  • a strip 400 metres by 50 metres
  • a square of 140 metres by 140 metres

2-ha-size

No. Use whatever shape suits your area or circumstances best, as long as the area is approximately 2 hectares. Try to restrict your area to just one habitat type, wherever possible.

We want the database to contain as accurate data as possible. Precise locational information is important because it allows us to:

  • accurately map the bird records for the area
  • identify changes in populations and species if repeated surveys are undertaken at the same sit; if repeat surveys are being done at the same sites, then these can be used to analyse data for important conservation reports such as State of Australia’s Birds.
  • know where observers are conducting surveys. Accurate coordinates can be calculated by zooming into Birdata’s interactive map and selecting your site by clicking/tapping in the screen or using a GPS unit in the field.

No, counting or at least estimating the number of birds on a General Birdata survey is optional except for some specific programs and species.

Below we outline when counts are important and encourage observers who do not usually count birds to consider doing so in these circumstances.

  • Waterbirds and Waders
    Criteria for identifying significant sites often include the combined number of birds or a significant proportion of the species’ population present. These are often wetland sites where international criteria specify that a site can qualify for listing under the Ramsar Convention if the number of waterbirds present exceeds 20,000 or if 1% of a species’ population in the Flyway is recorded. Of course, these represent huge numbers, but in Australia we have national and state thresholds which are much lower, so wetland sites with waterfowl and waders should be counted.
  • Threatened species
    If you are lucky enough to come across a threatened species, whether it is threatened at a national or state level, it is important to report how many individuals of that species you observed. This information will be provided to the recovery programs set up to protect that species. For example, in Victoria and South Australia, counts of Freckled Ducks are passed onto the state agencies and if significant numbers are recorded, those wetlands will be closed to shooters.
  • Important Bird and Biodiversity Area Monitoring
    Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) have been set up across Australia where globally threatened species occur regularly. In IBAs that have been set up specifically for the benefit of a particular species, that species must be monitored, so programs are being devised to best monitor the target species. Generally, these surveys cover a pre-defined area and we would encourage you to count all the target species in that area, as well as non-target species. There may be interactions between species that we are not aware of, but down the track count data might shed some light on the situation.
  • Repeat Monitoring Sites
    If you conduct regular surveys at a site, we would encourage you to count the birds on your survey. Whether your survey is a 2ha Search, an Area Search or a Fixed-Route Survey, counting the birds ‘value adds’ to the data you’re collecting and will provide a clearer picture of what the birds are doing within the site. For example, your site might be good for Jacky Winters and you always get good numbers there. But suppose they started becoming scarcer, if you were recording only presence/absence you would have simply recorded them until they disappeared, but if you had recorded the numbers you would be able to detect when their numbers started to decline and the rate of decline, which is valuable information, particularly when combined with data from other sites.

Although General Birdata/Atlas surveys do not require you to count the number of birds you record, it is preferable to count them in all of the above listed circumstances. The count data you collect could be used to help save a threatened species.

Yes, please include all birds seen or heard within your survey area, even if they are just flying over.

Yes, you can edit your sightings from the Birdata web portal, but not via the Birdata app.

  • If you’ve submitted your survey via the app, you can access the data via the web portal and edit your survey there.
  • The Birdata edit facility allows you to correct mistakes on records entered previously. You are able to correct your sightings, add a species you’ve left out, and change count information.

Birdata and other ornithological databases

eBird’s main focus is on recreational birding and enables users to track and maintain their own life and site lists as well as to find out what other people have seen at specific sites, both within and outside Australia.

Atlas & Birdata mainly focus on structured surveys, using prescribed methods, such as 2-hectare Searches and Area Searches with data feeding into various conservation programs, such as the State of Australia’s Birds reporting, the Australian Bird Index, IBA monitoring and other BirdLife conservation programs.  These methods provide rigorous data for research and conservation.

Recreational birding is also a vital component of the Atlas & Birdata. We want everyone to enjoy what they are doing, as well as contribute to conservation.

Data collected by both eBird and the Atlas are complimentary.  Both have an important role in bird conservation, e.g. providing information for environmental impact assessments, threatened species listings and recovery programs.

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology, which runs eBird, has an open data policy which allows anyone to access their data, other than for commercial purposes.  They are very cooperative and supportive of establishing a cooperative relationship with BirdLife Australia. All data entered through eBird is passed onto the Atlas for incorporating into Birdata.

Data submitted to the Atlas & Birdata will be used for a variety of purposes, both in-house and externally. Some examples of in-house data uses:

  • State of Australia’s Birds reporting — this informs Federal and State agencies of how birds are faring around the country
  • Threatened Species Listings — data used for assessing species declines or increases for national and state listings
  • Environmental Impact Assessments — informs on species found within areas of proposed developments
  • Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas — assesses the health of the network of sites
  • Research by students and Atlassers

For more information go to: http://birdlife.org.au/projects/atlas-and-birdata/atlas-applications

Your personal details will never be shared or published without your prior, written permission. See our privacy policy.

Generally all data submitted to Birdata will be used by BirdLife Australia for State of Australia’s Birds reporting and analyses, threatened species listings, environmental impact assessments and some other uses. There are sensitive records which are not freely available due to the threat of collectors/poachers, potential damage to the birds or their habitat, or site access restrictions.

If data are to be used for research purposes, we need to ensure that the data is as accurate as possible. Birdata has a series of vetting processes which every record passes through. These are looking mainly for species which are out of their normal range, both spatially and temporally, based on our existing knowledge of each species. We have a team of experts based around the country who know the birds in their area very well. Their role is to assess the flagged records and decide what action to take. That may involve contacting you, requesting additional information about one of your sightings. If you do receive an email from a vetter, please do the best you can to answer their request. You may have made an important discovery or perhaps a mistake. Either way, this is all part of the verification process and please don’t be discouraged if you have made a mistake – it happens to all of us.

Yes, we have a data-sharing agreement with both Federal and State agencies. This is particularly important for species listing purposes, as well as environmental impact assessments where decisions are made regarding developments and mining.

Yes, when submitting data which you do not want passed onto other parties, please let us know and we can put restrictions on those data. Restricted data will still be used for in-house analyses, but will not be passed on to third parties without the approval of the observer who submitted the data. In addition, we flag some data for restricted use, including records of sensitive species, such as nesting sites for certain raptors, parrots, etc., threatened species records which are deemed sensitive and data from areas where access is restricted.

Birdata

The Tony & Lisette
Lewis Foundation
through a WildlifeLink
grant funded the
Birdata app and
the original Birdata

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