Birdwatching by the billion

Hi there, it’s Rose! I write for Datawrapper’s blog, and today I’m continuing last week’s wildlife theme.

Some Weekly Charts start with a hunt for good data. There’s some question I want to answer, or idea I want to explore, and the first step is to get up, get out, and see what I can find to help me do that. (A lot of Weekly Charts end there too — good data can be hard to find.)

Today I decided to do the opposite, and use this Weekly Chart as an opportunity to share one of my favorite data resources with you. eBird is an online database of bird populations run by the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, with information on bird species, ranges, and migrations from all over the world. What’s really special about eBird is how the data gets collected: anyone anywhere can sign up as a volunteer and contribute bird observations from right where they are. Meanwhile, a smaller group of volunteer and professional reviewers check through the submissions for quality and accuracy, which maintains the database at a high scientific standard. As of last year, over 820,000 people have taken part!

With the seasons finally starting to turn, I opted to pull some geodata on migration patterns for this week's locator map. But it was a hard choice, and I really recommend exploring the project site yourself for many more maps, as well as photographs, sound recordings, and volunteer data.

Put a bird on it

Maybe it's been a while since you saw your last grackle. It seems only fair to introduce the map's subject by face and not just by name — but how can we do that within Datawrapper?

As usual, the trick is just a tiny bit of HTML. It goes like this:

  • Create the image that you want to include and make sure it's sized appropriately for your locator map. You won't be able to resize the image later, so this is important!
  • Put the image online — that can be as easy as uploading it to Imgur, which is what I chose to do.
  • Create a marker in your locator map and give it a blank marker symbol.
  • Insert the image into the marker's text field by using an <img> tag.

You can sign up to contribute your own bird sightings at! And come back to the blog next Thursday for a Weekly Chart from our developer Jakub.