What happens if I don’t hear from my partner?
Whether you are a birder or a landowner, communication is extremely important to the Birder Broker project! If your birder or landowner partner has not contacted you or responded to your email(s), reach out to us at and let us know. We will do our best to get in contact with your partner and, if they are still unresponsive, there may still be a chance that we can pair you with someone else still in need of a birder or landowner partner.
What should I do if I have any questions about how to complete the survey?
All participants in the Birder Broker program will receive a document outlining the Birder Broker protocols in spring, before bird surveys get underway. Ideally, this will answer any and all logistical questions about Birder Broker survey protocol, but if anything is unclear or requires further explanation, feel free to reach out to us at with questions.
How soon should I start coordinating visits with my partner?
We recommend setting up visiting dates for your Birder Broker surveys soon after you have been paired with a birder or landowner partner. With the often hectic and busy schedules of summer, figuring out which dates work best to complete your Birder Broker surveys is best taken care of as early as possible.
Does my landowner partner need to be present for all bird surveys?
No. As long as you have permission from your landowner partner to visit and bird their property without them. It’s perfectly ok if your landowner has a busy schedule, or is not an early bird, for you to bird their property and conduct your Birder Broker surveys without them, as long as you have gone over this with your partner beforehand and they have okayed it!
Can I be a “birder” for my own land?
Of course! If you are familiar with the bird species on your land, and want to document those species for the Birder Broker project, you are more than welcome to. By filling out both the Birder and Landowner forms on our website, this lets us know that you are an experienced birder interested in submitting your bird survey data to Birder Broker. To keep our Birder Broker data consistent, birders who are conducting Birder Broker surveys on their own land should follow the standard Birder Broker protocol, and conduct three (3) bird surveys on a one-mile loop of their land spread fairly evenly throughout June and July.
How should I design the birding loop? Are there particular landscape features I should include or avoid?
The bird survey route should be a loop about 0.5-1.0 miles in length, taking about 1-2 hours to complete. Ideally, the route would primarily go through a forested landscape. Please be sure to coordinate with your birder partner and consider their mobility when designing your route, as some birders prefer or require a loop that follows trails, old logging roads, etc. A route that passes through a forest patch with past, present, or future management could be especially interesting for long-term monitoring of bird populations.
I learned a lot from my birder! What are some resources for better managing my land with birds in mind?
Some excellent resources for landowners looking to support the birds on their property through land management include Audubon Vermont’s Healthy Forest Initiative, the Vermont Center for Ecostudies’ State of Vermont Forest Birds, and the Vermont Department of Forest, Parks & Recreation’s site for private landowners on managing forested woodlands.
What’s the landowner’s liability when taking part in this program?
Check Birder Broker’s Terms & Conditions page for information on liability of all parties involved in Birder Broker.
Is it ok if I can only do one or two bird surveys?
In order to collect robust data that can be used to estimate bird populations, diversity, and other factors in the future, it is best to conduct several surveys throughout the breeding season, and to have all surveyors conducting the same amount of bird surveys. We understand that planning out 3 surveys across the summer is a significant time commitment, and plans often change, unexpected circumstances get in the way, etc., but we strongly encourage all participants to do their best to conduct their three (3) Birder Broker forest bird surveys. If you anticipate being unable to complete all 3 surveys, reach out to us at and let us know as soon as possible.
Can I bring someone with me when I go bird?
Yes! As long as the person doesn’t distract you from birding, you’re more than welcome to bring a human companion if that will help you feel more comfortable. Four-legged companions are best left at home for Birder Broker surveys, as their presence can influence the detectability of birds on your walk. We ask that you, the Birder Broker volunteer, be the ‘primary birder’ for each bird survey. This means that you are the person in charge of identifying, counting, and recording the birds you see and hear rather than any of the other participants out in the field with you. If you feel uncomfortable meeting someone new by yourself, one of the Birder Broker staff can accompany you as well. It should go without saying, but please contact your landowner and ask their permission if you are looking to bring someone else to their property for your Birder Broker survey.
What if I encounter a bird I can’t identify?
If you encounter a ‘mystery bird’ that you are struggling to identify, photos, audio files, and notes are three great ways to document the unknown bird and figure out its identity later on! We don’t expect our birder volunteers to carry a camera with them on bird surveys, but even low quality, distant photos taken with a phone or point-and-shoot camera can be useful in figuring out an ID. Speaking of phones, there are a number of recording apps out there, not to mention the “voice memos” feature standard on many phones that is often fairly good at recording the songs and calls of birds. Making a quick recording of a mystery bird’s song and comparing it to other bird’s songs later on can also help you figure out what species you heard. If you only get a fleeting glimpse of a bird and don’t have time to record audio or snap a photo, jotting down some brief notes about the bird, including size, shape, coloration, and field marks such as crests, wing bars, stripes on the face, etc. can be useful in figuring out what species you saw.
There are many field guides to birds out there, and consulting these can be extremely helpful in identifying mystery birds or figuring out the difference between similar species. Bird field guides by Sibley, Peterson, and the Audubon Society are all widely available in print and as phone apps, and we highly recommend consulting these resources if you encounter an unknown bird. iNaturalist is an online biodiversity database that utilizes artificial intelligence and a community of experienced naturalists to identify and record all forms of life, if you are able to get a photo or audio recording of a bird, posting it to iNaturalist can be a useful way to figure out what species it is! The Merlin app from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology is also a useful tool for figuring out bird identifications.
If you consult these resources and still cannot come to an identification that you are certain on, that’s perfectly ok! eBird allows users to upload bird observations that are not identified to species under categories known as ‘spuhs and slashes’. For example, if you saw a bird you were sure was a warbler, but didn’t know which species, you could mark that on your eBird checklist as “warbler sp.” which indicates that you saw a type of warbler, but that’s the extent of the identification. Similarly, if you saw a short-winged, long-tailed raptor quickly fly through the forest canopy, and didn’t see it long enough to identify it positively as either a Sharp-shinned or a Cooper’s Hawk, you could upload that into eBird as Sharp-shinned/Cooper’s Hawk, indicating that it was one of those two species, though you are not sure which. For more info on eBird’s ‘spuhs and slashes’ check out their help page.
Lastly, you are always welcome to send your photos, audio files, notes, and wonderings to the Birder Broker email (). We are more than happy to help out with bird identification conundrums, and we can also provide guidance on how to upload your tricky to identify species into eBird.
Can I visit my landowner’s property more than 3 times or outside the Birder Broker season?
Yes! You are more than welcome to visit your landowner partner’s property as frequently as you like. We request that you only share three bird survey checklists to the Birder Broker eBird account, but we encourage you to submit a checklist to eBird each time you visit your landowner’s property, whether that is during the breeding season or not! One of our goals at Birder Broker is to foster connections between birders and landowners that expand beyond the bounds of bird surveys. If you and your landowner partner are meeting up to go birding multiple times during the summer, or even throughout the year, we would love to know!
Can I still use eBird if I don’t have an internet connection?
You can! Whether using an Android or an Apple device, eBird allows you to create offline checklists so that you can enter data in the field and upload it to eBird once you have internet connection later on. With both Android and Apple devices, it is helpful to download an eBird “pack” or list of species for the area you are likely to be birding while offline. This allows eBird to provide you with a list of the expected birds in your region to choose from while entering data. For more on offline checklists and eBird packs, head over to the eBird Mobile Help page.
What do I do if I don’t think I can accurately estimate the number of individuals I’ve seen or heard?
Give it your best guess! It can be hard keeping track of all the Black-capped Chickadees or singing Ovenbirds you come across while walking through the woods. You might ask yourself, “was that Ovenbird number 10 or 11”? Counting large flocks of birds can be difficult too, but large, difficult-to-estimate flocks are fairly unlikely to be encountered during most bird surveys on forested lands. When it comes down to it, numbers that are slightly off the actual total birds present are far better than an X on an eBird checklist. Don’t be afraid to put down your best guess for your final tally, as that will always be better than no data at all. For tips and tricks for counting birds, check out eBirds helpful “How to Count Birds” page.
How do I share a checklist on eBird?
Sharing checklists on eBird is a simple process that can be done during checklist submission or after the fact. Checklist sharing is how we gather Birder Broker survey data, so it is very important that all checklists from Birder Broker surveys get shared with our eBird account!
During checklist submission on the eBird mobile app, there is an icon that pops up under the # of Observers box titled “Sharing…”, that only appears if you have indicated that there is more than one observer. To share with the Birder Broker project, click this and type in our username ‘birderbroker’. When you submit the checklist, a copy of it will be sent over to us!
On the eBird website, if you want to share a checklist simply click on that checklist, select the blue “Checklist Tools” dropdown in the top right, and click “Share with others in your party”. This will bring up a box where you can type in the username of the person you want to share your checklist with. Simply type in “birderbroker”, hit “Share Checklist”, and a copy of your checklist will be sent to us over at Birder Broker. For further explanation of checklist sharing, check out eBirds’ help page for sharing checklists.
What are breeding codes and why should I include them?
Breeding codes are a way to document breeding activity of birds at various levels of certainty. To see the official list of Breeding Codes, click here. Breeding Codes indicate different levels of certainty of breeding, and fall under three main categories, Possible, Probable, and Confirmed. One of the major goals of Birder Broker is to find out what species of birds are raising young on privately-owned forested lands in Vermont, and Breeding Codes are a quick, easy, and informative way to capture this valuable information. Breeding Codes are relatively easy to notice and add to your checklists through a dropdown menu both in the eBird Mobile app and on the eBird website. Hear an Ovenbird singing? That’s an S — Singing Bird (Possible). Were you lucky enough to witness a Pileated Woodpecker entering a potential nest hole? That’s a B — Woodpecker/Wren Nest Building (Probable). Did you notice several warblers carrying food in their bills? That’s a CF — Carrying Food (Confirmed). You certainly do not have to memorize all of these codes, as they can all be visualized beside a brief description of what they mean on the eBird Mobile app. Help us collect valuable breeding data by adding these codes to your checklists on your Birder Broker bird surveys and on all your other summer bird walks!