Survey details and method

Shorebirds are inhabiting almost all type of habitats throughout their entire life-cycle. Different habitat might also require adjustment in the survey method. While the basic principle is the same, the execution to get data with the best possible accuracy is highly dependent on the method we use and the following factors:​

  • Size of the area

  • Actual status of the habitat

  • Weather conditions

  • Available equipment

  • Survey duration

  • Disturbance

  • Bird identification and counting skills

  • Following survey methods

​The expertise of a local surveyor is half the success but we recommend taking each factor into consideration prior to the survey.

Key points

Follow the survey dates

Walk the same area at every survey weekend

Count shorebirds as precisely as possible

Register all birds at the area (recommended)

Share one report from each survey weekend

from each site

Visit this website frequently for updates

Find and ask a friend for substitution if you cannot do a weekend

Size of the area

It's often impossible to get the total number of the shorebirds present in an area by counting them from a single spot. The best is to divide the survey site into segments focusing on the areas where birds are often congregating (e.g. smaller bays or intertidal mudflat segments). The key is the consistency of walking the same route or using the same counting method at each site visits. We highly recommend to divide the area into sublocations and report shorebird numbers from each sublocation separately.

Shorebirds of salt pans, fishponds or ricefields are highly recommended to survey pond by pond or group of ponds for consistency and data comparability. To achieve this, the best is to survey the whole site complex, if possible, and if public access is granted.

If your walking route to your survey site is going through another potential shorebird site, don't include birds from that potential site. Start a checklist what covers the potential site and handle them separately.

Actual status of the habitat

The condition of the habitats are or can frequently be changing. The most prominent of all is the intertidal habitats where mudflats are exposed during low-tide while birds are roosting during high tide. The same artificial process happens less frequently on salt-pans, sewage farms, fishponds or rice-fields. The amount of water flooding onto each pond/pool affects the composition of the species and the number of individuals. Deeper water is suitable for larger and long-legged birds like stilts, avocets or godwits, while drained or dried out pools are favourable for sandpipers and plovers.

It is recommended to do high-tide counts even if the counting date doesn't match with the more ideal super tide dates.


Weather conditions

Shorebirds don't care about the weather, but surveyors do. Extreme weather can happen on the counting dates what makes the counting impossible. It results in a gap in the counting frequency what is not ideal from statistical perspectives. While Saturday is preferred to be the main survey day, ±1 day is acceptable in case of personal obstruction or bad weather. Comments about the weather and the habitats are always welcome and useful.


It's not mandatory, but a spotting scope is almost a must for shorebird survey. Lucky surveyors at easy-to-overlook habitats can manage surveys with a pair of binoculars but in most cases, birds are distant and they are hard to identify with binoculars.

Survey dates and duration

The current Covid-19 Pandemic in general, the restrictions in local movements, weekend curfews and bad weather already affected the participation in the program on this survey weekend. With this in mind, we added Monday as another alternate day of each survey weekend. In case a surveyor visited the survey site each day in the survey weekend, still, only one checklist needs to be shared. The best advice is to pick the most representative to share.

Alternate Day

Priority Day

Priority Day

Alternate Day





There is no strict rule for the length of the survey (actual counting). The ideal duration of the survey

depends on the size of the area, the weather conditions or the number of birds present in the area. In a foggy morning, the surveyor has to wait for the mist to lift what could considerably increase the survey duration. If a checklist points to a large area with lots of birds, and the survey duration is 5-10 minutes, the accuracy of the counts could be questionable. As a general rule, allow enough time to be able to count all birds (especially shorebirds).

Survey method & counting shorebirds

The basic principle of this survey is to count all shorebirds as precisely as possible within the survey area. The survey area has to be specified by the surveyor prior to the survey. Data comparability is only possible if the subsequent surveys are covering the very same area. The map with survey locations is continuously updated with new area layers with the involvement of the surveyors. Once the area layer is completed the survey should be carried out within the boundaries of the area.

If precise counting is not possible, a rough estimate is still better than no estimate at all. We recommend counting shorebirds species by species in a well-defined area. It can be a single pond, a little bay of a tidal area, or a coastal segment (as described above under the 'Size of the area' paragraph). The question should always be raised: Did I avoid overlapping counts from the previous location? Birds often move from one site to another, and the surveyor should recognise those movements. It is recommended to count shorebirds individually what can be easily done up to 100-150 individuals, count by fives for birds under 200, and the closest tens under 500 respectively. eBird put together a very useful page about the best counting practises. It is recommended to go through that guideline.


If a larger area can be divided into small segments, it is useful to report shorebird numbers per sub-sites. It gives an indication of which part of the wetland is critical for shorebirds. Each survey site gets a code and sub-locations gets one as well. It is the surveyor who defines the number of sublocations within an area.

Although this program aims to monitor shorebird populations, it is recommended to make complete surveys and count all birds present at the site. Once the effort is made, it is relatively easy to let other aspects of ornithology benefit from our fieldwork. 

Reporting and data sharing

The best way to report survey results is to share the eBird checklist with us. The Eurasian Shorebird Survey has a dedicated eBird account with the username EurasianShorebirdSurvey (no spaces). You can share your checklists either from the field, using your mobile app or home, using your computer. The checklist sharing guidance can be found here:

We understand that not everybody uses eBird, so we made the traditional spreadsheet data entry possible as an alternative to eBird. It is only available in English with scientific species names. The spreadsheet is provided individually upon request. Data to be sent through a spreadsheet will be entered to eBird later under the ESS eBird account for database management purposes.

Steps to share checklists with the eBird mobile app