Watch any or all of our video tutorials to help guide you around the Birdata web portal and mobile app.
- Registering for Birdata
- Recording Surveys with the Birdata web portal
- Recording Surveys with the Birdata mobile app
As the holder of a large amount of bird biodiversity data, BirdLife Australia has a responsibility to ensure that the data it collects, especially sensitive data, is managed appropriately. Click here to read more.
The classification of living organisms (biological taxonomy) is a complex and much-debated topic. Classifying biodiversity is essential in our efforts to conserve it. Recognising the important function of accurate and current bird lists, BirdLife Australia has developed the Working List of Australian Birds (WLAB). Click here for more information.
We are constantly looking at ways Birdata can be improved – how to make it easier for you to record, store and explore our birdlife, and how to best collect the information needed to protect our native birds and their habitats. It has taken a bit of time but the first of a number of big updates is now online and ready for you to use!
The main changes are:
- Quick overview of most recent surveys undertaken
- Clickable surveys, allowing users to see where and when a survey was undertaken as well as a survey summary (though not observer information and survey details remain subject to species sensitivity)
- Introduction of Private survey option
- All existing (and some new!) filters available on all data pages
- Quick toggle to switch data on and off when selecting months
- Downloadable graphs for each species
- New admin features, including implementation of a sensitive area layer, enabling Birdata to set different sensitivity levels for protected or restricted areas.
- The Explore tab now features all and more of the functionality of the (now-defunct) Programs & Regions tab. The latter will be redeveloped over the coming months.
Recent survey indicators (click here)
The main Explore page now shows a colour-coded indicator where surveys have been undertaken in the last 14 days (blue) or older (red) (see figure below).
This functionality applies to individual species as well, allowing you to see where a particular species has been seen recently (see figure below). Hover your mouse over a map symbol to reveal how many surveys have been undertaken in a given area.
Much like before, survey information in Explore is displayed on a grid until you zoom in far enough, at which point individual survey points become visible. Survey locations that show up in yellow at that point indicate these are surveys where sensitive species have been recorded and for which exact coordinates are de-sensitised. You can now also turn all data on/off or specify individual months at the click of a button.
Clickable surveys (click here)
As of this update you will be able to click on individual survey points to see what has been recorded there and when (see figures below). Clicking on the date in the pop up provides an overview of that survey list. The site name also has a quick link to Google Maps, allowing you to check out the wider area quickly. This provides a more convenient way for you to explore the birdwatching locations near you.
However, the flipside of this is that it will change the way your data is displayed on Birdata, and what elements of it are visible to others. We take your privacy very seriously, which is part of the reason why we are notifying you of these changes. Note that regardless of these changes, observer names are not visible to general users.
Clickable survey functionality naturally opens up a can of worms when it comes to where sensitive species are found. To balance sensitivity and the ability to explore data, sensitive records allow inspection of survey date and type, but not currently the survey summary (see example below where the user is looking at Powerful Owl records).
Private survey option (click here)
You will notice that when you Record Surveys on the web portal, when on the Details page, you now have the option to make surveys private. This will hide both the survey location and species list from other users. For example, you might want to make a survey private when you are on private land or conducting surveys as part of your work or you are using your own street address for regular surveys. If you have existing surveys that you prefer be private, you can also use the Edit function on the My Data to make those changes. However, don’t forget that one of the aims of Birdata is to Explore current and historic data for all users and as such we hope individual users apply the ‘private’ option with some restraint. If you have more than a few past surveys that should be made private we can help you out.
Most things won’t change as a result of clickable surveys – information from private surveys will remain stored on the Birdata platform – we do not pass on your personal information. They will still be accessible to you like the rest of your data and most definitely are valuable to us as we work to monitor and protect our birds. But the specifics of these private surveys just won’t be visible to other users.
Note that surveys that already contain sensitive data – observations of endangered species and breeding birds will still have the same protections they always have: i.e. there is a shortlist of species of conservation concern for which coordinates are by default de-sensitised to different spatial levels and breeding records for parrot and cockatoo species sensitive to poaching continue to be hidden altogether. Where we pass on species lists to publicly accessible third-party platforms such as the Atlas of Living Australia we only provide de-sensitised data for sensitive species. In other words: the private option is not a replacement of Birdata’s sensitivity policy.
Reporting rate graph & download (click here)
In Explore, when selecting a particular species you will now see 3 different graphs appear: the already existing annual and seasonal graphs as well as a reporting rate graph (see example below).
As these are essentially raw reporting rates we have put some limits to these to avoid hugely superfluous results. Reporting rates are based on structured surveys only (i.e. excluding bird lists and incidentals) and are only calculated for a given year if a minimum of 30 surveys is present in the area the user is looking at. Note that at best reporting rate trends are high level indicative and do not necessarily reflect exact population trends – results should be treated with caution.
Through using different filters (e.g. KBAs, area layers, LGAs) all graphs are automatically recalculated. Hovering your mouse over a graph will download the graph data, enabling users to recreate these for their own purposes.
Pages and data filters in My Data (click here)
We’ve made a few changes to the layout of the Birdata portal. For one, you’ll notice the old Programs and Regions tab has disappeared. However, all the things you could do on that tab you can now do on the Explore page. You’ll also notice that all the ways you can filter the data (i.e. by month, by species, or by applying a some different geographical layers) can be made on both the My Data and Explore pages. Also, a small change, but one that has been requested often is a filter to check your species lists at the LGA level. Just go to the Area Layer dropdown, select Local Government Areas and start typing the LGA name.
Sensitive area layer (click here)
Quite possibly less exciting to the general user, but adding another layer of sensible management of sensitive areas and species is the admin-only introduction of a sensitive area layer, allowing Birdata to set sensitivity levels for areas such as indigenous lands, particular reserves, airports, military zones etcetera. In conjunction with existing policy surrounding sensitive data and the new private survey option we feel we are doing everything we can to both allow people to engage in birding, monitoring and bird conservation while at the same time making sure data access does not lead to unfettered access of key locations in important areas or sensitive species in general.
If you have any questions about these or any other changes or you spot any bugs, please contact email@example.com
Thanks for your amazing contributions in getting out there and making your birding count!
The Birdata team
What is Birdata? How does it relate to the Atlas project?
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
Do I have to be a BirdLife Australia member to contribute to Birdata?
No, anyone is welcome to contribute. Sign up, learn the Birdata basics, and make your birding count for conservation.
How do I register to use the new Birdata portal and app?
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 firstname.lastname@example.org with your details and we will set up a BirdLife username for your group to access the web portal and app.
I’m an existing Birdata user. Do I need to create a new login for the new Birdata?
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.
What if I forgot my password and cannot login to Birdata?
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.
Do I have to be a bird expert to contribute my sightings to Birdata?
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.
How is the species list sorted?
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.
How do I delete a species entry when recording sightings?
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.
Can I enter my sightings without using the mouse?
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
Where are my favourite sites from the old Birdata website?
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.
How do I search for survey points/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.
How do I rename and/or adjust coordinates for an existing survey point/site?
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.
Can I merge survey points/sites?
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.
How do I get a species list from one of my survey points/sites?
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.
Can I extract and print a species list?
This function is not currently available. It is on our wish list for future upgrades.
Can I view and download my data?
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.
Can I delete an existing survey?
There is currently no way to delete surveys or survey points. This will be considered in a future upgrade.
Species I’ve sighted come up unexpectedly out-of-range?
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.
I cannot see records of sensitive species. Where will I find them?
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.
Where is my Shorebirds 2020 data?
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.
Where is my eBird data?
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
Is the Birdata app different to the Birdata web portal?
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
Can I still use the app if I am not connected to the internet?
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
I want to submit a survey for two different BirdLife Australia programs. Do I need to submit the survey twice?
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
How do I know which survey type to choose?
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.
I often miss nearby species when using the 2-ha, 20 min Search. What survey type would you recommend?
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.
In Birdata, what do the polygons represent?
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 email@example.com
How big is 2 hectares?
Some 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
Does my 2ha survey area need to be a certain shape?
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.
Why does my survey location have to be so specific?
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.
Must I count birds every time I survey?
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.
Do I record birds flying over or heard calling?
Yes, please include all birds seen or heard within your survey area, even if they are just flying over.
What if I make a mistake? Can I edit my sightings?
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
What’s the difference between Birdata and eBird – which should I use?
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.
Does eBird and the Atlas & Birdata share data?
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.
What is the data I collect used for?
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
Will my personal information be shared/published?
Will my data be shared?
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.
How do you know that my data is correct?
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.
Are data submitted to Birdata passed onto Federal and State databases?
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.
I have some sensitive data. Can access to those data be restricted?
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.