New eBird feature threatens to clog inboxes

Drew WeberBird Finding Tips, Birding, eBird, Listing, Rarities, Tutorial6 Comments

Just today as far as I can tell, eBird launched a new feature that threatens to clog my inbox. It’s not enough that they already send out emails of recently reported ABA rarities and birds reported in Pennsylvania that I still don’t have on my life list. Now, you can also subscribe to these alerts on the county level. This is huge for me as I enjoy county listing even more than I enjoy boosting my state list. With 67 counties in Pennsylvania I could really reach email overload in no time, especially since there are about 15 counties I have yet to bird in.

Western Tanager - one of the species I'd like to see in my Needs Alert for Centre County this year. I'll be waiting...

Subscribing to the Needs Alerts to new areas is very simple. Simply start typing your state or county into the text box and your desired area should pop up. You can subscribe to as many areas as you would like, but I would highly recommend getting a Gmail account (what, you don’t have one?!) and filtering all the eBird alerts into a special label so that your productivity doesn’t grind to a halt.

Selecting a county for alerts

Once you have your areas of interest selected, you can set how frequently you want updates. The default setting is to send out an email each day, but for areas of special interest to you, you can subscribe to the hourly updates. As soon as someone reports a species that you have not yet logged, an email should be set out and bam, the chase is on.

Managing Needs Alerts

It will be interesting to see how people end up using this information. It definitely makes information available from the eBird database in a much quicker and more focussed format. It allows people to passively receive information rather than having to keep a close eye on the bar charts to find the new birds themselves. It will also be helpful to get reminders on which species you still need to find in a certain region, it’s sometimes easy to gloss over a common species that you are missing.

One addition I hope to see in the future is Needs Alerts for year lists. This would assist in boosting year lists, especially for those of use who have already built a reasonably large life list in our state or counties.

  • Awesome!  Thanks for sharing this.  I have been subscribed to the Utah needs, but most of the birds I needed were down in Southern Utah and I’d get frustrated seeing the list of what they were seeing know that it wasn’t reasonable to expect to see them any time soon.  Now, thanks to you, I’m subscribed to just the counties I’m interested in.  

    • I know how you feel, in Pennsylvania, most of the good stuff shows up in the southeastern part of the state where I used to live. Now being in the center of the state I am too far away to quickly run down there for a tick.

  • John B.

    Thanks for pointing out the change. I’d been waiting for the county-level alerts since most of my birding is confined to 3-5 counties. How much of an inbox load it presents really depends on how many alerts you have set up. I don’t find the ABA-level alerts all that useful; I’m not about to hop a flight to Alaska or Arizona to chase some rarity that might be gone the next day.

    I agree with you on the year-list alerts (for all locality levels). It would give eBird users a big advantage in a big year.

    • I agree that the ABA-level alerts aren’t that useful. I usually just flip through them to see if anyone I know is finding something crazy.

  • I found this randomly back in June when subscribing to the Oregon feeds for a trip. It was helpful to have alerts for the coastal counties and not have to wade through birds from the other parts of the state. I wonder why they never announced this officially?

    • I am not surprised that it has been around for a while, it isn’t all that obvious that there is new functionality. Maybe they just wanted to slowly ramp up usage to make sure they didn’t get swamped and overload the servers.