Bird Monitoring Data Exchange

The Bird Monitoring Data Exchange (BMDE) was developed to be a standardized data exchange schema that would promote the sharing and analysis of observation data about birds. The schema has been the core sharing standard of the Avian Knowledge Network since 2009. The schema is also well suited to describe monitoring data for other taxonomic groups, and is being used for example by the Monarch Knowledge Network, created in 2018.


A working group of representatives from non-governmental organizations, government and academia met over a two-year period (2008 and 2009) to define the components of this data exchange schema. The result is the creation of the bird monitoring data exchange (BMDE), which represents the content structure of bird monitoring datasets and allows the transfer of bird monitoring data across electronic information systems.


The BMDE (currently version 2.0) includes 169 core fields that are capable of capturing all metrics and descriptors associated with a bird observation. The foundation of the BMDE are the fields of the Darwin Core (DwC), a similar exchange schema developed to facilitate the interchange of distributional information about organisms, based on data from natural history collections (i.e., museums), living collections (i.e., zoos), and observations. Using Darwin Core allows bird monitoring data to be integrated with other bioinformatic initiatives such as ORNIS and GBIF. The BMDE extends the DwC schema to incorporate required variables for the comprehensive interchange of bird monitoring data. These extended fields include information on the type of survey and observer effort. The BMDE does not accommodate data on the habitats or conditions of the observation; thus data on vegetation, sea conditions, or weather conditions are not archived in the BMDE.

The BMDE schema was extended in 2018, and the complete version now includes 265 fields. However, most datasets available on NatureCounts only use the core version. A few additional extensions have also been defined, such as the bird banding data and the nest records extensions, but their fields are currently not implemented in NatureCounts. You can find out which version of the BMDE is used for any dataset available in NatureCounts by examining their respective Bird Monitoring Data Registry records.

We remind you that the purpose of the BMDE is not to describe all data fields of every bird monitoring dataset, but rather to allow sharing of information for the purpose generating various analyses. We realize that some types of datasets would require additional field extensions in order to capture it in its entirety. For example, we are currently working on a schema extension for bird banding datasets, which will be an optional add-on to the BMDE schema. 

Click here to view the latest version of the BMDE (version 2.00) and the various extensions supported.