Monday, July 6, 2020

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Birder's Diary - eBird Comparison

Over the past few years eBird, a project from the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, has been making in-roads in the birding community. As a result, many of our users have been asking us why they should use Birder's Diary instead of eBird. To answer this pertinent question, we completed a detailed comparison between the functional capabilities of Birder's Diary v4.0 and eBird as of February, 2015.

Birder's Diary is a full-featured Listing program that runs on your PC. It does not attempt to do the things that eBird does that are not related to recording, reporting and sharing your sightings and a myriad of miscellaneous data. Birder's Diary excels at this. eBird has many features that are centered around collecting your data, aggregating it across thousands of users and presenting this aggregation in a few very nice ways. eBird doesn't come close to matching all the features in Birder's Diary that are designed to meet the needs of its users via the feedback over the 2 decades that we have been in business. Birder's Diary is a value-added solution that works well with eBird (a free toolkit is available on this website for importing/exporting sightings from/to Birder's Diary and eBird!). It's not a "one or the other" choice either. If you like the idea of providing your sightings data to the global community, use eBird by uploading your Birder's Diary sightings into your eBird account with the free eBird toolkit on this site.

This analysis attempts to be honest and fair. If you find that any of this is in error or has changed, please drop us a note at

Birder's Diary - Keeping track of your observations

Birder's Diary was developed for the avid birder and naturalist to maintain detailed records of their sightings. Using Birder's Diary, you can capture unlimited user-defined data about each sighting, along with Photos and other documents, and then report on this data in a myriad of ways. You can print checklists; automatically maintain life list counts for any region on Earth; recall and report on trends; etc, etc. A unique feature of Birder's Diary is that you can keep track of non-avian sightings as well. Checklists exist for mammals, butterflies, trees, and many more.

eBird - Gathering data for science

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is a highly respected academic organization that has embarked on developing and providing a web-based tool, eBird, which allows the users to record their sightings and provide data to the at-large scientific community. In return, eBird provides its users with reports on their sightings, basic status reports, life list totals, and rankings compared to other eBird users. This is a very worthwhile scientific endeavor aimed at gathering observational data for a greater in-depth understanding of our dynamic avian world.

Is it right for you?

However, is it for the birding demographic? Aimed at meeting your needs or the data-gathering needs of an academic and scientific project?

The down side to this for the individual birder is, among other things, the following:

  • Your data is not kept on your machine; but rather at Cornell's site.
  • An internet connection is required to access your data.
  • You are unable to link your observations with user specific information such a photos, sketches, etc., currently
  • You need to keep track of how you birded (protocol, starting time, duration, ....)
  • Often overlooked - Some birders simply do not like the internet or have difficulties using it.
  • In this day of funding budget cuts, what happens if/when this project no longer becomes necessary, appropriate or in-vogue for Cornell? Where is your data then? Or the tools to use that data? Funding this project for Cornell is more than just doing some initial programming to get the web application online for gathering your data; they have to continue to support a large data farm of servers and storage - forever.
  • Does Cornell listen to its users for feature enhancements of wanted functionality? Their goal is to acquire data from a world-wide user base; and in as much as they can satisfy that, they have no real impetus to go further. They are a very qualified staff and downright nice folks. But the academic world is not driven by customer loyalty, but rather to the currently funded project, thesis or doctoral program.

Keep these items in mind as you move forward.

Data Exchange

Birder's Diary has the capability (since v3.6 and compatible with other 3.x versions) to upload your sightings to Cornell's eBird if you wish, thereby contributing to the worthwhile goal of providing scientific data to the Ornithological community. But your data stays with you, on as many computers as you like and the functionality will never go away! We have been here since 1995 and will be for another 20 years and more.

What other users say?

Many users prefer to use Birder's Diary to enter sightings for a variety of reasons before uploading the records to eBird. Why?

  • You never see birds in the taxonomic order in the field and thus birds are recorded in the field note book in the order they have been seen. Using the keyboard entry in Birder's Diary and a combination of banding codes and common and scientific names users quickly enter their observations. Much faster than any internet checklist form.
  • Users like to keep track of count estimates (low-high) of the number of birds seen on the computer for reporting purposes.
  • Users take photos and link the best photo(s) of the bird to the observation. You can also link sound files, video, and any valid file to your sightings in Birder's Diary.
  • Often users do not keep track of "how long did you bird" so the protocol defaults to " incidental/casual", which is not very useful information overall for eBirds needs.
  • Users like to be able to quickly generate a trip report and post this on the local list server. Being able to quickly combine multiple stops into a single report is very valuable, not only as a trip leader but also for the participants.

Functional comparison of Birder's Diary and eBird

The table below provides a detailed functional comparison between Birder's Diary 4.0 and eBird.

Capabilities Birder's Diary eBird
Data Entry
Data Entry using checklist
Data entry using banding codes
Data entry using keyboard (order in which you recorded birds; use band code or scientific name or common name)
Data entry checklist for country/state/region
List species in native language
Create your own user-defined data to store and report on! No limits.
Attach photos, audio or video files or any document to your Sightings!
Enter data using speech recognition (* on most PCs)
Speed of data entry Very fast Fast
Taxonomic support
Support latest Clements world taxonomy
Support latest IOC world taxonomy
Support ABA taxonomy 
Support AOU(NACC) taxonomy 
Support RAOU Taxonomy
Support Western Palearctic
Support non-avian taxonomy lists (butterflies, mammals, trees,etc)
Enhanced Clements taxonomy (meaning removed errors from the basic Clements list)
Support subspecies
Support hybrids
Support spuhs (and slashes)
Support species forms
Data Exchange
Export to text file
Export to spreadsheet
Email sightings to others
Share sightings with others
Import from text file (formatted)
Create eBird import files NA
Create Birder’s Diary import files from eBird download(s)
Create and Print user-defined checklists
Share checklists (in English or native language)
User Support
Technical support Superior technical support
User forums
Data access
Data stored on local computer
Internet required to access data
Data Analysis/Reporting
Standard reports for number species seen by Life Year Month
Custom and user defined reports
BIG Year/Month/Day reports
Trip reports Aggregate locations for the time period
Bar charts for locations
Map species data
Graph frequency occurrence at location based on data from many users
Graph abundance at location based on data from many users
Species range map based on user submissions
Checklist for species not seen
Get notified that species is in your area
Show data by continent
Show data by country
Show data by state
Show data by county
Show data by location
Show data by user defined hierarchy
Show data by multiple locations
Order/Family/Genera Report
Sightings Comparison Feature
Multiple observer support
User-defined location hierarchy
Rosetta Stone
Taxonomy list comparisons
Split/Lump species