Regional variation in the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on the quantity and quality of data collected by the project eBird

Wesley M. Hochachka*, Hany Alonso, Carlos Gutierrez-Exposito, Eliot Miller, Alison Johnston

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The COVID-19 pandemic has likely affected natural systems around the world; the curtailment of human activity has also affected the collection of data needed to identify the indirect effects of this pandemic on natural systems. We describe how the outbreak of COVID-19 disease, and associated stay-at-home orders in four political regions, have affected the quantity and quality of data collected by participants in one volunteer-based bird monitoring project, eBird. The four regions were selected both for their early and prolonged periods of mandated changes to human activity, and because of the high densities of observations collected. We compared the months of April 2020 with April in previous years. The most notable change was in the landscapes in which observations were made: in all but one region human-dominated landscapes were proportionally more common in the data in April 2020, and observations made near the rarer wetland habitat were less prevalent. We also found subtler changes in quantity of data collected, as well as in observer effort within observation periods. Finally, we found that these effects of COVID-19 disease varied across the political units, and thus we conclude that any analyses of eBird data will require region-specific examination of whether there have been any changes to the data collection process during the COVID-19 pandemic that would need to be taken into account.

Original languageEnglish
Article number108974
Number of pages12
JournalBiological Conservation
Early online date20 Jan 2021
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • Citizen science
  • community science
  • COVID-19
  • Data quality
  • Data quantity
  • eBird
  • Observer behaviour


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