Frequently Asked Questions about eBird Hotspots
What is an eBird Hotspot?
Hotspots are public birding locations created by eBird users. Hotspots allow multiple birders to enter data into the same shared location, creating aggregated results available through eBird's "Explore" tools.
What makes a good eBird Hotspot?
There are several criteria you should consider before nominating a location as a Hotspot (see more below):
- Is the location open to the public?
- How large is the area encompassed by the Hotspot?
- How easily defined or identified are the Hotspot's boundaries?
Aim for hotspots that represent specific, well-defined locations. A Hotspot that is small, with easily defined boundaries, is "spatially explicit" - meaning it is easier for scientists to know exactly where you saw birds, and associate those sightings with habitat information. Also, the larger or more general a Hotspot is, the harder it is for all birders to use it in a consistent manner.
Does a Hotspot need to have lots of birds?
No! It is not necessary for a "Hotspot" to be an outstanding location for birds or birding. Hotspots represent a set of public locations that people regularly visit for birding, regardless of how amazing they are for birds. The primary requirement of a Hotspot is that it is publicly accessible, so avoid places like your yard or other private property.
How do I choose the right Hotspot for my checklist?
When selecting a location for your checklist on eBird Mobile or eBird.org, the map will display nearby Hotspots as red markers with flame icons inside. Tap or click on one of these markers to see that Hotspot's name.
To decide if a nearby Hotspot is appropriate for your checklist, answer this simple question: Was my entire eBird checklist restricted to the area described by the Hotspot name?
If the Hotspot's name accurately and precisely describes your location for the entire checklist, then it's OK to use that Hotspot for your checklist. However, if any part of your checklist occurred somewhere not adequately described by the chosen Hotspot, please use either a personal location or select a more appropriate Hotspot.
An Example from Central Park:
Both a stationary count in Central Park's Strawberry Field, or a traveling count around the perimeter of Strawberry Field, could be placed in the "Central Park--Strawberry Field" Hotspot.
However, a checklist that started at Strawberry Field before visiting the Turtle Pond and Great Lawn should NOT be placed in the "Central Park--Strawberry Field" Hotspot, because the checklist included other areas. Nor should it be placed at the Turtle Pond, or Great Lawn Hotspots. Instead, a checklist that included multiple areas of Central Park should use either:
- a personal location with a descriptive name (e.g., "Central Park from Strawberry Field to Great Lawn")
- the greater "Central Park" Hotspot
Better yet, make your birding more specific by starting a new checklist every time you reach a new Hotspot, and ending it whenever you leave that area.
What if my checklist falls within multiple Hotspots?
In some cases, you may not know which Hotspot to use. Other areas may appear to have multiple overlapping Hotspots. Whenever your checklist occurs within several Hotspots at once, choose the MOST specific Hotspot possible or else use a personal location. The goal is to reduce uncertainty about your birding location as much as possible.
For example, a stationary count at the Plantation House on Butler Island in the Altamaha Wildlife Management Area (WMA) could accurately use "Altamaha WMA--Butler Island Plantation House", or "Altamaha WMA--Butler Island", or "Altamaha WMA" Hotspots. However, the "Altamaha WMA--Butler Island Plantation House" Hotspot should be selected because it describes the checklist location most precisely.
When should I use a Hotspot instead of a personal location?
Hotspots are a useful way to aggregate results for popular birding locations. However, you should not ALWAYS use a Hotspot for your checklist. Only use an eBird Hotspot when it accurately represents your entire checklist.
Use a personal location in any situation where no existing Hotspot precisely describes your location or route. If you think that personal location should be a Hotspot in the future, suggest it to eBird's Hotspot Reviewers!
Precision is preferred. In areas with few Hotspots, personal locations often provide a more accurate depiction of your trip, especially when you give your personal locations descriptive names (e.g., "Suttle Rd. from first driveway to hydrant"). The more precise you make your birding location, the easier it is for scientists to associate your observations with habitat information.
How do I merge a personal location with an existing Hotspot?
If you make a personal location for your checklist(s) in the field, then later realize an existing Hotspot would have been equally appropriate for those lists, you can merge your personal location with that Hotspot. This will move all checklists from that personal location to the Hotspot instead.
Click here for instructions on how to merge your personal location with a Hotspot. This process is always completely optional, and should only be done if the Hotspot you are merging with is an accurate, precise, and appropriate location for your checklists.
How do I suggest a new Hotspot?
If you know of a birding location that meets the criteria for a good Hotspot described above, here is how to nominate it for Hotspot status:
- Verify a Hotspot does not exist for that location using our Explore Hotspots tool. If it does already exist, you can merge any existing personal location(s) with that hotspot.
- Next, if you have not already done so, submit an eBird checklist from the area you think should be a Hotspot to ensure it exists as a personal location in your eBird account. It is helpful if you name this personal location using our Hotspot naming conventions before submitting the checklist. (e.g., remove lat/long coordinates and modify the auto-generated name as needed to reflect the entire Hotspot area)
- Go to My eBird and select "My Locations".
- Use the Search bar to locate the personal location you want to suggest as a Hotspot. If the location does not appear as you type: go back to a checklist you previously submitted from that location and copy/paste the location name from that checklist into the search bar.
- When the location you want to suggest as a Hotspot is found, tap or click its name.
- On the "Manage location" page, click the "Suggest as Hotspot" link below the location coordinates. Click "Yes" to confirm your submission.
The "Edit location" page, with a link to suggest any personal location as a Hotspot, can be found in the "My Locations" page of My eBird.
IMPORTANT: You will only be able to nominate your own personal locations as Hotspots. Shared locations can only be suggested as Hotspots by checklist location "owner". The shared location owner is listed when you click the location name in My Locations.
I suggested a location as a Hotspot, why hasn't it shown up?
When you suggest a location as a Hotspot, it must first be approved by a Hotspot Reviewer before it becomes available to the public. The purpose of Hotspot review is to avoid duplicate Hotspots, and to make sure that the location meets our criteria for an eBird Hotspot. Because every suggestion must be investigated before approval, this process can sometimes can take weeks. Once our Hotspot Reviewers have approved a Hotspot, it takes another 24 hours to process through our system.
To speed up the Hotspot approval process: ensure that the Hotspot you suggest does not already exist, and your personal location is accurately placed and appropriately named.
Click here to learn more about becoming a Hotspot Reviewer!
Is there a list of all eBird Hotspots?
A list of all Hotspots with geospatial coordinates is available via our eBird Hotspot API and is an easily downloadable file here: https://confluence.cornell.edu/display/CLOISAPI/eBird-1.1-HotSpotsByRegion
Can I help with Hotspot management?
If you are interested in helping administer Hotspots in your county or state/province, or have an urgent hotspot request that requires immediate attention please email us.
What do different Hotspot names mean?
All Hotspot names should follow typical grammatical structure. There are different naming conventions based on the type of hotspot represented. The main types of Hotspots are:
Primary locations - generally well known birding areas
Sub-locations - smaller birding locations within a larger primary location. For example, within the primary location of Central Park there are several birding sites including the Turtle Pond, Strawberry Field, and the northern end.
- Sub-location names include the primary location separated by a double dash
- Example: "Central Park--Strawberry Field"
Locations with special naming modifiers - occasionally, several Hotspot locations may share similar names or attributes. In these cases, location names will include additional modifiers to help tell them apart. For example, there might be ten "Blue Lakes" in California, each with its own set of sub-locations. A county is added to each name to make it clear which location to use.
- Special modifiers, like county names, always occur at the end of the Hotspot name in parentheses.
- Example: "Blue Lake Trail (Chelan Co.)" or "Blue Lake (Lewis Co.)"
Stakeouts - At times, a rare bird may be observed at a particular location that would not otherwise be a Hotspot. If birders are regularly checking that location for the rarity, you may suggest a "stakeout" Hotspot to consolidate reports. The word "stakeout" in a hotspot name indicates an area of increased birding surveillance associated with a rare bird.
- Stakeout Hotspot names should always start with the word "stakeout" in lower case letters (no capitalization). This distinguishes stakeouts from traditional Hotspots and makes them easy to search for.
- Stakeout names should also include the rare bird and some location information such as street name, park, or town. Stakeouts also often include the year in their name to separate different instances of the same rarity.
- Example: "stakeout Band-tailed Pigeon, London--120 Lynngate Place (2003-04)"
Restricted Access - see next section
Why does this Hotspot say 'Restricted Access' or 'Private Property'?
We generally encourage eBird Hotspots to be publicly accessible. However, there may be cases where an area is regularly birded (e.g., by tour groups or research teams) but special permissions are required for access. Common examples of this include golf clubs, sewage treatment ponds, landfills, corporate campuses, and military bases.
To reduce confusion in situations where many checklists are being generated from an area that is off-limits to the public, these lists may be consolidated into a single Hotspot with "(Restricted Access)" in the name. Any personal locations from these areas should also include "Restricted Access" or "Private Property" in their names.
- Examples: "Cave Junction Sewage Ponds (Restricted Access)" or "Fort Stewart Military Base (Restricted Access)"
What do the abbreviations in Hotspot names stand for?
Hotspot names may use the following abbreviations (except in Australia, where no abbreviations are used):
- NP = National Park
- NWR = National Wildlife Refuge
- RA = Recreation Area
- SP = State Park
- PN = Parque Nacional (Latin America)
- WMA = Wildlife Managment Area
- Rd. = Road
- Pt. = Point
- Co. = County
If you see a hotspot with a confusing name, please email us. It is helpful if you include a link to the Hotspot in question and any suggestions for a more accurate name.