Bird Listing Software Review 2017

Cover Photo: Short-eared Owl from the Surfbirds galleries © Glyn Sellors

Updated 3rd March, 2017

By 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, Birder’s Diary, Birders Notebook, eBird, iGoTerra,, 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 (, 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 Scythebill Swift
Detailed Review Site for-the-birds/tech-birds/ebird/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/bird-journal/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/birders-diary/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/ birders-notebook/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/igoterra/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/observation/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/scythebill/ for-the-birds/tech-birds/swift/
Website www.birdwatching
Platform Cloud/mobile Desktop/mobile Desktop Desktop Cloud/mobile Cloud/mobile Desktop Desktop
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
Non-avian support No Yes Yes No Yes Yes No
eBird integration n/a Does not support individual checklist import Not supported Not supported Has a synchronisation tool
Data Entry
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
Life lists Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charts and maps Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Abundance charts 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
Technical support
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, Birder’s 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, Birder’s 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, Birder’s Dairy, eBird, and Scythebill. When it comes to data entry speed both Birder’s 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, Birder’s 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 Birder’s Diary and iGoTerra only. For those with in interest in Big Year/Month/Days reports, Birder’s 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 perform overall equally well. Each package has its own strengths and weaknesses. 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 software.html birding_software/ prod01.htm
Platform Cloud Mac Mobile Cloud Cloud Cloud Desktop
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
Non-avian support No No No No Yes No Yes
eBird integration read (only) directly from eBird Yes, not tested No No No Import only Export only
Data Entry
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
Life lists Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes Yes
Charts and maps Yes Yes No No Yes Yes
Abundance charts No No Yes
Maps World Lifers Sightings No Sightings Sightings Sightings
Special reports No

Trip lists
Photo Gallery No Yes No Yes
Technical support
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