Important tips before you begin

The eBird import tool is designed for importing large volumes of data to eBird. Because the risk of error is higher and harder to fix, bulk data uploads should not be the main way you enter data into eBird.


Because the data are uploaded directly, the import tool has very specific requirements in terms of the file type and format. Your data must be imported as a .csv file! 


If you have fewer than 30 checklist to upload; and/or are not familiar with csv files and spreadsheets, we recommend entering sightings using eBird Mobile or the Submit page on eBird.org.


Note: You will not be able to bulk upload images and sound recordings with your data. Media files must be uploaded to their corresponding checklists after they have been imported.


Quick Links

Are my data appropriate for eBird import?

Overview of the data import process

Formatting Rules

eBird Record Format

eBird Checklist Format

Importing your data to eBird

Troubleshooting data imports

Cleaning up your imported data

Managing, editing, and deleting imported data


If you are importing sightings from Avisys or BirdBase, check out the documents at the bottom of this page for additional instructions specific to those programs.


Are my data appropriate for eBird import?

There are three key requirements for every eBird checklist. Every eBird list must:

  1. Correspond to a single calendar date (i.e., no checklists spanning multiple days)

  2. Correspond to a single map location (i.e., no checklists combining birds from separate sites)

  3. Include an observation type or "protocol" that describes how you went birding; if you are not sure which protocol to use, see our Guide to eBird Protocols.


Additionally, some eBird protocols require specific effort information like time spent birding, the number of observers, the distance traveled or area covered, etc. See our Guide to Protocols above for more about the specific data requirements of each protocol type. You can find more info on checklist rules and requirements here.


If your data do not meet the three requirements above, but you still want to get your entire life list in eBird, enter it using our How to Upload your Life List guidelines. 


Overview of the data import process


1. Have an exact date, location, and protocol for each birding event

The eBird data import tool will group your bird observations by date, location, time, and effort information (AKA protocol) to create checklists (e.g., all observations from “McFadden Marsh” on 12/17/2019 at 11:54 with the Incidental Protocol will be placed on a single eBird checklist). See our Guide to eBird Protocols to select the correct observation type for your records.


2. Choose a data format

There are two data formats in eBird: the eBird Record Format and the eBird Checklist Format

  • The eBird Record Format is designed to capture large tables of observations. Each row in the spreadsheet represents a complete species observation. You can upload as many checklists as you want in a single Record Format spreadsheet, up to 1 MB file size.

  • The eBird Checklist Format groups observations into separate birding events. Each column represents a different checklist. You can upload up to 48 checklists in a single Checklist Format spreadsheet.


For a detailed description of the fields in each data format, see our eBird Data Fields PDF (Appendix A, below )


3. Format your data to match the chosen Data Format

After choosing the format that works best for your data, you'll need to restructure your data accordingly. We provide examples and blank data entry templates for our Record Format and Checklist Format below; change your data to match the examples. 


You must exactly follow the eBird Data formatting requirements! See the Formatting Rules section below. Your data must be imported as a .csv file! 


4. Import your Data

Once your data are correctly formatted, it's time to upload them using our Import Tool. See detailed instructions on how to import your data below.


5. Process and manage your imported Data

Unless you used the most up-to-date taxonomy in your spreadsheet, chances are your species will need to be adjusted to match the current eBird Taxonomy. You may also need to pick locations for checklists without coordinates. Learn more about the import cleanup process, and how to manage already uploaded imports, below.


Formatting Rules

These key rules apply to both the Record Format and the Checklist Format. Double check them before uploading. If you need to troubleshoot your upload during the Import Process, refer back here and see Troubleshooting Import Issues below. 


Please also see our two PDFs: eBird Formatting Tips and eBird Data Preparation Instructions (Appendices C and D, below) - describing optimal techniques for formatting your data using Microsoft Excel.


Format files correctly:

  • File formatted as a comma separated .csv file - no other file types are accepted

  • File size does not exceed 1 MBYou can import as much data as you wish, but each individual file must be no larger than 1 MB.

  • The order of columns should match the Format template exactly; any column that is shifted out of place will result in an import error. Templates for data formats are provided below.

  • Use commas as the delimiter. If you do not, the file will not upload correctly. This tutorial helps to navigate to your computer's settings to change from a semicolon-delimited to a comma-delimited file.


Format fields correctly:

  • Dates must adhere to the following format: month/day/year (e.g., 12/27/2007).

  • Start times must be either military time (e.g., 08:00 or 14:50) or in twelve-hour format (e.g., "8:00 AM" or "2:50 PM").

  • Protocols must match the options described in our Guide to eBird Protocols, and should be one word (e.g., Stationary, Traveling, Historical, or Incidental).
    • Traveling checklists - distance traveled should be in miles
    • Area checklists - area covered should be in acres
    • Special protocols should use the Protocol Codes provided in our supplemental protocol description PDF (Appendix B, below)
  • Duration must be in minutes, NOT hours.
  • 'All observations reported' should be simply Y or N (one letter only)

Avoid special characters:

  • No quotation marks. Your spreadsheet CANNOT contain quotation marks (") within the text. Use the Find and Replace feature in your spreadsheet software to remove all quotation marks (") from your data.

  • No hard returns (line breaks). Use these tips to fix any line breaks if you have them in your file.

Additional notes:

  • Count can be a number OR use X, x, +, or * to indicate "present but not counted"
  • Latitude and longitude are optional, and should be entered in decimal degrees (e.g., 44.39077, -123.29811). Make sure the values are correct; longitudes in the Western Hemisphere and latitudes in the Southern hemisphere should have a (-) symbol (e.g., -123.29811)
  • It is not necessary to have Common name and Scientific name. Use either field, or both.

  • Rock Pigeons should be entered as “Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon).” This will save you time during the “Fix Species” stage. If you have sightings of wild type Rock Pigeons, enter those as “Rock Pigeon (Wild Type).” Read more information on reporting Rock Pigeons in eBird.


eBird Record Format 


In the eBird Record Format, each observation is a unique row of the spreadsheet. A properly formatted eBird Record Format spreadsheet looks something like this, except with the header row removed:


eBird Record Format


Sample Files

You can download Excel files of this file format as well as a sample template here.


The templates and examples above include a header row to help guide you. You must delete the header row before uploading your data. When uploading, the first row of the csv file should be a bird observation.


Column guide

The table below describes the data contained in each column of the eBird Record Format. The Column Letters correspond to individual spreadsheet columns. Our Data Fields PDF (Appendix A below) provides specifications about each column header.


Record format columns


Remember that finished files must be saved as .csv files with no header row.


eBird Checklist Format 


In the eBird Checklist Format, observations are grouped into columns by checklist. Checklist effort information is provided at the top of each column, like this:

 

eBird Checklist Format


Each column is a different checklist; the first 14 rows of every column (excluding A and B) contain effort data. The first 14 rows in columns A and B are empty. Rows 15+ consist of species names followed by a number, or X, in the matching column for each checklist. 


Sample Files

You can download Excel files of this file format as well as a sample template here.

Checklist Format Requirements: 

  • A single file is limited to 50 columns (48 checklists).

  • Cell A1 must be blank! This field must be completely empty for the file to be recognized.

  • Your species list should start on Row 15 in Column A; the species list can be as long or short as you need.

  • Common Name goes in Column A. 

  • If you are not including scientific names, make sure the entire Column B is blank.

  • Your first checklist should start in Column C.

  • Rows 1-14 should contain checklist effort information.
  • If you are adding Species Comments, separate them with the special character called a "pipe", which looks like this "|".  For example, in the count cell for Turkey Vulture, you might put "10|Moving north on southerly winds.”


Column guide

The table below describes the data contained in each column of the eBird Record Format. The Column Letters correspond to individual spreadsheet columns. Our Data Fields PDF (Appendix A below) provides specifications about each column header.


Checklist format columns


Remember to save as format .csv before importing into eBird. 


Importing your data to eBird


The instructions outlined below are also available as a PDF that you can reference while trying the Data Import Tool: the eBird Import Process (PDF). 



  1. Click the "Submit" tab on the eBird home page.

  2. Choose "Import Data" from the available options.

  3. Choose the format that matches your file (Record Format or Checklist Format).

  4. Click “Import File.”

  5. The moment of truth! If your file is formatted correctly, you'll see a processing message. If your file has formatting errors, you must fix these before importing again. Check your data the sections for Formatting Rules and Record/Checklist Format. 


Troubleshooting Import Errors


If you are unfamiliar with csv files and/or this is your first time using the Import Tool, you may encounter errors when trying to upload your data. If so, try the following things and pay careful attention to every detail of your spreadsheet.


First, verify your file meets each and every one of our Formatting criteria (above).


If you are working in Excel: 

  1. Select the range of cells containing your checklist data (including effort and observations)
  2. Copy these cells (CTRL+C)
  3. Open a brand new Excel document
  4. Paste the copied cells without formatting into the new Excel document: press CTRL+ALT+V in Windows (CTRL+Option+V on a Mac) to open the Paste window, then select "Values" and click OK.
  5. Double-check the dates were pasted in the correct format (MM/DD/YYYY)
  6. After pasting, save the new spreadsheet as a .csv (comma separated) file.

Check the file in a text editor: Open the .csv file in a text editing program like Notepad (PC) or TextEdit (Mac). 

  • Look for and remove quotation marks (") or other unusual characters, line breaks, long rows of commas at the end of the data, etc.
  • Check the date field to make sure it is in MM/DD/YYYY format.


If you are still encountering errors in the data import process after trying all of the above: take a screenshot of the error displayed on the Import Tool page, and send both the screenshot and your csv file to our Help Center.


Cleaning up your imported data


While the import tool automates as much of the upload process as possible, you’ll likely need to manually match some of your species and locations with those in eBird so your data is imported properly. 


Cleanup imported checklists


There are two important things to note about fixing species and locations. 

  1. You MUST click “Apply Fixes” for any of your changes to be saved. Fixed species and locations will be removed from the list as you apply your changes, so you can track your progress. 

  2. Do not click the “Delete” link beside any entry unless you really mean it. This cannot be undone! You will need to resubmit all of those entries again if you need them.


Fix Species:

Here you’ll make sure that your species correspond to the eBird Taxonomy. Mismatches are usually due to taxonomic changes or typos in names. Click “Choose Species” and select the species or taxon that corresponds to your sightings. You can use eBird’s Explore Species pages as a reference to make sure you select the right option. 



Note: you should choose “Rock Pigeon (Feral Pigeon)” as the entry option for your sightings and then change any records individually if you observed any “wild type” Rock Pigeons. 


If you have instances where records may actually relate to more than one taxon in eBird, then you will have to pick one option here then change the rest individually within each checklist (e.g., if you have sightings of both Black-rumped and Red-backed Flameback but they are all listed in your data under the old name of Black-rumped Flameback). You should naturally default to the species that appears on more of your checklists. Checking the latest eBird Taxonomy Update is a good strategy to review recent splits or lumps. 


Fix Locations: 

Selecting a location works the same as when submitting a normal eBird checklist. For general locations like “Thailand,” or “Kent, UK” use the “Select an entire city, county, state, or country” option. 


For specific locations, you can use the “Find it on a Map” option to search for your birding location. If there’s an eBird Hotspot that matches where you went birding, you can select it instead of a personal location. Or, if you’ve already submitted a checklist from a location, you can easily choose it from the Your Locations dropdown.


Review Your Lists! 

Enjoy your updated species totals in My eBird while you proof your checklists to make sure that you entered all of your checklists properly. Once you’re finished, sit back in satisfaction with your contributions to science and conservation in eBird! We look forward to all of your new data going forward-- try out eBird Mobile for the fastest way to keep your lists in the field. 


Managing Imported Data


Can I make changes to imported data?

Unfortunately it is not possible to make any changes to the csv file once it is imported. If you discover a widespread error that affects many records in your data, it is better to delete the original import from eBird (see below), fix the error in your spreadsheet, and import the corrected csv file.


If a mistake affects only a few lists or observations, follow the instructions to edit a single imported checklist (below) and repeat for every list with the error.


Editing a single imported checklist

You can edit imported sightings by clicking the "My eBird" tab and then selecting "Manage My Checklists" on the right hand side of the page. Follow these instructions to edit checklists: Editing and Sharing eBird Checklists


See and delete imported files

In the rare cases where it is necessary, you can delete an imported file by going to My eBird and then click "Manage Imported Data" on the right side of the page. 


To the right of each import file you'll see a "Delete import" option. This will remove *all* the records in that file from your data and from our database. Be careful!




Supplemental Info