iNaturalist vs eBird

I’ve noticed many forum users seem to like eBird just as much as iNat, and often post bird sightings on both. Personally, I only tried it after having used iNat for a while and found it much more limiting and less fun to use. What are your thoughts on them?

My opinions here:

eBird: Pros

  • Checklists
  • Ability to record number of individuals seen
  • No requirement for photos

eBird: Cons

  • No community review
  • Less interesting search features
  • All observations expected to be centered around hotspots or specific personal locations
  • No obvious way to identify an observation at a higher level than genus
  • No requirement for photos

iNat: Pros

  • Each individual listed as a separate observation
  • Can enter specific location for each observation
  • Can identify at any taxonomic level
  • Community review of observations
  • Explore page offers many search options
  • Users can create and use observation fields to record extra information
  • Projects can be used to group large numbers of observations for many purposes
  • Not just for birds

iNat: Cons

  • No thoroughly-implemented way to record number of individuals seen

Here’s a poll to compare users of iNat and eBird, but feel free to comment any opinions as well:

Use of eBird vs iNat
  • I use only eBird for bird sightings
  • I post all my bird sightings to eBird, but add rare ones to iNat
  • I add all bird sightings to both
  • I post all my bird sightings to iNat, but add rare ones to eBird
  • I never use eBird

0 voters

    • I joined eBird, but stopped using it before I joined iNat
    • I joined eBird before iNat, and only add bird sightings to eBird
    • I joined eBird before iNat, and add bird sightings to both
    • I joined eBird before iNat, but stopped using it in favor of iNat
    • I joined iNat before eBird, but now add bird sightings to eBird only
    • I joined iNat before eBird, and add bird sightings to both
    • I tried eBird after joining iNat, but soon stopped using it

0 voters


You can record the number of individuals seen in iNat, using observation fields such as ‘Count’, it is just not standardized.

I actually think the biggest difference, and one that keeps many users on eBird is the alerts system. The rare bird alerts are something many users are hooked on.


Hm, I didn’t know about those. I see how that could be interesting. And I wasn’t counting observation fields because of the non-standardization - there are so many for each thing that it just isn’t worth trying to sort out and actually use them. I suppose that is a pro of iNat, though, the user-created fields, places and projects.


You actually can enter eBird data above genus, they just dont display for selection by default, you have to toggle them on in the display, for instance gull sp., duck sp. etc all exist, even Passerine sp.


You make it sound like the only problem is that I didn’t use eBird long enough to figure it out!


You can look at the number of times you’ve observed a species already, unless you’re talking about something else…

Casual observations still show on your profile and in species checklists, I don’t see this as a con.


As a very serious birder, I find eBird perfectly fine to use. It is also (arguably) the better scientific database to use for birds, as it records what species aren’t present just as well as the ones that are. It also helps that any interesting or rare bird is much more likely to be documented by someone in eBird than on iNat.


Also, there is some community review in eBird, it’s just less and different from iNat. See for more info.


Another thing to consider, is that eBird is in a sense, recording a survey rather than an observation. The modern implementation has been adapted from a long-standing practice of recording bird lists. It would be very tedius to record an analogous survey using iNaturalist, which generally expects some sort of evidence for each individual species.


No, it doesn’t. It records what species a particular observer did not find during a particular time. That’s a different measurement.

If I go to Rondeau Provincial park and see no Red-headed Woodpeckers (the park is a stronghold for them in Ontario), it does not mean they are not there. It means I did not see them


You’re right. It doesn’t mean they are not there. But power of eBird is in the sheer number of checklists. If a hundred birders go to that place and don’t see a Red-headed Woodpecker, then it’s safe to say they are not there.


For the most part the relative distribution of checklists will be similar between the 2 platforms. A place with many ebird observations (private feeders exempted etc) likely also is on the higher end of the number of inat submissions.

The heat map of records will look very similar. Ebird may capture some rare migrants etc due to its higher volume, but residents etc should be in both. I’m sure someone will cite an example to prove me wrong, but I’m hard pressed to think of a single rare bird from Ontario over the past few years that is not on both platforms.

One thing I love about iNat that I haven’t figured out how to do on eBird is to communicate with other birders to get ID tips. I’ve basically only learned about birds through others on iNat. If anyone knows anything about this on eBird I would love to know:)


I’d say different rather than less interesting. iNat has a search features I wish eBird had and eBird has search features I wish iNat had. I like eBird’s abilities to explore and compare hotspots, which is better than iNat’s place options in my opinion. Other options like target species and bar charts are pretty nice as well.

Another great feature of eBird is the ability to share lists with other people. :)

I do think eBird is very well designed for birds but iNat is much better for most other taxa. There’s no way I could or would make a checklist of every plant or fly I saw on a hike.


The worst part of eBurd is map sister, I just can’t with those spots, it’s awful. Also reviewing in USA is one thing, reviewing here = getting email now after I left it 2 years ago about ssp I entered. I saw many wrong reports and had to write emails about those, it’s exhausting and I hate communicating where I don’t feel confident (and emailing to unknown curator is a situation like this).
On iNat we have trips, almost nobody uses them, it’s a pity.

Also plus of eBird and similar websites is amount of birders there, much more than on iNat, so rare records can be missed and I have to have multiple links opened to see different bird sites’ submissions.

Most of the authors of this article are developers at eBird, but I don’t think I’ve seen anything else official about it.

The eBird checklist of the future could be a lot more than one person’s bird sightings. What if you had the choice to make eBird a virtual venue for sharing successes and aspirations with fellow birders, cheering others on and comparing notes for tomorrow’s birding adventures? Birders could coordinate in real time in the field, sharing rare bird alerts when and where birders can make immediate use of them.

A decent number of eBirders put an email address in their public profile, you can often look up their names and find them on facebook or iNat as well. I definitely agree more in-site community interaction would be great though.

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I’d say that the heat map of records is only similar for the US and Canada, and even there the wealth of information is much greater on eBird.
I just spent a year in Peru, where I did a lot of birding.
On eBird, just about every species I saw, except for the a few of the rarest ones, has hundreds if not thousands of observations for Peru alone, and often tens of thousands of observations across their entire South American ranges.

On iNat, many of these species (anything that isn’t big and showy), have maybe a couple dozen observations, TOTAL, and several photos I uploaded were the first iNat record of the species for Peru, and in a few cases, even the first photo of the species on the platform.

I love iNat because it covers all living organisms, and the community has been awesome in helping me ID photos from groups I know nothing about (fish, moths, plants, etc). But eBird is specifically designed for birders (many of which don’t carry a camera), and especially outside the US, its far greater number of users and data points make it a far superior resource.


Maybe in large cities eBird and iNat maps look the same, but in my area this is simply not the case. It’s not as if the area I live in doesn’t have people, the city I live in has over 74000 residents and many similarly sized cities are very close by. But there are few iNat users and nowhere is covered well. This is not the case for eBird.

Back to that woodpecker example. If 100 iNatters visit a park and no one observes and Red-headed Woodpecker, I wouldn’t be sure there aren’t Red-headed Woodpeckers. Some of those iNatters may observe only fungi, or were only taking pictures of things that caught their eye, or whatever, I wouldn’t confidently say that that woodpeckers aren’t present there. In 100 eBirders visited the park and didn’t see woodpeckers, I would be sure that they aren’t frequently seen there. Most (if not all of them) would be serious birders doing fairly comprehensive bird surveys. None of them saw every bird, but collectively they show there are woodpeckers present.


For me they serve very different purposes, though I occasionally wish there were something like eBird for other key interests of mine (plants, bees, etc). The value of each is less about what you can do with each if you fiddle around with it (like entering individual count in fields on iNat or doing certain kinds of searches), but what kind of data is presented in an immediate and helpful way.

I find iNat most useful for everything except birds and uniquely suited for looking at relationships between different kinds of organisms in the same location (plants and birds, plants and bees, predators and prey). However, as someone primarily interested in birds, I would also like to store my own observations and have access to information on birds in a way that is efficient, relevant, consistent, and comprehensive. On eBird, I can easily click on an unfamiliar bird in someone else’s list and be immediately taken to a expertly written page of information on the bird (ID tips, behavior, etc.) along with carefully curated photos of that bird. On iNat, if I click on a taxa link, I often find a poorly written Wikipedia article (if anything) along with a bunch of photos that could be anything from a print in the dirt to a backlit outline in an uncropped photo. (“Favs” as a means of determining quality of a photo is a bit hit and miss.) I also like the bar charts on eBird that show the prevalence of sightings of a particular species in a location throughout the year and it helps that eBird allows me to easily determine when the last time a particular species was seen. eBird is also much more useful in the way it collects and presents sound recordings.

Above all, my preference for eBird for birds is about the sheer amount of bird observation data on the site. Few birders I know use iNat for bird observations, and if they do it is only for rare sightings. It is just too tedious to create a separate observation entry for each of the 30+ species you may see or hear on any particular outing (especially when these are very common birds and you don’t have a photo or recording). This means that the iNat site is not representative either of my own actual bird watching or of the frequency of observations in general in any location. I nevertheless appreciate both sites equally for their particular strengths.


Well, I would certainly call myself a birder (though I photograph any other organisms I come across as well), and I much prefer iNat to eBird. It’s possible that with further experience and a rather different lifestyle, I could learn to like eBird, but at this point iNat is a better fit for me even for birds.