How do I find birds to photograph?

How do you find new birds now that you have the bird bug and you want to expand your horizons with different species or perhaps you are traveling to a location and you want to know what’s around? There are a number of online resources you can consult in your quest for information, and one of those is eBird.

This is a database established by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology in the USA and covers the globe with its database of records that have been added by birders. Ebird is usually the very first stop for me when I am trawling the web for information. Netra would say where can we photograph such and such, and then I go into research mode, with eBird the first stop. I suggest for you to set-up an account, start recording your lists and use this database for your research.


On the main menu, the EXPLORE link is your first step in getting some information from this valuable database.

How do I find a species to photograph using eBird?

Once you have gone into the explore function, it will open a new page with more options for you to consider. In this first example, I will search for a particular species of bird I want to photograph, the Letter-winged Kite (Elanus scriptus), a highly nomadic elanid kite that mostly resides in Australia’s dry outback regions, a long way from civilzation. I click Explore (see circled in red above).

When you get to the species-specific page you will have information about the species, a distribution map, photographs, voice recordings and videos taken and uploaded by eBirders.

Being a long page, I captured it in two screenshots, you can see the lower part of the species page in the next photo below.

How do I view species records?

To be able to view the records of the species as reported by observers, you can use the RANGE MAP, but to actually be able to see the markers on the map, you need to press the LARGE MAP link near the top right of the distribution map (below image, circled in red). Since this species is endemic to Australia, you’ll see the world map zoomed into Australia. If you are looking for, say a Peregrine Falcon, which is the most widely distributed bird in the world, you’ll see the entire world map. In that case, just use the scroll function to zoom in closer to the geographical area where you want to find records relevant for your needs.

The large map of Australia showing all records of Letter-winged Kite on eBird. See the little pink marker squares? Once you scroll in, they become more specifc, as per the next image.
I scrolled into NW NSW here, with Tibbooburra and Cameron Corner. The markers become blue. If you see a RED marker, that record is from the last 30 days. The blue marker simply means the records are over 30 days old. But it gives you a good starting point for your research.

Once I am at this stage with the blue or red markers clearly visible, I can click each marker for more details. That will provide the observer’s name, date and more exact location of the observation.

How do I check individual bird sightings?

By clicking one of those markers, it came up with all those observations. I usually right-click the dates and open into a new tab on my browser. That way, I can have as many observations open as I want and take note of important information. Let’s see what happens when I drill down into each observation.

All the checklist details tell you what you need. You can collate the information from each checklist you “check” and start putting plans in place to get out to find your own Letter-winged Kites too. One important thing to remember is to note, that while there are countless people who go birding and photographing out in the world, not all of them will use eBird or other databases to record their observations.

Sadly, our only attempt to get out to search for this highly nomadic and unpredictable secies so far has not worked out due to a leaking radiator in our 4WD vehicle, but we will be back for sure.

Best of luck with your research and photography. We hope you found this information useful for your needs.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *