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BirdLog & the Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) February 15-18

gbbc waxwingWe are proud to announce that BirdLog has been chosen as the GBBC app of choice by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Our mission is to promote the accurate and frequent use of eBird, and eBird and GBBC are merging this year, so we are proud to support the 2013 Great Backyard Bird Count.  We hope BirdLog ease of use will attract even more birders and provide more high quality data for the GBBC!

BirdLog makes it easy to pinpoint your location automatically, capture sightings, and submit them to GBBC  while in the field.  If you already use BirdLog, there's nothing new to learn, nor any special steps to take to participate using BirdLog.  Just submit your checklists as usual and your data will be automatically captured when submitted to eBird from BirdLog.

The GBBC marks its 16th year as a free citizen-science program that surveys birds in backyards, national parks, gardens, wetlands and urban landscapes.  A joint project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon, with Canadian partner Bird Studies Canada, the four-day count typically receives sightings from tens of thousands of people reporting more than 600 bird species in the United States and Canada alone.

The GBBC is being integrated with eBird, a real-time, global online checklist program launched by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Audubon in 2002. eBird now takes in millions of bird observations every month.

Our mission at Birds in the Hand is to help drive bird conservation through support of projects like GBBC and eBird.

Article Permalink: http://www.birdseyebirding.com/index.php/blog/121-gbbc-blog-post-2

 eBird and Conservation

BirdsEye Map of Scarlet TanagerI am often asked "Why should I enter my data into eBird?"   Today's post outlines my answer to that question and also talks about why eBird is so important to me personally that I've devoted years of my life to promoting it's use.

Why does eBird matter?  Every birder might have a different answer to this question.  For some it might be "to help me track my life list", "to create a permanent record of my sightings" or "to let my friends know about rarities in our area."  I agree that those benefits are important, but I think they are just the perks we get for doing something even more important: supporting long-term conservation of birds and other species worldwide by entering data into eBird.

The connection between entering data into eBird and saving species may seem tenuous at first glance, but it is in fact far more direct and powerful than first meets the eye.  This connection is what orginally motivated us to create BirdsEye and BirdLog. BirdsEye is designed to make eBird data meaningful and accessible to birders on a daily basis; and BirdLog is designed to making entering eBird data easier, especially in remote locations far from desktop computers.

There are many different reasons to capture bird data, and in my post below I focus on preserving biodiversity, especially in the tropics, but these same ideas apply just as well to your local patch anywhere in the world.  Your data helps us learn about population changes over time, understand subtleties of status and distribution and migration timing changes related to climate change.


Over the course of the next few decades, scientists estimate that a large fraction (20-50% by some estimates) of the earth's biodiversity is at risk and the biggest factors are climate change and habitat conversion in the tropics.  Just to be clear, "habitat conversion" means habitat loss as forests are converted to pasture and agriculture.  

Conservation organizations and scientists need to understand what areas are the highest priorities for protection, and eBird data is among the best sources for the information needed to answer this question.

Large-scale habitat conversion has been widespread for hundreds of years in temperate regions. What's different in the tropics, however, is the scale of the potential loss of species.  Species that live in tropics are much more vulnerable because the tropics represent just a small fraction of the surface area of the earth and are where a disproportionate share of the world's species live.  For example, tropical rainforest represents just about 6.5% of the land area of the earth but supports around 50% of the earth's species of plants, animals and birds.  

Unless you have visited a tropical rain forest, it might be difficult to imagine a place where the diversity of birds is 10x or 100x higher than what you are used to seeing in your back yard in North America or Europe.  Consider Panama as an example: the number of native species of trees in one square mile of Panamanian rain forest is similar to the total number of native tree species in all of North America.  Similarly, the number of birds in Panama list is almost 1000, which is roughly the same or a bit higher than the number of birds found in the entire US and Canada!  Species diversities farther south are even higher.  Columbia, for example, has almost 1,900 species of birds on it's official list.  In these areas, experienced birders can find over 250 species in a day of birding in a relatively small area.

Many bird species from temperate regions rely on the tropics for their wintering grounds, so protecting habitat in the tropics not only helps tropical endemics, but also helps protect these migrants including Scarlet Tanagers, Gray-cheecked Thrushes and Black-billed Cuckoos.

The point of all of this is that protecting key areas of tropical forest is the single most valuable thing we can do to protect a large number of species that might otherwise go extinct.  

What do scientists do with eBird data?

This is where eBird data comes in.  In order for conservation organizations to make fast, accurate decisions about how and where to focus their scarce resources, they need data about the distribution of biodiversity.  In order to determine which land to save, they need to know the answers to three key questions: 

  -- Biodiversity: Which areas have the most species diversity?

  -- Endemism: Which areas have the most species found nowhere else?

  -- Range: What areas are critical to the survival of an individual species?

The data required to answer these questions comes from boots on the ground, not from satellites or remote sensing stations.  It comes from people recording what they see and hear, and putting those data into databases accessible to scientists, like eBird.

The fastest way to quickly estimate the biodiverstiy and level of endemism is to record the bird species present in an area because it is much easier to perform a reasonably complete and data-rich survey of birds in just a few hours than it is for plants, insects, reptiles or mammals.  There are also many more people who can identify birds than there are for other groups.  It turns out that if you know how many birds use a patch of native forest, you can do a good job of estimating how many species of plants, insects and other life occur there as well, which makes sense when you consider that the number of bird species present is a reflection of the number of ecological niches available for them to utilize.  Similarly, the ranges of bird species can be used to predict the ranges of other plants and animals.

How can you help?

So ... on your next trip to your local park, your back yard or a tour to the Amazon, consider the value of your bird data for future generations.  We estimate that today less than 2% of all high-quality bird observations worldwide are end up in a database for use by future scientists and conservation organizations.  Many end up in notebooks or personal life-list tracking software, but we need for these data to end up in eBird.  

Recording a checklist from a quick stop along a road in the Amazon could end up being one of the few records of what birds lived in THAT SPOT before it was converted to agriculture in the next 5 or 10 years.  Imperfect and incomplete as might feel your checklist is, it is valuable!

Here are some tips to make your eBird data as valuable as possible:

1) it is better to collect and report your data than not, so feel free to ignore the rest of the rules if they mean that you won't enter your data!

2) Try to record and report all of the species present to the best of your abilility, not just the rarities.  When possible, try to record approximate numbers for each species, even if they are just rough estimates.  I know that a lot of birders are intimidated by attempting to provide counts because they feel that counting is too difficult.  Here's a rule of thumb: if you think you can provide an estimate of numbers that is accurate to within about a factor of 3, then your data is valuable and it is better to enter a number.  You can think of your options in terms of the following options: 0, 1, a few (5), a dozen (12), etc.  Exact counts are great but are not necessary to give scientists the information they need.

3) it is better to create a bunch of short checklist for specific locations, rather than a single long list that covers a large area.  As a general guideline, shoot for data that is within about a 5 mile area as a maximum.  When you drive more than 5 miles, it is time to start a new list.

4) Make sure the date and location for your data is as accurate as possible. Much of your effort above to capture good data goes to waste if you enter it for the wrong location!  When possible, either associate your sightings with an eBird Hotspot, a personal location, or use GPS to record the exact spot.  

5) The most important contribution you can make is from areas with little or no current data.  BirdLog is designed to make the task of entering eBird data easier when you are far from your desktop computer ... such as on a two-week trip to Peru.  We encourage you to find those black spots on the map and help fill them in with good data.

I know it sounds sappy, but it's true: Future generations will appreciate the data we are collecting today long after we are gone.  Thank you!!

Click here to learn more about how you can help us promote eBird.

Article Permalink: http://www.birdseyebirding.com/index.php/blog/106-ebird-and-conservation

Year of the Android? 

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At this point we have a total of 10 apps for iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch, 6 for Google/Android and we have 2 in the Amazon store.  I've been thinking about this a lot:

Will 2013 be the year of the Android?

A question we hear all the time from our users is "What are your plans for Android?"  Each year I keep thinking "This is the year Android makes good".  Each year comes and goes and still the Android market isn't ready yet.  Is 2013 the year?  I don't know, but there are some signs to suggest that maybe it is ... or maybe there never will be a year of the Android and 2013 will be the year that Windows 8 starts making waves.  

Just to be clear: Android phones are selling like crazy, but that's not what this article is about.  I'm focusing here on the market for Android apps, which until now has lagged far behind the iOS market.  Pundits keep telling us that a huge surge of Android App sales is coming ... real soon!  That's great, but as a developer, I'm interested in current conditions, and right now the weather isn't fine on planet Android, at least not in the US.

I imagine that many of the people who are going to read this blog post are die-hard Android fans (as am I) who at this point are beginning to become irate.  Bear with me and read on.  But be warned: you may not like the unvarnished truth from my perspective as a developer about the Android platform!

Let me start by saying that I am an Android user, so I'm not biased against the platform.  In the last 10 years I have used Android, iPhone and Blackberry as my primary phone.  Last year I used an Android (HTC Thunderbolt) phone only.  This year I use an iPhone as my primary phone but also have my Android as my secondary phone.  I tend to use whatever phone I'm focusing on the most from a development standpoint.  There are things I like better about each platform, but overall I like both a lot … and sometimes I even miss the simplicity and ease of use of my old Blackberry!

It's interesting about Android.  Everywhere I look I see signs of a huge market.  There are roughly twice as many Android smartphones out there as there are iPhones and that trend seems to be accelerating.  Samsung sales are through the roof and there are many more Android users than there are iOS users.  

And there are some positive signs from Android users.  For example, users of our BirdLog app for Android enter about 2x as many checklists per person per month as the average iOS user.  That's strange, right?  My theory is that the Android users tend more towards the young, cash-strapped, tech-savvy birders who are out there every day, including a large fraction of the professional biologists.

So … what's the problem?  

Well, there are several:

There are major differences between the iOS and Android user bases in terms of app buying habits, demographics and psychology.  Compared to iOS users, Android users tend to be younger, lower income (mostly because they are younger), more tech-savvy and more price conscious comparison shoppers.  They like apps and they use apps … but they don't like to PAY for apps.  They are much more willing to accept poorer quality and watch ads (which is how Google makes money, after all) than iOS users in order to save money.

In our case, the demographics of our user base don't favor Android.  The Android demographics described above are not the demographics of the typical birder, which is our target niche.   As a point of reference, there is a Facebook page for birding apps (https://www.facebook.com/groups/351866994920401/?fref=ts) that ran a survey and the last time I checked found that about 65-70% of members were on iOS (and virtually none yet for Windows 8).  

Android users buy fewer apps than iOS user ... MANY fewer apps.  Despite a much larger number of devices, the Android market is just 1/4 the size of the iOS App Market (see: http://www.forbes.com/sites/darcytravlos/2012/08/22/five-reasons-why-google-android-versus-apple-ios-market-share-numbers-dont-matter/).  And you can ignore all the hype about the Amazon app store being bigger than Android … it's true, kind of, but those sales are mostly non-app sales like books, movies and music, so they don't help an app developer.   Here's a startling statistic: the global market for apps on iPad alone is bigger than the entire Android app market, including Kindle. 

The bottom line is that we see pretty much what other developers see: about $0.25 of Android sales for every $1.00 of iOS sales.  More importantly that 25% ratio has been steady for the last year, so it is hard to argue that some kind of seismic shift is occurring, at least not in the US.  I hear similar stories from other app developers.   We see no indication that Android app sales are growing faster than Apple, despite faster sales of devices.  Windows 8 mobile app sales, on the other hand, are growing much faster than either Android or iOS, albeit from a very low base.

So far, it seems that the primary path to make real money with an Android app is with high-volume free apps that are supported by ad revenue, perhaps with an up-sell option to make the ads go away.  That approach works fine if you want to produce apps that target the mass market, like sports, games and news, but this model is tough to make work with high-end or niche apps ... which is a big reason why there isn't the richness of high-quality niche apps available for Android that there is for iOS.

crystal-ballSo, what do we plan to do?  

The first thing to remember is that making money on an iOS app is tough.  People throw around the estimate that less than 5% (and some say less than 1%) of iOS app developers make money, and that seems about right to me.  Think about this stat before you consider writing an app: out of every 20 apps that someone writes and publishes in the app store, 19 don't sell enough to earn back the development costs, never mind make money.  The fact that it is even tougher on Android is problematic.

We are lucky to be (just barely) in that top 5%.  In our case the only reason we are in this market in the first place is that we are crazy birders ourselves, so we are willing to lose money or barely scrape by for years in order to do what we love.  (If you are a crazy birder you are welcome to join us!)

Given the facts above, our first priority has to be development for iPhone.  Next comes iPad.  Finally comes Android, although I have doubts that maybe Windows 8 should come before Android given it's growth and appeal to more affluent customers.

The Economics of Developing an Android App

Here is a little more detail on the economics of app development for Android versus iOS.  It makes ugly reading:

1) Porting an app from iOS to Android costs about the same amount as developing an Android app from scratch.  The cost is a bit higher for the same work on an iOS app because there are so many different versions of the Android OS out there, running on so many different devices.  Apple makes things much simpler with a limited number of OS versions and devices to support.  (Note: The so-called platform-independent development environments don't work well enough, which is why they are not widely used, at least not for popular apps.)

2) With the paid app revenue model, one can expect to earn just 20-25% as much revenue as we would for iOS for the same app.  Unless there is a strong back-end of ad or upsell revenue, then you need to expect most Android customers are going to shun paid apps, and most will choose the cheapest option when they do need to pay.

3) Upgrade and maintenance costs are 10-20% higher per unit for Android than for iOS, again because of the wide range of new devices hitting the market every month.  Unlike Apple, Google is much less aggressive about forcing users to upgrade their OS, so there are lots of old OSs out there at the same time that the newest OS keeps changing.  What that means is that our development is harder because we need to build an app that will work on both new and old OSs.  With iOS we pretty much just need to deal with 2 versions of the OS and 3 different screen sizes, and Apple makes that optional by allowing iPhone apps to run on the other form factors.  When a new device or OS comes out, we get about 6 months advance notice.  On Android, by contrast, the form factors and features are all over in terms of screen size, GPS capabilities, slide-out keyboards, etc and apps that display well on one might not work at all on another and change every day.

Here's a hypothetical example of the costs and benefits of creating a complex app, comparable to BirdLog or BirdsEye.  Of course the cost and revenue numbers are made up, but are in line with our experience:

iPhone iPad port Android port
Development cost  $75,000  $15,000  $85,000
Annual revenue  $100,000  $25,000  $25,000
Annual support costs  $15,000  $5,000  $20,000
Server, marketing, upgrades, etc  $20,000 $10,000 $25,000
Contribution (profit before overhead) $65,000  $10,000  $(20,000)


So ... What should I do?

1) Android sales are distributed very non-uniformly by country and by niche within countries.  We discussed how Android is under-represented among birders above.  Another example is that Android represents something like 75% of the smartphone market in China, so if you want to launch an app there it better be on an Android platform. The lesson is to pay attentioin to Android penetration and growth in your target market and ignore the overall figures.

2) Making money with apps is hard in general, and harder with Android.  That said, if you can make a strong case for how you will make money from something other than selling apps (freemium, in-app purchases, ads, upsells, subscriptions, cross-marketing, etc), then go for it.

3) Don't assume that porting your iOS app to Android will produce similar results.  You should plan for much lower sales at the same price point, and consider a different revenue model for Android more suited to that market.


Q: Do you plan to continue developing for Android?  I'm not sure.  Economically, I would say no, but we are also driven by our Mission, which is to support bird conservation through the eBird project.  The Android versions of BirdLog really supports that Mission, especially outside of the US.  So, yeah, we will probably continue to develop for Android, but I think I would try to make our Android apps simpler, lower priced and launch them with different revenue models than for iOS.  I'm waiting to see what happens with Windows 8.  If growth looks strong, we may choose to focus there instead or in addition to Android.

Q: What if you spent more on marketing?  A: In our case, the market for serious birders is limited, so spending more to reach it doesn't make sense to me.  For other apps, a large and thoughtful marketing campaign could help a lot.  If you know of smart ways to reach some new market at lower cost that I'm not thinking about, let me know!

Q: How can I help?  A: Well, anything you can do to help us increase our sales, such as telling your friends helps.  If you'd like to make a targeted contribution to help us create an Android version of BirdsEye or add a specific feature to BirdLog that you care about, that would be fantastic.  Another option would be to help us create a version of BirdLog specifically for your area or conservation group.   

Comments welcome: feel free to post on our facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BirdLog


Article Permalink: http://www.birdseyebirding.com/index.php/blog/104-year-of-the-android

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Tips and Tricks: Speeding Up Field Data Entry

One of the biggest goals of BirdLog is to make eBird data entry fast and easy.  However, if you're like me it can never be fast or easy enough, so I'm always looking for ways to speed it up.  Here are some of the ways I've learned to speed things up:

quick entry_screen_capture

1) Use Quick Entry:

Many of you reading this will already be familiar with Quick Entry and if so you can skip ahead.  However, I've learned that there are a lot of BirdLog users who haven't learned about Quick Entry yet, so here goes.  

Quick Entry allows you to enter sightings using the quick entry bar at the top.  There are a couple of things to know:

-- Type the number you want to ADD to your current count.  For example, if you want to have already seen 140 Gadwall, and you want to add 35 more, then type "35" and then add a space.  The space is critical, because it converts the keyboard to alpha mode so you don't have to switch it manually.  At this point you can tap "Gadwall" if you can see it in the list, or type letters "gad" to shorten the list of options and then tap it when you see it.
-- You can use 4-letter banding codes in upper or lowercase, and normally you just need to type 3 letters to see the bird you are looking for.  If you don't know the codes, no problem!  The rules are pretty simple: for one-word names like Mallard, just type the first letters: MALL.  For 2 word names like Northern Cardinal you take the first 2 letters of each word: NOCA.  For 3 word names use the first letter of each of the first two words and the first 2 of the last: Red-tailed Hawk => RTHA.  There is a bit more complexity, but in a nutshell that's it!
-- You can enter a quantity which will be added to your list: for example "2 rtha" will add 2 Red-tailed Hawks to your list.  If you had none, the number will now be 2.  If you had 2 already, the number will now be automatically incremented to 4.

BirdLog incremental counter

2) Use one-tap incrementing:

I like to enter birds the first time I see them using quick entry, but I often use 1-tap incrementing after that to update my counts as I'm birding.  For this to work, I like to use the "Checked" view when entering my birds, which allows me to just see the birds that I've entered.  You can get to the "Checked" view by hitting "Review and Submit" at the bottom right or by Choosing "Checked" from the All/Likely/Checked bar at the top of the screen.  Note that I don't enter protocol information until I'm done to avoid accidentally submitting a partially-done checklist.

3) Start your checklist when you start birding...

...rather than when you finish.  This isn't so much a time saver as it is a great way of achieving better estimates of numbers for each bird and also for remembering to include everything that you see.  I keep my count as I'm birding and then do a final review before hitting submit.

4) Use Siri for entering species and checklist comments.

Despite the fact that Siri (and the Android OS eqivalent speach recognition) sometimes interprets my words in ways that don't make a lot of sense, and despite not knowing a lot of birding terminology ("Under tail coverts" ... hunh?), Siri is still a great labor saver when entering comments, especially when you want to provide long comments or directions to find the bird.  

Give voice comment entry a shot ... but don't forget to check for strange Siri-isms before submitting!

5) Use the auto-calculate feature for computing the total birding time.

BirdLog checklist options

6) Know the options for creating new locations and choose the fastest one.  

"Recent Locations" is the fastest way to create a checklist for a location you have birded, well, recently.  The great thing about this option is that it loads the eBird checklist for that location from memory even when there is no internet connection available.
"Choose a nearby Hotspot" (or personal location): this option is the fastest way to find a hotspot or personal location, but it requires a good internet connection.  Be cautious about using this option if you are in an area you don't know well … make sure you pick the right hotspot!
"Create a new personal location" is a good option to pick when you know you are creating a new personal location and you know you don't want any of the nearby hotspots.  This option requires a good internet location.
"Create an offline checklist" this is the fastest option when you don't have an internet connection and you want to record the lat/lng.

Happy and Speedy eBirding,


Article Permalink: http://www.birdseyebirding.com/index.php/blog/103-speeding-up

Below are a few tricks I have learned to create accurate locations in BirdLog.  As with any field data entry tool, the most important "trick" is to pay attention!  Take a few extra seconds to look at the map and make sure it looks right to you.  Don't assume that the point selected by BirdLog is correct.  

Tip #1: Understand Your Options.

BirdLog provides a number of options for selecting a location designed to work well in different situations. Each option works well some of the time, but not all of the time.

You can “Choose A Location From Map”, "Create a new personal location" or choose from a list of nearby personal locations or hotspots. These different options are designed to be used depending on what you're trying to accomplish and also depending on whether you have a good Internet connection available.  The map-based methods work well only when a good internet connection is available, because they are require a lot of data.  At the other end of the spectrum, "Choose a Recent Location" and "Create an offline Checklist" work well even when there is no internet available, but are limited.  The other options fill the gap in between.

Generally speaking the best approach is to use the map when you have a good connection available. It's also a good idea to zoom in as far as possible to make sure that you're putting the pin in the correct location. A common error that we see is when users automatically hit “Next” without checking to make sure that the map location is correct.

If you decide to use the “Choose a Nearby Hotspot” or “Choose a Nearby Personal Location” option there some limitations to be aware of. As with the map option, the GPS location may not be precisely accurate. As a result the list of locations may not start with the closest location. It's a good idea if you're in a location that you are not familiar with to check several items on the list and not assume that the first one is necessarily the best choice

Tip #2: Understand the Limitations of GPS

Using the GPS features of the iPhone is an important convenience that we try to make available to our users. We try to make GPS as accurate as possible but we are limited by the capabilities of the iPhone. We are working to get the GPS location accuracy to continue to improve over time. In the meanwhile, be aware that the GPS location may be off and that regardless of what method you're using to choose a location it's a good idea to verify that the GPS location is accurate.

One easy way to do this if you're not sure is to switch out of BirdLog and into a mapping app such as Yahoo maps or Google maps. These apps are very good at getting an accurate GPS location quickly - even better than BirdLog, so if BirdLog is having trouble often these apps are able to get a better GPS fix. Then you can switch back to BirdLog and the phone will still have that good location fixed in memory.

Another trick is to hit the "back" button and open the map again.  I find that this approach often gives me a good GPS location.

Tip # 3: Creating Accurate Locations Offline

When you're birding in an area that has no Internet connection, getting an accurate location can be difficult. Moreover, since you don't have an Internet connection it can be hard to see whether you're in the correct spot on a map. In this situation, select the option “Create Offline Checklist” or "Choose a recent Location" if appropriate.

I try to do a couple of things to help me increase the chances of getting a good location. First, I try to make sure that I give the location and meaningful name so that if I get home and find that the location fix is bad I can at least go look it up. Second, I switch over to another mapping program such as Google maps and wait for the location to appear on the screen and then switch back. Even if the map doesn't show any data (remember, no cell, no map), the mapping apps still will still display a blue dot to indicate a good GPS fix. If you are not sure of this, one quick thing try getting the location a second time. If you get the same GPS location both times then you can be pretty confident it's correct.

If you have any ideas on how we can improve our location selection feature I would love to hear them. Please send an email and let us know (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ).

-- Dave Bell

Article Permalink: http://www.birdseyebirding.com/index.php/blog/88-creating-accurate-locations-with-birdlog

Thanks to all of you who contributed your time and effort to completing the BirdsEye survey this fall.  We appreciate it!

The following describes what we learned from the survey, and how we plan to move forward based on your feedback.

Why We Did the Survey

BirdsEye is a unique app that uses eBird data, your GPS, and proprietary filters to let you know what birds are being seen in your area.  As many of you commented, it’s a great tool for finding birds whether you’re exploring your own neighborhood, or a hotspot across the country.

Our goal at Birds in the Hand is to make BirdsEye the best way for birders to find birds.   At the same time, we want to keep BirdsEye easy to use so it provides valuable information for both casual birder and the serious ornithologist.  We are excited about your feedback and the survey results.  We look forward to improving BirdsEye based on your responses.

Of course it is near real-time data from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s eBird project that makes BirdsEye possible.  Our mission is to support this amazing citizen science project and we are proud to introduce more birders to this incredible resource.

About the Survey

As you may know, back in August we sent out a survey  for BirdLog, our bird-listing app.  We got great feedback and thought we would try and do the same with BirdsEye.  We are working on a major new release of BirdsEye and wanted to make sure got your feedback on what you like, and don’t like, about the app to help guide our development efforts.

We developed the survey using an online tool called SurveyMonkey and received responses from over 370 BirdsEye users.

What We Learned

About 62% gave the app positive marks for overall satisfaction, 15% thought the app fell short of expectations, while the remaining 23% felt the app was OK.

Regarding specific features, BirdsEye gets the highest marks for “Finding Nearby Hotspots”.  “Tracking your lifelist” was the area that got the lowest score.

85% of you told us you would recommend BirdsEye to a friend, but 20% of you would not.  We are pleased with that 85%, but realize there is room improvement to convince others to recommend the app as well.

The three features you told us needed the most improvements are:

  1. Faster / better sightings synchronization with eBird
  2. The ability to import regional, year or life lists from eBird
  3. Submit sightings into eBird

What We Will be Working On

Of course, we will try address as many of your concerns as possible, but in the near term we will be focusing on trying to improve synchronization with eBird and expanding the listing capabilities in BirdsEye.

NOTE: Currently eBird does not support synchronization through the interface they offer to developers (that’s us).  However, we are working closely with the eBird project managers to help develop a strong interface that will protect the integrity of the eBird data, and provide the synchronization with BirdsEye that we want to offer.

We are also excited about adding new functionality including range maps and graphical information on seasonal abundance. 

We have big plans for including Rare Bird Alerts and other options, although at this time we feel these functions may be better served by a stand-alone application.

We also want to expand BirdsEye coverage to be worldwide, just like eBird.

Another area that we received a lot of feedback on is the status of BirdsEye for Android.  As much as we want to develop a ‘Droid version, the Apple iOS continues to be the biggest contributor to our revenue stream…an important consideration since it helps us keep the doors open and the lights on.  That said, we realize the app marketplace is changing rapidly and we continue to monitor it carefully.

BirdsEye Survey Data

A total of 377 of you completed the survey providing us with a lot of valuable information. 

1. How satisfied with BirdsEye are you in each of the following areas?

See the chart below for a summary of overall satisfaction with various aspects of BirdsEye.  The areas needing the most improvement are “Tracking your life list” and “Bird Sounds” and “Photos”.  The strongest points of the app are the “Accuracy and Timeliness of Bird Sightings” and the “Finding nearby Rate and Noteworthy Birds”:

survey result graph

2.  Would you recommend BirdsEye to a friend?


81%  Yes

Top Reasons:

  • Easy to use
  • Especially useful when travelling.
  • Helpful when planning a trip.
  • Helps find new/rare/notable birds.
  • Great way to keep up with recent eBird reports in your area.
  • Nice to be able to locate new birding areas

19% No

Top Reasons:

  • Too expensive
  • Not available on Android
  • Lifelist is poorly designed.
  • eBird lists not available
  • Data missing or not current with eBird

3) Please select the 3 features that you think should be our top development priorities:

The top areas for development and new feature requests are ranked as follows.  As we plan our next development efforts we will use these priorities to help build our roadmap.

  1. Faster/ better sightings synchronization with eBird
  2. Import regional, year or life lists from eBird
  3. Submit sightings into eBird
  4. Customizable Rare Bird Alerts
  5. Seasonal abundance Bar Graphs
  6. Range Maps
  7. Make BirdsEye available for Android or Kindle
  8. Worldwide coverage
  9. Identification information
  10. More or better photos
  11. More or better bird sounds
  12. Share sightings with friends such as with email or Facebook
  13. Update our Taxonomy
  14. Link to Wikipedia or Flickr

Other Suggestions from BirdsEye Customers

Wow!  You also offered a lot of other suggestions.  Thank you!

We have captured all of your suggestions and included many in our development plans.  Each of these ideas is good and worthy of discussion, but for the sake of space I’ll just sort them into broad categories.  Note that we have not included all responses here, but just representative examples of the most frequently recurring comments:

Great ideas!  We’ll get right on it:

  • Loop sound recordings.
  • Customize the number of days used to show recent sightings in “Find Nearby Birds” and “Locate a Bird”
  • Ability for user to set parameters to customize distance ranges for searching.
  • Up-to-date Hotspots
  • Include a “Notes” feature - to specify where a bird was seen (some hotspots are huge)

Great ideas!  We will add this to our development queue, but these items will require a bit more work and/or involve trade-offs with other features, so it will take us a bit longer to figure out how to get them done.

  • Way to share private hotspots with friends
  • Provide a way to connect local birders with each other.
  • Hot spot comments, ala "Yelp”
  • Provide option for users to accept questions of people interested in getting more details on a sighting.  This could be especially helpful if it is Personal Location
  • Customizable "want lists" -- not just rarities or birds missing from life/year/month lists.
  • eBird lists could be linked so a "needs" list could be generated for a state/county/year.
  • Ability to filter out "hotspots" with few sightings.  Allow user to set parameters.
  • Allow user to create a species target list and have BirdsEye create an itinerary based on sightings and hotspots.
  • List noteworthy birds per county for a selected
  • Include specific bird-finding tips for each species
  • Select multiple, frequently used sounds for easy field access

Good ideas, but these ideas involve eBird policy issues.  On these items we will defer to the decisions of the eBird team:

  • Include comments for each sighting from eBird (very helpful in finding rare birds)
  • Provide link to actual sightings checklists.  eBird now allows this functionality

4. If there were one thing you could change about BirdsEye, what would it be?


  • Merge with BirdLog
  • Make it available for Android
  • Improve Performance
  • List Integration with eBird
  • Easier to set current location
  • Make it world-wide


  • Include species Range maps
  • Better integration with maps for turn-by-turn directions
  • Seasonal occurrence charts

Find Nearby Birds/Locate a Bird:

  • Revert to more specific "Last Sighting" instead of "More than 30 days ago".  Show actual date of last sighting.
  • Ability to customize range and time period for recent sightings.
  • Link it to eBird accounts and allow users to explore/manage eBird sightings.
  • Provide ability to build custom reports setting a date range for sightings.
  • Make it easier/possible to locate birds reported from "personal locations" (non hotspots)
  • Provide a way to filter recent sightings by date as well as to display them with different icons on the map indicating 'recency', as usually the most recent sightings are most relevant.
  • Show actual numbers of a birds reported and how often
  • Make the Recent Sightings list sortable by date.
  • Specific sighting location info rather than general area. GPS notations.
  • Provide more control to limit Nearby/Notable birds (e.g. by state/county)
  • Link to entire checklists for sightings

Notable Sightings & Rare Birds

  • Include notation of rare/notable sightings on hot spot push pins and in the list of birds in the hotspots
  • Customizable Rare Bird Alerts
  • Add alerts for when birds you select are spotted within a selected distance of you.

View Birding Hotspots:

  • Allow me to go back and forth between hotspots without going back home
  • Ability to "filter" hotspots with few sightings.
  • Use color codes to show which hotspots have recent and the most numerous sightings.  Use stars to indicate which hotspots have the most birds needed for lists.

Select Birding Location

  • Allow a county as a birding location (and county lines on map would be nice)
  • Allow BirdsEye users to contact each other to discuss finds

Update Life List (Lists):

  • Track life, state, and county lists
  • Redesign life list check, adding more tonal contrast in icon


  • Support Landscape view
  • Update the resolution for retina display


  • Update taxonomy
  • Take photos on iPhone and embed in checklist
  • More and better photographs especially of juveniles.
  • Identification info....use bullets and key diagnostic features and similar birds.
  • Add more bird sounds organized by region
  • More ID info. Describe markings. Give male an female characteristics and pics. Provide breeding and non-breeding descriptions and pics
  • provide simple list of your features
  • Make the search for an individual species for basic natural history info easier-a link to species accounts directly from the home page would be helpful


5. How important is it to you that we provide coverage for the following regions?


6. Which if any of the following bird apps do you use?



7. Which is your favorite bird app for iPhone or iPad? Please provide a brief description of why it is your favorite (alphabetical order):




8. Have you contacted us for customer support via email or though the contact us page on our website?



9. If you have contacted our support, do you have any comments on your experience or suggestions on how we can do a better job?

We’ve made some big strides forwardwith our support and Help Desk (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. ), and will work to make it even better.

Overall most of you are happy with support, and are looking for improvements and more responsiveness in fixing issues that you have brought to our attention. 

Positive Experience: 62%

Adequate: 20%

Room for Improvement: 16%


10. How many times per month do you go birding?


11. How often do you use BirdsEye?


12. Is there any important feature that we have forgotten to ask about or any other comments you would like to provide us to help guide the development of BirdsEye?

Please see the summaries for  Questions 3 & 4 above.

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