Toronto Programs

Mapping the world's birds, one tap at a time

An app that lets users log the birds they spot and contribute to a global map of bird activity.

eBird app lets users enter in sightings, piecing together a global map of bird activity

Sightings of birds like this one, a male Indigo Bunting spotted in the Toronto area, can be logged in the eBird app so scientists can follow bird activity in real time. (Mark Peck)

People who enjoy watching for birds can now put their eagle eyes to good use.

The eBird app, created by Cornell University's ornithology lab, lets app users log their bird sightings, creating "one of the largest models we have of global bird abundance and diversity," according to Emily Rondel, Toronto project coordinator at Bird Studies Canada.

​People from hundreds of countries around the world use eBird to keep track of which birds they see, said Rondel in an interview on Metro Morning

Entry by entry, it creates a picture of "what birds are around, where they are, where they're not, how they're moving through the landscape," she explained. 

Screenshots from Rondel's eBird app, documenting hundreds of her bird sightings around Toronto. (Emily Rondel)

Scientists can then put that data to a range of uses, including conservation work.

"eBird data has become so good and so accurate in the Americas that we can track the full life cycle of populations of birds and watch them in real time as they kind of flow over the continents," said Rondel.

She recommends people who are newer to watching birds also download the Merlin Bird ID app, which guides users through a series of questions to help them figure out which species they are seeing.

Beyond logging their own sightings, the app also helps bird enthusiasts find the birds they want to catch a glimpse of. The app allows users to search a specific bird and pull up maps that show where the birds have been spotted in the past. 

Expect to see more Brown Creepers around Toronto in the coming weeks — the small songbird will soon be making its way through the city as part of its migration. (Mark Peck)

With files from Metro Morning