Updated 3rd March, 2017By Gerco Hoogeweg, PhD The Test Garden
eBird has elevated the listing game with a free online application that can be used anywhere in the world. Although popular among many users, eBird is not the only player in the listing field. At least a dozen other listing packages are available, free or commercially. An initial review of several of these packages was published on the surfbird website in Feb 2016 and ABA did their own review in the fall of 2016. Both reviews I felt, were lacking depth, nor were they conducted in a systematic manner. This page provides a summary of the in-depth review of eight listing programs and a high-level review of seven additional listing packages.
Listing programs that were part of the in-depth comparative review included: Bird Journal, Birders Diary, Birders Notebook, eBird, iGoTerra, Observation.org, Scythebill and Swift. This comparative reviewed focused on 1) Integration with eBird; 2) Taxonomic list support: 3) Data entry; 4) Reporting; 5) Mobile version; and 6) Noteworthy features. A detailed narrative of this comparative review and a review of each listing package can be found in the Test Garden Tech Bird section. A summary of this comparative review is provided in the table below and provides a high-level overview of many of the key features of these packages as well as seven other listing programs. Information in this table is current as of February 7, 2017.
Vendors were contacted during the comparative review, and 6 of the vendors actively provided feedback and additional insight in their packages. As such, I'd like to extend my gratitude to Jeff (Birder's Diary), Justin (Bird Journal), Bjorn (iGoTerra), Hisko (Observation.org), Adam (Scythebill), and Steve (Swift) for their time and feedback. Several of the vendors indicated that they are updating their programs. Therefore, it is expected that taxonomic lists, speed of data entry, and reports/analysis functions will change in the upcoming months.
All attempts have been made to be fair and un-biased in this review. If you have questions or comments, please visit The Test Garden and leave a message.
Table1. Summary of bird listing software packages undergoing a detailed review
|Package||eBird||Bird Journal||Birder's Diary||Birders Notebook||iGoTerra||Observation.org||Scythebill||Swift|
|Detailed Review Site||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/ebird/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/bird-journal/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/birders-diary/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/ birders-notebook/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/igoterra/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/observation/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/scythebill/||thetestgarden.com/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/swift/|
|Cost||Free, $8 per month for partner level||Free limited or $39.99 per year||$58 - $148||Free||Free limited or standard Euor 23 or advanced Euro 57 annually||Free||Free||Free limited or $79|
|Last Version/ Updated||2016||5.0.1023||4.1.62||1.4.10||2.0||-||13.5.0||2.0.15|
|Free fully functional demo||n/a||14 days||30-days||n/a||4 weeks||n/a||n/a||3 months|
|Taxonomic list support||Clements 2016||Clements 2014, IOC 6.4, ABA 2014, SACC 2014, SEO 2014, BOU 2016, C&B 2014, CBRO 2014, IRBC 2014||IOC 6.3, ABA 2016, BOU 2016, AOU 2016, RAOU 2008, Clements 2016||Clements 2014||Clements 2016, IOC 7.1||IOC 6.4||IOC 7.1, Clements 2016||Clements 2016|
|eBird integration||n/a||Does not support individual checklist import||Not supported||Not supported||Has a synchronisation tool|
|Ease of entry||Very easy||Very easy||Very easy||Difficult||Easy||Easy||Very easy||Easy|
|Media and Photos||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Charts and maps||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Maps||Species, Locations||Species, Locations, Photos||Species, Locations, Photos||Species, Locations||World lifers|
|Special reports||Big year/month||Big year/month/day, Trip list||Big year/month/day||Big year/month/day, Trip list||Big year/month/||Big year/month/day|
|Photo Gallery||via profile in submission order||dedicated by month and year||via record selection||in checklist||dedicated||dedicated||dedicated by species|
|Mobile version||Yes, iOS/ Android||Yes, iOS/ Android||No, reads other programs mobile formats||No||Yes, iOS/ Android||Yes, iOS/ Android/ windows mobile||No||No|
|Noteworthy features||Hospot exploration. County and target species alerts. eBird profile.||Modern clean looking interface. Location reports. Sync functionality between desktop/mobile via the cloud.||Sightings comparison report. User defined fields. Thing editor.||Species link to wikipedia.||Photo compare. Trip planner. Species description page.||Species alert. Transects.||Species list with drill down options. Simplicity of the application.||Ability to drill down to species summary. SWIFT meters. View/edit sightings module.|
Comparative Review Summary
eBird provides a solid baseline to compare other listing packages and web-based applications to. Because eBird has such a large user base, it is easier for many birders to understand how other listing software packages compare. The comparative reviewed focused on 1) Integration with eBird; 2) Taxonomic list support: 3) Data entry; 4) Reporting; 5) Mobile version; and 6) Noteworthy features.
In the category of taxonomic lists supports Bird Journal, Birders Diary, iGoTerra, and Scythebill all provide more options compared to eBird. Read more
In terms of data exchange with eBird, meaning the ability to import and export eBird files, Birders Diary, iGoTerra, Scythebill and Swift perform best. Read more
eBird has set a high standard when it comes to ease of data entry and speed. Data entry is considered very easy using Bird Journal, Birders Dairy, eBird, and Scythebill. When it comes to data entry speed both Birders Diary and Scythebill allow for faster data entry compared to eBird. Read More
When it comes to reporting, charts and maps, the reviewed listing packages offer a wide variety of options. Life lists are supported better in Bird Journal, Birders Diary, iGoTerra, Scythebill and Swift compared to eBird. When it comes to charts Bird Journal and Swift offer more options, but eBird is best in species distribution mapping. Dedicated trip reports are provided in Birders Diary and iGoTerra only. For those with in interest in Big Year/Month/Days reports, Birders Diary, iGoTerra and Swift provide the best options. Photo galleries are best supported in Bird Journal and Swift. Read More
On the mobile platform, Bird Journal, eBird, iGoTerra and Observation.org perform overall equally well. Each package has its own strengths and weaknesses. Observations.org is the only application that provides support for Windows. Read More
Several listing packages either perform better, offer more features, or focus more on the individual birder compared to eBird. Most of the reviewed bird listing software packages offer good to excellent interface options with eBird. So, you can handle all your data locally and still contribute to citizen science in a heartbeat.
Table 2. Summary of bird listing software packages undergoing a less detailed review
|Package||Avi-base||BirdBrain||BirdLasser||BUBO||iNaturalist||HBW Alive||Wildlife Recorder|
|Website||https://avibase.bsc-eoc.org||www.birdwatching.com/ software.html||www.birdlasser.com||www.bubo.org||www.inaturalist.org||www.hbw.com||www.wildlife.co.uk/ birding_software/ prod01.htm|
|Cost||Free||$99.95||Free||Free||Free||Basic Euro 29.95 Supporting Euro 44.95||£32.50 - £103.50|
|Last Version/ Updated||?||7.1||?||2017||2016||2017||?|
|Free fully functional demo||n/a||Yes, 70 record limit||n/a||n/a||n/a||No||No|
|Taxonomic list support||Clements, IVO, eBird 2016, Howard and Moore, IOC 7.1, Sibley and Monroe, Many more||Clements IOC||Clements 2016, IOC 6.2/6.3, AOU 56th supplement, ABA 7.8 2015, BOU 41st||Catalogue of life iBio||HBS/Bird Life International||IOC|
|eBird integration||read (only) directly from eBird||Yes, not tested||No||No||No||Import only||Export only|
|Ease of entry||Easy||Not tested||Not tested||Easy||Easy||Not tested||Not tested|
|Speed||Not tested||Not tested||Not tested||Not tested||Not tested||Not tested||Not tested|
|Media and Photos||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Charts and maps||Yes||Yes||No||No||Yes||Yes|
|Special reports||No||Trip lists|
|Mobile version||No||No||Yes iOS/Android/ windows mobile||No||Yes||Yes, Android, Various windows, OS|
|Noteworthy features||Printable field checklist.||Printable field checklist.|
n/a - not applicable