Birda Founders Describe Their Extensive Birding App

Birda Founders Describe Their Extensive Birding App

A relatively new birding app for Apple and Android phones offers a social networking-like experience that’s all about birds. Birda, which recently became available in the United States, allows users to log their bird sightings through a user-friendly interface, keep lists, and interact with other birders.

I recently interviewed John and Natalie White, the co-founders of the app. They first launched a website and mobile app in 2013 to allow users to share wildlife sightings in southern Africa. In 2018 they started a global birding community called Chirp Birding, which has now become Birda. Keep reading to learn more.

What is Birda’s purpose/mission?

The mission is to turn outdoor fun and healthy competition into a driving force for good. Birda challenges motivate you to get outside and connect with the nature and wildlife around you. You then share your experiences with a super friendly community, and suddenly your well-being improves, and you gain a heightened appreciation for birds and the natural environment. We believe that if you connect, you protect.

Your bird sightings are used for scientific research that supports the preservation of birds and their habitats, all with the same smartphone that sometimes conspires to keep you on the couch scrolling. Combining having fun, feeling better, and saving the natural world sounds like a far-fetched idea… but that’s what Birda is all about.

The app seems to be focused on letting people share bird sightings. Is there a way to share links to bird news, youtube videos, bird books, feeders or other products, bird advocacy etc. ? If not, is it something you would consider adding?

The app is designed with sharing in mind. By the minute, this means users can share their bird sightings and adventures, whether it’s photos of real birds, the scenery, or you and your friends in the wild. We also have birding and conservation advisories from partner organizations like BirdLife International as part of the feed. Here, users can click a link to read birding news, donate to conservation projects, sign petitions, buy books, and more. We are only at the beginning of our journey and we have a lot of features on our roadmap for the future, so watch this space.

Does the app allow a user to import a checklist from eBird?

Yes. You can import sightings from eBird, BirdTrack and BirdLasser and we will also add many more options in the future. We know that many birders already upload their sightings to other platforms, some may even still have a life list in spreadsheet format and want to transfer it to Birda. Everyone is welcome. Sightings imported from eBird and other platforms will be considered in Birda’s lifelists and challenges.

See also  Nocturnal Forest Birds

Nathalie White

The app’s “locations” feature suggests nearby places to look for birds. Where does this data come from? In other words, how does Birda know that these 215 species have been reported in a certain park, for example?

Birda uses approximately 1 billion sighting records (collected over the past 10 years) to populate species lists and rarity scores in Birda’s location feature. Some of these sighting records are generated by Birda’s own users and some are from GBIF, which publishes open sighting data from the global birdwatching community.

How many people use Birda?

Birda launched in Europe in January 2022, in the US in September 2022, and now we’re live worldwide. This year has seen extremely encouraging growth, our user engagement is high and we are the fastest growing birding community on the internet.

All the major social media platforms – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, TikTok – have quite a bit of birding content and communities. What does Birda offer that is different?

Birda and other niche social networks (e.g. Strava, Waze and Fishbrain) differ from mainstream social media platforms in that we provide very niche specific features and functionality. So, in the case of Birda’s birding niche, we have all the benefits of a standard social network, but we also have a stack of useful features that birdwatchers depend on. For example: a built-in field guide, the ability to save sightings, automatic generation of life lists, challenges, a location feature to find where to go birding, and more. It is the marriage of social and niche-specific features and functionality that has resulted in the massive growth of niche social networks.

white jeans

Birda turns the discovery and exploration of bird life and the outdoors into a game using fun challenges, leaderboards and badges. It helps people to enjoy and get the most out of their birding trip. Thus, unlike traditional social networks, Birda is composed and was created by people who love to discover birds, who want to connect with nature and who want to improve their well-being. On Birda you can do things like find out what birds people near you have seen and where, create and organize your own bird lists to keep track of all your sightings, use the species guide to help you identify birds you have seen, or ask the community to help you identify a bird you cannot identify.

These are all cool features, and you can do all sorts of amazing things related to bird exploration, but what really sets Birda apart are all the different challenges you can take part in. These challenges (like identifying a certain number of species over a certain period of time, spending more time in nature, etc.) promote healthy competition, help people get out more often, and inspire people to share their adventures and experiences on the app.

See also  Birds of the Amazon

The icing on the cake is that all of these challenges and features that enhance the enjoyment of your birding trip create bird sightings that are then used for scientific research to help preserve the things you value. You feel better, the community is stronger, and the natural world is better for it.

You mentioned a few times that observations at Birda are used for scientific research. Can you explain further? How are these observations made available to researchers?

Yes, Birda has just been approved as a data publisher by the National Biodiversity Network, so we can now officially start contributing to GBIF. The GBIF (Global Biodiversity Information Facility) is an international network and data infrastructure funded by the world’s governments and aimed at providing anyone, anywhere with open access to data about all types of life on Earth.

If you are interested in the quality of Birda’s data that is shared for conservation, here is a bit more information.

Birda has spent a lot of time refining the platform so that it produces valuable, quality data for conservation researchers. This is accomplished through a combination of user-centric functionality as well as back-end functionality.

Birda’s user-centric features to improve the quality of sighting data:

  • When adding sighting records, location-based species lists are used to limit species lists to only species that we know are present at a location.
  • When adding sighting records, the location-based species lists are also sorted from most common to least common.
  • Birda species lists are integrated into the Birda species guide to help users find the right species when adding sighting records.
  • Birda has a “Suggest Species” feature which involves the community in identifying and reviewing published species.
  • The Birda community can flag sightings that are misidentified (or have other issues) so they can be manually reviewed by regional experts.
  • Birda is developing species identification quizzes to track and improve users’ species identification skills.

Birda background features to improve the quality of sighting data:

  • Birda uses Birdlife International’s bird distribution dataset to verify that sightings have occurred within known distributions and that flag sightings have occurred outside of known distributions.
  • Birda uses location-based species lists (based on over a billion verified historical sighting records) as additional verification that sightings have occurred inside or outside of known distributions.
  • Birda is in the process of assessing each user’s species identification skills and using them to separate sightings datasets based on perceived data quality.
  • Birda partners with a variety of local birding organizations and birders to verify data and validate unusual records.

Over time, Birda will work to integrate additional features to improve the quality of the data it produces for conservation researchers.