Marked Birds Database – Importing observations from BirdRing

The release last year of BirdRing, an app for storing and submitting observations on an Android smart phone, has been very exciting for us ring readers.

In short, it allows you to store an observation of a ringed bird on your phone and subsequently submit it over the Internet to the project it belongs (currently restricted to and but more projects are planned to be added). Apart from having direct access to the ringing details while out in the field (while you’re looking at the bird!), it saves you a lot of manual administration afterwards.


(Image: copyright BirdRing)

One other feature of BirdRing is the ability to send the entered observations to yourself by e-mail as a .csv file which can then be opened in Excel for personal use.

I have used this feature to make it possible to import the observations into the Marked Birds Database. Again this saves a lot of manual work.

Note: This feature requires the Marked Birds Database version 1.9.0 or higher.

How it works

See the process explained in this video:

First of all, this feature only imports observations for birds that already exist in the database. It does not (yet) create new birds, although I have plans to add this some time in the future.

For best results, make sure that the species that you are importing exist in the database, and a Euring code is available for that species (see Manage MBDB > Bird Species).

The same goes for the ringing station code and ringing station name: make sure that these exist in the database (see Manage MBDB > Ringing Stations).

Both are used to find the bird that the observation should be added to.

The process consists of 3 steps:

  1. Import the CSV file into the Marked Birds Database
  2. Make any changes when necessary
  3. Import the observations

Accessing the BirdRing import feature

Open the menu named ‘Layout’ just below the navigation tools, and click BirdRing – Import.


The BirdRing Import layout appears.


1. Importing the CSV file

I assume here that you have sent yourself the CSV file from BirdRing and that it is saved on your system somewhere.

To import the CSV file, click Browse, browse to your file and double-click it.

During the import, some processes take place:

  • The date is set to dd-mm-yyyy format when (for some reason) it is set to yyyy-mm-dd format.
  • The ring color is loaded in English. This is determined by the third character of the ringCodeLong field of Bird Ring. (Example: ‘W’ is translated into ‘White’, ‘R’ into ‘Red’ and so on.)
  • The fields ‘latitude’ and ‘longitude’ are combined into a single field.
  • The ringing station code (such as ‘NLA’ for Arnhem) is matched with the name that is entered in the database for that code (see Manage MBDB > Ringing Stations).

2. Make any changes when necessary

Essentially everything is now in place to import the observations. Typically though, the location details that have been stored in BirdRing will not match those that are stored in the Marked Birds Database. At a minimum, the province/state and country is missing.

If you want, you can therefore choose any stored location from the location name field. When doing so, all other location fields will be automatically filled. Optionally, you can make changes to the location fields manually (and to any other field for that matter).

Take note of the following options:

  • Select Exclude to exclude an observation from the import. (Click Options to select or clear all Exclude check boxes.)
  • Use the Copy and Paste buttons to quickly copy and paste location details of one observation to other observations. (Click Options > Set to automatically set the location details of the first observation to all observations.)
  • Select Use BirdRing Coordinates if you do not want to overrule the coordinates stored in BirdRing by those stored in the location details in the Marked Birds Database.

3. Import the observations

Step 1. When ready, click Import MBDB.

For each observation, the database performs a search and tries to find an exact match (see the rules that are used for this search below). Only when a match is found is the observation.

When all observations are processed, the import status is shown (see below).


Step 2. Click Show Imported Observations. A list is shown of all observations that have been added, as they exist in the database.

Step 3. (Optional but recommended) Click View in Bird Overview to view each bird and its observations. This allows you to check if each observation is added to the correct bird and gives you context about the bird and its observations (maybe it’s a bird that you have not seen in a while).

Rules for finding a match

When observations are imported, the system tries to find one bird (and one bird only) to add the observation to. It does this by searching in the following ways:

For metal rings:

  1. A search is done using the ringing station name, the ring code and the species code.
  2. If no match is found, a search is done using the ringing station name, current marker code and species code.

For color rings:

  1. A search is done using the ring color, ring code and species code.
  2. If no match is found, a search is done using the current marker code and species code.

The outcome is as follows:

  1. An exact match is found. The observation is added.
  2. More than one match is found. This can occur when rings are re-used for the same species and exist multiple times in the database. Because the database does not know to which bird the observation should be added, it is not added.
  3. No match is found. If the bird does not exist or cannot be found using the search criteria, the observation is not added.
  4. The observation is excluded. You have manually selected not to include the observation in the import.

What to do with observations that have not been added?

Click the Copy button for the observation to load the observation details to memory, add the bird manually and paste the observation.

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