Importing BirdBase sightings to My Birding

In this tutorial we explain how to manage the entire process of importing sightings, from the BirdBase export to the final adjustments on My Birding.

Export from BirdBase

Choose from the following options:

BirdBase export window

Add today's date in the "Latest Date" field. Click OK. Give a name to your file.
At this time, the exported file doesn't have any extension and can't be uploaded to My Birding yet. You will find it at the root folder where the software is installed on your PC. Edit the file name to add the right extension: "csv". For example, if your file is named "export1", rename it to "export1.csv". If Windows doesn't allow you to change/add an extension to a file, follow the steps mentioned in the next section.

File editing

Here are the steps you must follow (with Microsoft Excel) to successfully open a CSV file:

  1. Open the Microsoft Excel program.
  2. Go to File menu, and choose "Open With...".
  3. Use the Text Import Wizard: you want the text separated. Choose the Delimited option, then on the next screen, choose the Comma option. You will see that each sighting stands in one single row, and each piece of data in one specific cell/column. If this is not the case, please contact us.
  4. Choose “Save as” from the File menu, and then the CSV extension.

File editing is not recommended. Nevertheless, if you wish to do so, the 30 active columns must remain in the order in which Birdbase provided them. You can alter the data, but not the order, number or columns.

The file provided by BirdBase is sorted by ascendant species taxonomy, but you may wish to reorder it by date. In this case, don't use column K because when the CSV file is opened (with Microsoft Excel, for example), the cell format is altered and the date does not appear the same way from one row to another. Thus, to reorder by date, it's better to base the sort criteria on three columns together: (1.) year using column L, (2.) month using column M and (3.) day using column N.

When saving the file to your local device, it is essential not to alter the file specifications (see list above).

Bear in mind that BirdBase has some bugs when exporting the sightings:

  • Column I (trip name): if the cell contains quotation marks, the text could be split into several cells. If your file is affected by this bug, you must remove all the double quotation marks from your trip names using the BirdBase software. Once clean, you may proceed to the export.
  • Column X (Notes):
    • Each line-break in a note produces a new row below the current one with the rest of the note. Our import tool repairs the broken rows/cells and groups the pieces of notes together. In case you edit your CSV file, repairing yourself the broken notes is not mandatory. Just leave the note as it is. In case you put the pieces yourself together, don’t forget to remove the remaining empty rows.
    • If the note ends with a double quotation mark and you edit the file, your spreadsheet edition software may render the next row as part of the current row where the double quote stands. Consequently, if you are going to edit your CSV file, you must check the entire document, row by row, to check if any of them are broken.

In any case, we can't guarantee the complete validity of your CSV file against our import tool. If you prefer to submit a perfectly valid file, you can edit it with a spreadsheet software like Microsoft Excel, Numbers or LibreOffice Calc and repair the broken rows by yourself.

If you are not going to edit the file, please do not alter the order of the rows, because of the bug of the split notes during the BirdBase export.

Import to My Birding

The CSV file that BirdBase offers as an export of the user's data must have the following specifications at the moment of the import to My Birding:

  • No header
  • Separator: comma or semi-colon
  • Text delimiter: " (double quote)
  • Character set: Western Europe (ISO-8859-1)
  • Language: English (USA)
  • Other options: Quoted field as text (if available in your software)

Furthermore, the file must be less than 5Mb and have a maximum of 10000 lines. If the file does not comply with the specifications, it will have to be edited to split the data into different files.

Before importing your file to My Birding, you will need the following information from BirdBase:

  • The CSV file
  • If in BirdBase you use the Special markers S1, S2, S3 and/or S4, add the word/expression you associate to each of them. In case you choose the terms “Heard-only”, “Captive”, “Video”, “Photo”, or “Sound”, the corresponding checkboxes will be checked during the Sighting creation.
  • If you use the Location markers Nation (Na), Region (Re), Locale (Lo) and/or Home (Ho), add the word/expression you associate to each of them. Those will be saved in the Notes field of the corresponding birdlist.
    In case you’ve set different Location marker profiles over the years, you may want to export your data accordingly from BirdBase, generating a single CSV file for each period of time.
  • In case you already have data in My Birding previous to the import, think well about what you should do with it to be sure that the import will not create any duplicates!

To create an import, go to the My Birding main page and scroll down to the blue block called "Import your sightings from external sources". Click the "Start a new import process" link. Choose “BirdBase” as the external source, add your CSV file and specify the Markers if needed. Click on the "Save import configuration" button and wait for the new page to be loaded.
Finally, when you’re ready click on the red button “Enable import process”.

During the import process

The process converts each row from the exported CSV file into sightings along with their respective birdlists.


The system manages automatically the differences between the BirdBase taxonomy (based on Clement v.5/6) and the HBW Alive/Birdlife taxonomy. If different, the original species name found in the file is kept in a special field for later.


In BirdBase, the "trip profile" is where you describe the location and circumstances of a birding trip, specify a location code and give the date of the trip. As used in BirdBase, the word "trip" has a particular meaning: it's a set of bird sightings related to each other by all being obtained from about the same location and at about the same time. Travel is not necessarily involved; the sightings in your garden one morning constitute a trip. Also, if you go to Costa Rica for two weeks of birding it would be best to treat the sightings as 14 separate trips, one for each day -- or even more if on any day you visited several quite different locations. But, if you wish, you could group all the sightings of the two-week period into a single trip.

In the CSV file, column I corresponds to the trip name. The import process takes the content from there and adds between brackets the date from columns L-M-N. This combination forms what we call in My Birding the birdlist.

During the import process, if the system detects a birdlist with a name (column I + columns L-M-N) equal to one of your birdlist already created in My Birding, the sighting will be associated to this last one and no new birdlist will be created.

Bear in mind that, in the CSV file, the place where the species was sighted (column J) is a simple 2-letter ISO country code.

All the sightings with the same combination of birdlist (column I) and date (columns L-M-N) must indicate the same ISO code in column J.

Take a look at the BirdBase territories and codes list for more information.

During the import process, do NOT edit any birdlist or sighting until it is completed.

Other data

Uncertain sightings are imported to My Birding with the “Do Not count” option checked.

After the import process

After the import is done, a confirmation message will be displayed, along with a few links to check and improve the imported data.

If some unrecognized species still remain, you will be able to either edit each sighting to manually choose a new one, or choose the correct species for all the sightings affected by the same unrecognized species. The system will make some suggestions so the species can be conveniently and easily corrected.


With all this, HBW Alive’s My Birding becomes the only recording system with so many advantages: automatic updating of the taxonomy, illustrations and distribution maps for all the world’s species and close linking with all the knowledge and materials available in HBW Alive. This means that users will have all this content at their fingertips when entering their own records and, reciprocally, they will have immediate access to their personal records when reading HBW Alive accounts.

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