Game Commission Hosts “E-Bird” on Website
HARRISBURG -The Pennsylvania Game Commission has become the first state wildlife agency to host and manage an “eBird” website. The eBird network is dedicated to helping birders throughout North America and the world record their bird observations and improve our understanding of seasonal bird activities and movements.
“Pennsylvania eBird” is a customized satellite website in the international eBird network that shares news about birds, birding, and conservation with birders and serves as a common database for their bird records. eBird is the premier birding database. It is a real-time, online checklist program that has revolutionized how the birding community reports and accesses information about birds.
Launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and National Audubon Society, eBird has generated tremendous participation, both nationally and internationally, since its inception in 2002. The Game Commission is partnering with the Pennsylvania Society for Ornithology and Audubon Pennsylvania to provide Pennsylvania eBird. The stories featured on PA eBird are designed to appeal to casual and avid birders, and reflect the interests of partnering organizations.
“Birding draws hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvanians outdoors annually to experience the thrill of migration and the challenge of identifying wild birds through song and appearance,” explained Doug Gross, Game Commission ornithologist. “Every sighting, whether in the backyard of a Philadelphia suburb or deep in the Allegheny National Forest, has value to us and helps develop a more complete picture of the world of wild birds. The geographical module of eBird helps us to construct interactive bird checklists for individual locations including State Game Lands, parks and preserves. It really connects birds to the places upon which they depend.
“When you see and identify a bird, whether you’re a novice or veteran birder, you’re holding a piece to a puzzle. Sharing your information helps us put this puzzle together, and that is the essence of eBird, birders sharing and working together for the betterment of wild birds, their conservation, and their management.”
Pennsylvania eBird has two very distinct responsibilities: to inform and to collect data. The website will always feature a selection of articles on wild birds, ranging from the latest bird news and natural history to field research and conservation issues. In addition, it will serve birders interested in participating in ongoing efforts to collect field observations that will be used in a database that we expect will quickly become a vital source of bird information that will improve with each passing year and as more birders join the eBird team.
“We’re hoping that Pennsylvania eBird becomes a destination that all of our birders eventually gravitate toward,” emphasized Gross. “Right now, a few thousand Pennsylvania birders are participating in eBird. We already are one of the leading states in participation. As significant – and wonderful – as that is, it really is a drop in the bucket when you consider what Pennsylvania could be doing. This is our chance, and I’m encouraging Pennsylvania birders to rise to the challenge.”
Participants who submit wild bird observations to eBird do so by forwarding a checklist that will help wildlife managers at the Game Commission and elsewhere identify where a certain species lives, how abundant it is, and whether its numbers are changing over time.
Aside from data-collection, though, Pennsylvania eBird offers the opportunity to engage the birdwatching community more directly than ever before and teach the new birders about the art and science of bird identification, behavior-watching, and population monitoring.
“We are linking recreational birding with conservation and management issues,” noted Gross. “Familiarity with any species and its habitat is essential to ensure its well-being and protection. eBird will help us augment that awareness and improve wild bird management in Pennsylvania and North America. We will learn what forests are best for wood thrushes, which wetlands support the most bitterns, and where shorebirds are most likely to stop over in migration.
“The data Pennsylvania eBird will gather also dovetails nicely with the state’s Wildlife Action Plan, adopted in 2006. The plan expands and strengthens the state’s management of fish and wildlife resources, particularly species of greatest conservation need. It requires managers to place greater emphasis on monitoring species to ensure they get management assistance before they require emergency room attention.”
To access Pennsylvania eBird, go to the Game Commission’s homepage – www.pgc.state.pa.us – and click on “Pennsylvania eBird” in the right column. The Wildlife Action Plan also can be accessed from the homepage by clicking on “Wildlife” in the left column, then selecting “Pennsylvania Wildlife Action Plan” under in the “Wildlife Grants and Programs” box.