All About Birds Blog

Introducing the Redesigned All About Birds Website

By on Thursday, April 16th, 2009 - 107 Comments


Today we launched a new version of our All About Birds website. We’ve put a huge amount of work into updating the site, expanding information, adding sound and video from our Macaulay Library archives, inventing new tools, and incorporating photos and ID tips. The new site is bigger and more informative. To help you get the most out of it, here’s a tour through some of the new features:

Revised species accounts: 8 tips 

1. Greatly expanded material for 51 common species. 585 species covered in total. Which 51 did we expand? Here’s a list.

2. Four keys to ID. We’re trying to make it easier for you to identify birds. So on each revised page we give you a quick run-down of four keys that will help you close in on an identification – before you get to the point of opening a field guide. For more information about these four keys – Size & Shape, Color Pattern, Behavior, Habitat – see our Building Skills section.

3. Lots of photos. Birds look different from place to place and pose to pose. We collected photos into an all-new photo viewer and added annotations to help you see the important field marks. Scroll through the photos, or click on them to see a larger version. Try the Pop-Out button to save a photo in a separate window while you scroll. (We are grateful to all the great photographers at Birdshare as well as Project FeederWatch and Great Backyard Bird Count participants for making this tool possible.)

4. Similar species. Right next to the species photo viewer you’ll find a selection of similar species photographs. We’ve chosen these to illustrate some possible ID confusions, and annotated them to point out ways to tell the two species apart. Scroll through this tool, zoom, and pop out the photos the same way you use the main photo tool. Note: the similar species are presented in alphabetic order.

5. Tabs keep you organized. There’s a lot of information on the revised species accounts, so we’ve broken up each page into four tabs: Identification help, Life History information, Sounds, and Videos.

6. Check out the icons. One way we organized information was by making icons to represent general categories each bird fits into. Under the Life History tab, you can quickly see a bird’s typical habitat, main food, preferred nesting location, foraging style, and conservation status. Click on those icons and you’ll go down the page to an in-depth treatment of each topic summarized from the authoritative Birds of North America series. (A tip of our hat to the authors of The Birder’s Handbook for coming up with the icons idea more than 20 years ago.)

7. Your link to up-to-the-minute data. Right under each account’s standard range map you’ll find a link to an eBird map that shows all species reported to the program over the last five years. It’s a great way to check on up-to-date sightings (for example, the eBird map reveals how House Finches have moved into new areas since the standard range maps were drawn). You can customize these maps further to focus on any date range and any part of North America you’re interested in.

8. Species-specific links to more information. At the bottom of each page, we’ve gathered information for anyone who wants to know more about each species. We give suggestions about ways to go out and find each species. We’ve got ideas about how to get a particular species to visit your yard. And we point you toward further reading as well as citizen science projects you can join to help study the species.

Better search and navigation

It’s a lot easier to find your bird now. Every page has a search box at the top right corner. In addition:

  • If you think you know a bird’s name, use the search box. Even if you don’t get the name exactly right – or you only know its “last” name (such as “cardinal,” “crow,” or “waxwing”), choices will pop up below the box as you type.
  • If you don’t know a bird’s name, start by browsing groups of similar shaped birds. We’ll show you names of birds that match that general shape.
  • It’s a lot easier to get around between species now. If you’re trying to work out an ID, we’ll list similar species for you. Just click on a similar species name to go to its page. And don’t miss the Jump to recent list (just above the range map on every species profile). It lets you move quickly back through the last 10 species you’ve visited.

Visit Building Skills to brush up on your bird identification.

Learn – or practice – the basic skills of identification. We’ve got lots of illustrated examples, from discerning differences in bill shape to tricks for gauging size in the field. You’ll even find videos to show you the characteristic ways birds move around, as well as sounds to help you tune in to bird songs.

Don’t miss the multimedia features.

We’ve got a great video production team at the Lab. Watch our recent productions in a beautiful large format on our multimedia page. Now playing: battling grouse, hungry crossbills, and resurgent puffins, and more. Check back in two weeks for the launch of our Inside Birding series.

Catch up on your reading.

The Lab’s award-winning quarterly magazine, Living Bird, features great writing about science, travel, art, and history – all illustrated with gorgeous bird photography. If you haven’t read us recently, you can catch up on 2008 and 2009 articles online.

That’s it! Head on over and look around.

And don’t worry if you miss something: there’s lots to see, but in coming weeks we’ll write posts to remind you about some of the new features.

One thing we ask: Please be sure to tell us what you think of the new site. Are you having any problems using it? We’ll do our best to help. Would you like to see more features? We’ll put them on our to-do list. Do you have a favorite species and want to see an expanded account for it? Vote for it here.

Leave us a comment, or drop a line via the site contact form. Thanks!

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  1. Pingback: Which 51? « Round Robin

  2. The website is beautiful! Wonderfully designed. This is the best looking bird site I’ve found.

    • Hi, my name is Derek W. Hollar and I am the owner of Wytheville Web Design. I just wanted to say that I agree with you about the website. I think it is very clean, user friendly, and deffinitley what Wytheville Web Design implements in all of our designs. Way to go webmaster!

  3. Awesome! I noticed the old site and link is still there. I assume it will be removed at some point.

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Patrick, Thanks for your comment and glad you like the new site. I’d be interested which specific URL sent you to the old site, and/or which link you clicked on to get you there. Except for a few cases, all links to the old site should now be pointing to the new site, so I’d like to fix that. – Hugh

  4. John says:

    The new site looks very good! I am looking forward to revisions to more of the species profiles.

    Thanks for keeping old links from breaking.

  5. Great new site! I love the site. But this might be my new favotire. Great job!

  6. msc says:

    Wow, the site looks incredible. The expanded species accounts are awesome, can’t wait to see more of them.

  7. Debi says:

    Outstanding. Thank you all for your hard work. It’s beautiful and very user friendly.

  8. jan m says:

    I love the look of the new site, and look forward to spending time there to sharpen my identification skills. If I click on the All About Birds link on the sidebar at eBird however, it takes me to the old site.

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Jan – Thanks for letting us know about this. We tried to round up all of those old links and forward them to the new site, but this one seems to have slipped through. We’re updating it now…

      Thanks to everyone else for the warm feedback; we hope you’ll enjoy the site. – Hugh

  9. Birdfreak says:

    Simply wonderful looking! I’ll be working on a full review of the redesign in a few days!! AWESOME job!!

  10. Bob Rufe says:

    Hey France! Looks like you’re off to a terrific start – what a great job on the new website! Keep up the good work! And … don’t forget to mention and provide a story and link for the 3rd Annual DOS Birdathon in support of the Red Knots and Horseshoe Crab habitat preservation! Cheers, Bob

  11. Mary Carlson says:

    Great job on the redesign! It’s so user friendly and easy to navigate. I was also thrilled to see one of my daughter’s photos (known as MMATM) featured for the Western Scrub Jay. No doubt, this will be my favorite bookmark to visit! Thanks.

  12. N.E. says:

    Have you discarded the search tool – the drop-down list of birds by family? Or, did I just not find it? I used and enjoyed this search query the most. One reason is, I like to hone my skills knowing birds by their taxonomic groupings which I find more important than exact species names. Sometimes, I cannot remember the exact name of a bird, e.g. the exact name of a goatsucker, so, searching alphabetically is of no use.

    The silhouettes are not thorough, for one instance, I searched for the goatsuckers (nighthawks/nightjars) and there was no silhouette for them on the index page. I finally succeeded in a search on nightjars and found the bird I was looking for but the “owl-like” silhouette for the common nighthawk is not on your index page.

    Please put this feature back on your website. Or, if it’s already there somewhere, please make it readily accessible. Other than the mentioned, your website is coming along and the best on the web so far for hearing sounds of birds.

  13. Susan Hendler says:

    Bravo!! I am so impressed and grateful for your new site!! It is very comprehensive and truly beautiful!! Thanks so much!!

  14. Pingback: All atwitter about feathery things.. | Chuqui 3.0

  15. Sharyn Magee says:

    I was very disappointed with the new website–more visually charming but at the expense of less useful information. Unfortunately, the site was dumbed-down.

    I miss the sonagrams which popped-up with the bird calls in the old version. The sonograms are very useful for distinguishing similar calls and songs. Another useful feature that is missing in the new version is the picture of the female and/or immature of the species. I find the birds indexed by family more useful than indexing the birds by common name as I usually study the sound by family group.

  16. Hugh says:

    Thanks to everyone for all the comments and suggestions. A couple of specific responses:

    @N.E. Right now you can search for birds by family or order using the website search box. Just type in the name (family or order) you want to search, and a list of matching birds will appear in the search results. To tell the truth, we had no idea how popular the old drop-down lists for family and order were until people started telling us they missed it. Now that we’ve heard from folks, we may reinstate this feature in the future.

    @Sharyn Magee

    Sorry to hear you’re disappointed with the new site. I wonder if perhaps the new format of the site means you’re not seeing all the information it contains right away. I can assure you that the new site contains the same or substantially more textual information than the old site did for each species. For 51 common species, the text has been greatly expanded, and we’ve added many more photos, ID tips, sounds, video, and links to more information. (See the previous post for a list of these 51 species.)

    We definitely didn’t set out to dumb down the site – we wanted to make it easier and more satisfying to use, but we also put a lot of effort into adding material.

    You’re right that for a few species where the old site had female and juvenile photos, only the male photo is now given. That’s a temporary situation though, arising from transferring data from old to new websites. We’re working to reinstate those photos.

    We plan to feature spectrograms as part of a comprehensive treatment of sound and birding in the next development phase of this website. Going into this redesign, we made the conscious decision to put this task off. We’re as big fans of birding by ear and the marvelous voices of birds as anyone – but we also knew that we wouldn’t be able to do justice to the subject at the same time we were building the rest of the site. In the meantime, you can see spectrograms for almost any species at the Macaulay Library website. Just search for the species you’re interested in, then click on the blue-and-yellow play button in the search results that come up. The sound will play in an interactive viewer that lets you slow down or speed up the call, among other features.

    I hope this workaround lets you continue to enjoy the sounds of birds, and I hope you’ll continue to use All About Birds for the information and photos it offers. We’ll be continually at work improving it, based in part on comments from users like you. Thanks – Hugh

  17. Matt says:

    To Hugh and all the others involved in the redesign – the new site looks amazing. This is a huge step forward. Amazing job!!

    Double congrats for getting it out on time – that’s no easy feat.

  18. Heather says:

    I’m really enjoying the redesign. I especially love the way the search box is “intuitive” and gives suggestions for what you might be going after. I don’t especially miss those drop-down menus like some others have mentioned. The overall look and feel is much cleaner, I think. My hat goes off to everyone involved in this redesign, and to all of you charged with selecting all those photos for the species that got the expansions… there must have been hundreds to sort through! Well done!

  19. Mary Vermeulen says:

    I don’t have time right now to explore fully, but the site looks great. I love the help available in learning about birds and in identification. I DO have a problem with the ebird site. I want to keep track of my neighborhood birds and found it difficult to set up my spreadsheet. “Edit” did not get me to any tabs that I could use. :-( Could you-all please work on making that easier for non-techies like me?

    Thanks, Mary

  20. Mary Vermeulen says:

    The part of ebird that I cannot seem to figure out is “manage my locations”. I need help to navigate in that area. Mary

  21. Lee Miller says:

    Impressive website design, but the constant shifting of the Features at the top of the home page is irritating and distracting. Users of your site are surely intelligent enough to find what they want or need on the site without this kind of attention-getting device.

  22. Hugh says:

    To Mary: Thanks for the comments about All About Birds and about eBird. For your eBird concerns, I’ve forwarded your comments to the directors of the eBird project so they know what you’d like to see improved.

    To Lee Miller: Sorry for the distractions at the top of the page – it’s not so much an attention-getting device as an attempt to showcase some of our newest and most visually interesting features. These features will change as weeks go by, and we want to make it easy for people to find our new material.

    If you want to stop the features from rotating, you can click in the “Search Our Bird Guide” box on the first feature (the one showing the gray-and-yellow Verdin) and the photos won’t advance. I hope this helps, and thanks for sending us your comments. – Hugh

  23. Lee Miller says:

    I tried your trick of clicking in the “Search Our Bird Guide” box on the first feature. to prevent the photos from advancing. It worked for that single case. After I advanced manually to the second feature, the remaining features reverted to automatic advance mode.

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Lee, You should be able to stop the second and succeeding images from advancing by placing (not clicking) your mouse in the middle of the picture and leaving it there. We’ll consider removing the auto-advance feature of the banner, or possibly adding a pause button to stop the advancing as well. I’d be interested if other blog readers are for or against the auto-advancing. Speak up and let us know what you’d like! – Hugh

  24. Mike says:

    Cool website!

  25. Eden says:

    Hey! I LOVE the new website and have been looking forward to it for quite a while now. It looks a whole lot sleeker and modern. I also love your new logo. :-) If possible, can you please update/expand the Bermuda Petrel page please? The Bermuda Petrel is a bird that was thought to be extinct for over 300 years before being rediscovered in the 1900s. The population is growing larger and larger every year… Let me know if you can do that.

    Thanks for the new site!

    • Hi, my name is Derek W. Hollar and I am the owner of Wytheville Web Design. I just wanted to say that I agree with you about the website. I think it is very clean, user friendly, and deffinitley what Wytheville Web Design implements in all of our designs. Also, I found it very amusing to find out about the Bermuda Petrel…I had no idea that it was thought to be extinct.

  26. Craig says:

    I really dont like the new design on the website. It seems like information on each species was removed to make it more simple. I much preferred the old design.

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Craig. We’ve gotten a few comments from people who have the impression that there’s less information on this site than previously. I’d just like to reassure you that’s not the case – virtually all – certainly more than 99 percent – of the information on the old site was carried over to the new site. In addition, we greatly expanded coverage of 51 common species, and we’re moving along the list to give a similar treatment to the other 535 species in our database.

      I wonder if you’re missing some of the information because it’s now split between the “Identification”, “Life History”, and “Sounds” tabs? Another possibility is that with the addition of icons to show general life-history traits, it’s now more obvious that some species only had a little written information on each topic. But as I said, we certainly didn’t remove any text from the old website – we just added information.

      For example, the Anhinga account in the old All About Birds contained no information at all on the bird’s habitat, diet, nesting habits, or general behavior. The new version of the account gives you a bit more to go on. The icons at least let you know that this is a bird of marshy habitat that catches fish by diving for them from the surface of the water, and that nests in shrubs.

      We’re continually working to add much more detail to these accounts, but with 585 species in our database, we simply haven’t been able to do this yet for all species. For now, we’re still presenting the same information that people valued in the old site, just in our new format and with the addition of icon information.

      For an idea of the depth of information we’re shooting for, have a look at any of 51 revised species accounts – see a clickable list of them here:

      You can get comprehensive scientific summaries of nearly all North American species through the Birds of North America Online, available for as little as $5 here:

      Thanks for writing in, and I hope some of this information helps you get the most out of the new All About Birds. -Hugh

  27. Bobbie Worster says:

    I saw a bird in myback yard. It must be in the dove family. It seemsto be a bit larger than a Morning Dove. It is tan with very light tan and white near and on the tail feathers. It is banded with the numbers:


    Can you give me any information about this bird?

  28. Gailon Brehm says:

    I liked to use the site from my iPhone. The bird sounds now do not come up. Instead a note says I should install Flash Player, which is not automatic on the iPhone. I can work with Apple to get it installed; but — the old site just worked!

    Thanks for all your efforts and progress.


    • Hugh says:

      Hi Gailon,

      As a fellow iPhone user, I’m sorry to report that sounds and video on the new All About Birds site won’t work with the iPhone. That’s because those files run in Flash, which doesn’t work on the iPhone.

      The good news is that Flash is so widespread on the Internet that Apple is showing signs of enabling it on the iPhone in the near future, perhaps as early as iPhone 3.0, likely out later this year. However, I should stress that this decision is in Apple’s hands, and that no one really knows what they’re going to do at the moment.

      The previous version of the website played sounds in QuickTime, and that’s why it worked on your iPhone. We moved to Flash because it is more or less ubiquitously installed on computers, whereas QuickTime requires a plugin to be downloaded to run on many PCs.

      Sorry for the reduced functionality on your iPhone, and I hope you continue to enjoy the rest of the site. Thanks – Hugh

  29. Scot says:

    The site looks fantastic! Excellent work by your designers and of course the content is second to none. I found the old site extremely informative but with the new look it’s even more entertaining. Thank you for your hard work.

  30. Pingback: New and Expanded Site: All About Birds (Cornell Lab of Ornithology) | Arctos Canadensis

  31. Steph McDonald says:

    This site looks amazing! And not just cause its on our platform. I really enjoy bird watching, so what a great find for me!

  32. Douglas Kurz says:

    The site looks great, but I miss the ability to find birds in taxonomic order via a drop-down box, which then takes me to a page with comprehensive information including sounds. I always found that extremely useful. For those of us familiar with taxonomic order (from years of using field guides), it was much easier to get to the bird, rather than going alphabetically or by silhouette. And once you got there, everything was in one place, including song.

  33. Nancy says:

    There’s a great deal of wonderful information, especially visual images, on the redesigned site. However, I must vote with those who miss the old organization.

    You said, “We’re trying to make it easier for you to identify birds.” Well, tonight I was here to get help identifying an owl I heard outside. Obviously, I knew it was an owl, but that’s all I knew. So I go to the “browse birds” page, scroll down, click on the owl silhouette, then choose a candidate. Get to that page, scroll down, click sounds. Scroll down, click on the audio. Nope, wrong bird. Back button, back button, only to discover the owl list was not saved. I have to start over: scroll down, click on owl silhouette, choose next candidate…. Repeat ad infinitum. This is not easier! (Granted, not everyone has as slow a computer as I do, but don’t forget that not everyone has as FAST a computer as you do!)

    I admit that because I was trying to identify a sound, I already had a tough job. But if I had seen a bird I did not know, I’d have had the same problem. Choose randomly from a list of names, check the picture, nope, go back, have to click on the silhouette again to bring up the list of names, choose another one randomly….. And if the bird did not have a distinctive silhouette — suppose I wasn’t sure if it was a warbler or vireo — I could end up searching through several families. Looking at a page of pictures and clicking the couple that look close would be a heck of a lot easier.

    It seems obvious to me that if one is trying to identify a bird, one does not know the name of the bird. Having everything name-dependent makes it hard to do identification. Having to choose from a list of names (which without any other information is totally arbitrary–might as well be A, B, C, D) in order to learn anything about those possibilities is inefficient. You say to “browse the list” but that can take a long time and is not “easy.” I had to navigate to sounds instead of pictures, but the process would still have been onerous if I were trying to match a visual.

    One simple idea: Clicking on a family of birds (that silhouette) should take one to a page with all the birds’ pictures, not just a list of names! In fact, if that page also had brief information about habitat or the North American geographical range maps, that would do a lot toward narrowing the search and fulfill your desire to “make it easy to identify birds.” Think about what you look at when you flip through a bird guide trying to ID a bird. Names are the last things one looks at!

    Some other problems I found in just a few minutes of trying to use the site (including learning about the redesign at your blog): There is no Home link. I kept getting lost, and to get back to your home page so I could start over, I had to use my Favorites button because I had no idea how to get back to home once I was inside your site. Some of the other names for site locations, listed down at the bottom, are unclear. For example, I wanted to come back to your blog to comment on the redesign, but nothing said “Blog.” I finally (through trial and error) learned that “Round Robin” is your blog, but that is not obvious to those of us on the outside!

    There are also many great features to your site — I learned a lot about several birds from reading all the detailed information on their pages. I will come back and explore the site again. I’m sure it’s great for unfocused exploring and learning. But for trying to get a specific answer, I found it to be time-consuming and frustrating. Please provide some user-friendly short-cuts!

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Nancy,

      Thanks for leaving us such a detailed comment. It’s really helpful to get specific examples of the ways the site works or doesn’t work for people.

      I’m sorry you’re finding some of the navigation frustrating. We’re going to revise the ways people can browse to species based on comments like yours. In the meantime, I think you’ll find many of these problems can be solved with just a few tips.

      In your search for owls, for example: I’d suggest you use the Search box at the top of every page. Its auto-fill feature lets you type “owl” into the box, and it displays a drop-down list of any bird in our database with “owl” in its name. This way, you don’t even have to click off the page to select a new species to visit. I would encourage anyone using this site to take advantage of this feature. It’s very helpful for people who know the kind of bird they’re seeking but not its exact name.

      As for the home link – we use the fairly standard Web practice of linking the logo to our site’s home page. Try it – clicking on “All About Birds” in the top menu takes you to the site home page, and clicking on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology logo takes you to the Lab’s home page. If you want to go to the Bird Guide home, select it from the “Birding Basics” top menu.

      Your idea about adding pictures to the species browsing feature is a good one, and we’ll be working to add that feature in our next site update, as part of an actual bird ID tool.

      Finally, I’d like to reassure you that we will put in some method of browsing to species by taxonomic order. To be honest, we really underestimated how popular this approach was for people browsing an online guide as opposed to an actual book. I hope these tips help you get around the site a bit better until we can make this change.

      Thanks again for letting us know your thoughts. Best wishes – Hugh

  34. Mike Krampitz says:

    Beautiful, informative, friendly website. Like others, I had a little trouble using the bird guide, only because it is a different format from the old one. It just takes a little time to get used to how it works.I would also like to see a return of the drop-down lists for taxonomic groups, but I could also get along without it. I enjoyed the Inside Birding Video series. Hopefully there will be more like it in the future.

  35. Celia says:

    The bird ID videos are extremely, extremely helpful. I put into practice what I learned. Thank you very much!

  36. Barrie says:

    GREAT SITE!! Keep up the great work. I enjoy the videos about using what we know to identify birds (size, shape).

    Love the site.

  37. Laurie Kosmiski says:

    I agree – the old drop down menu by taxonomy needs to be reinstated. It allowed me to look at several birds quickly to make an id – minimal “clicks” required to see birds grouped by taxonomy and no need to type in a specific name.

  38. sharon says:

    This weekend, I finally got around to watching the bird ID video about size and shape on your site. Wow, was it helpful. I have known for a while that I have several pairs of woodpeckers in the area, but I have discovered in the last two days that I not only have a pair of downy woodpeckers, but a pair of hairy woodpeckers as well. Never dared try to distinguish them before. Thanks so much for the great work you folks do!

  39. says:

    Please go back to QuickTime. I agree with the other posters about some of the annoying changes. The expanded photo feature is good but the female and juvenile images need to be added as soon as possible. No question that the old taxonomic search feature should be re-instated. I do agree that the site appears to be “dumb-downed” and, in some important respects, is more difficult to navigate.

  40. Diane says:

    I watched the four videos & really enjoyed them. Entertaining yet informative. The two young birders were fun & very lively. The photography was excellent & viewing my favorite birds in action gave me a thrill.

    In short, I think you’ve done a wonderful job & I’m not finished exploring!


    Diane Sherrill

  41. Andrea Drummond says:

    I’ve only recently discovered this site but I love it. I love all of the descriptions of birds and the option to listen to their calls and maybe see a video. It is very informative and easy to read and navigate.

  42. Matt says:

    Silhouette is a nice way to start a search, but it would help if I could narrow by region as well.

  43. joe nielsen says:

    THis is a question. I am interested in locating prints, available for ale, of birds painted by George Misch Sutton.

    Can you direct me.

    Thank you,


  44. Heather T. says:

    I just found this via Google–what a terrific website! So well-designed: clear interface, easy-to-find information, quick facts at a glance, and great photos and graphic elements. A+ — it’s definitely going into our bookmarks for home-schooling!

  45. Sally J says:

    Redesign looks great, lots of great new multimedia/info, but I really don’t feel melodramatic when I say I find your revised bird guide format horrific. Least intuitive, most frustrating thing ever. It was way better when it functioned like an actual bird guide. Even if the bird silhouettes were in the usual order it would be easier. I really can’t stand this, and will probably go to the effort of getting my actual physical bird guides in the future.

    • Sally J says:

      The whole site seems to have been incredibly dumbed down. Where before it seemed aimed at no particular age, it now seems to be aimed towards children. How cute. I would rather have more useful facts for identifying birds (like size, tail and wing bars, you know, actual information) than half a page of “cool facts”. Let’s use a specific example, the Eastern Towhee. It is described as “a kind of large sparrow”. It doesn’t say how large, or even describe it in terms of other, well known birds, such as a robin. I could describe Mount Everest as “a kind of large mountain”, but I think you will agree that saying something like that is not going to help even the simplest of children understand that you need an oxygen tank and a team of sherpas to reach its summit. And your charming, (and thank God, Mac friendly!) cutesy format won’t actually help a child if you can’t even list the size of the bird. I am going to find an bird ID site for grown-ups, I think. And when I have children, I will make sure they can use a paperback bird guide so they aren’t stuck with condescending dreck like this.

      • Hugh says:

        Hi Sally,

        It’s useful to get comments from people who don’t like the new format, so thanks for writing to us. We will continue developing the website with your comments in mind.

        I’d just like to point out that we don’t see information content and site design as incompatible. We strived to make a site that was pleasing to look at yet still packed with information and tools you can’t find elsewhere. In this respect, we share a philosophy with the Apple computers you mentioned – that technically excellent tools don’t have to be clunky or inelegant.

        There’s another reason why we made the site look the way it does: We want All About Birds to be welcoming to anyone who’s curious about birds. We don’t want a daunting or authoritarian site design that might deter people from exploring. The information we offer should put any doubts to rest about how serious we are.

        We are sensitive to the assertion that the site has been dumbed down, because in fact the information available has been expanded. To use your example of the Eastern Towhee’s size, you’ll find under the Life History tab that these birds are about 8 inches long, with an 11 inch wingspan. We also put this in relative terms, as “30% bigger than a Song Sparrow” and “smaller than a robin.” The photo browser covers all the major field marks and shows the bird side-by-side against 5 similar species.

        One of the drawbacks to putting more information on a site is that it can be harder to find the specific piece of information you’re looking for – and that’s something we’ll continue to work to make easier. But at times we do wish people would read all the way through the information on offer before deciding the site is information deficient.

        The Size & Shape ID key you referred to was written to be short and to address a specific purpose: to give a quick, essential description of the bird to help someone learn how to identify it. It’s a fairly new ID approach that’s treated in more detail in our Building Skills section and our Inside Birding video series. We’re realizing that its placement on the webpage gives people the wrong impression – that perhaps this is all the information available on the bird. We’re going to try to fix this so it’s easier for people to find the more detailed information now contained under the Life History tab and in the photo browser.

        We wouldn’t be able to make specific changes to the site without the kinds of comments you and others have left. We’re sorry that the site doesn’t work the way you’d like it to at the moment – but we are continually working to make it better. It is our goal, after all, to make this the most useful and most informative site about North American birds on the Web.

        Thanks – Hugh

      • ILikeIke says:

        You know what? I sure am glad that this free, informative website about birds was written by robots! “Why robots?” you ask? Well, because I figure that no self-respecting person would address another person the way that you commented. I mean, really, when was the last time you made something you were really proud of, the culmination of MONTHS of work (judging by the blog), only to be told by some snotty know-it-all that it’s dreck? Especially when 90% of the information is the same as in the old bird guide. And the 10% that’s not is better written and more beautifully nestled in my browser. Yup, definitely time to look for a bird guide site for grownups.

        The funny thing is, I agree with you that there could be a sentence or so more of information on the first tab for each of the 4 keys of ID (including a relative size statement). But then you had to go and ruin it with a non sequitor about Mt Everest (?!) and unfair negativity. Well done, SallyJ, well done! (THAT’s condescension, FYI; maybe it’s sarcasm too. But I REALLY mean it.) And I can tell you that the only times I have used a ruler to identify a bird have been when I was holding one (I think that might be condescending, too, but I can make it better with a smiley face–see :)

        As to your opinion-while I agree that the new bird guide has room for improvement, I also think that calling it “horrific” relative to the old “bird guide” is a bit over-the-top. I mean, horrific?

        I agree that reinstating some sort of taxonomic grouping would be helpful, but if you took the time to glance at the 50+ comments above yours you might find that they’re planning to reintroduce that feature in an upcoming revision, and that they are quite willing to respond to feedback. And the old bird guide was no more than two drop-down lists with 580 species in them (one tax, one alpha). and a search box. Hmmm. It seems like the “cutesy” cool facts etc. were taken verbatim from the old guide. Yup. Just as I thought. Dumbed down & cutesy-fied Tho I will take your advice and use a team of oxygen-wielding sherpas to climb Mt. Everest, because that definitely gives me the salient facts involved in climbing a kind of large mountain like Mt. Everest. Who knew I’d learn about mountains from the comments section on a blog about ornithology?

        In closing, I want to thank those robots for doing a hell of a job! You all deserve lube jobs and fresh bushings before your next robotic duty. I look forward to the new expanding accounts. Thanks for all of your hard work, but do get that taxonomic thing fixed eventually, or I’ll stop paying for this resource…

        PS: Your melodramatic turn of announcing that you don’t feel melodramatic was good for a LOL–almost spilled my coffee! Thanks for a heartening reminder of the cruelty of others while cloaked in the anonymity of teh interwebz. You’re a great example of the exact kind of person that gets made fun of by other comments-readerz 😛

      • Matt says:

        I couldn’t agree more with “ILikeIke.” SallyJ is welcome to her opinion, but the over-the-top comments seem really unfair.

  46. Sharon says:

    This has always been the first website I come to for information and today found the wonderful new design!

    So user friendly, I absolutely love it! Great job!

  47. Binky says:

    The site is dumbed down.

    Where is the taxonomy list?

    Where is the size of a Towhee? Well, under the heading of size the answer is: “Towhees are a kind of large sparrow.” If one goes to “life history” and then to “Cool Facts,” then one can find size under “Measurements.” This is nonsensical, and needs to be changed. And the use of “cool” is outmoded –and not cool. Use something else.

    The auto advance feature needs to go. Cuteness has its downside. Just delete the feature and understand you made a mistake. We will give you credit for correcting it.

  48. Pam says:

    I have bluejays nesting in a holly next to my house. I would like to plant flowers in that flower bed. Will just wearing a hat protect me from an attack? Suggestions welcomed.

  49. Nancy says:

    Hi, I was doing a search on Peter Parnall and your website came up. While I was in college in the 70’s, I wrote to Peter Parnall because I enjoyed his work so much and it influenced my work. He wrote me back and to this day I have his letter. I would like to purchase a print of his and if possible, write to him again. The article that led me to your site indicated that someone had interviewed him. Is he still alive? Sincerely, Nancy Tyrrell (he wrote to Nancy Jewell while I was attending Buffalo State University and considering continuing at Syracuse University.)

  50. Rosemary says:

    I’m new to birding and just love your site. Thank you, I’ve learned so much already.

  51. Mike Krampitz says:

    I just visited the new taxonomy page and I like it very much. The thoughtful addition of thumnails and sample sound recordings serve to quickly narrow the search for a particular species.

    Forget the naysayers. GREAT JOB!

  52. mosaicvp says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this incredible videos and stories.I have never seen such a beautiful birds before. It was hard for me to see what kind camera you used but I’m assuming it was HD. You probably love your job:).

    Thanks again for sharing this.

    Video Production Florida

  53. Tony Markle says:

    Nowhere on your site do I see how one should submit photos for the “Featured Photographer”.

  54. Tony Markle says:

    Nowhere on your site do I see how one should submit photos for the “Featured Photographer”.

  55. Tony Markle says:

    Nowhere on your site do I see how one should submit photos for the “Featured Photographer”.

  56. Jo Freeman says:

    Please start building a photographic encyclopedia of baby / fledgling birds. These are tricky to identify and your revised site doesn’t have pictures of the babies that I think were on the species page in the past. Including photos of their eggs would be good, too. Searching by color, shape, size would be great for both eggs and babies.

  57. Robert Griffiths says:

    I really apreciate both the new website and the work that Cornell is doing not only for birders but also for the public at large. Friends and acquaintances are always asking about birds they’ve sighted and I take pains to refer them to your websites, especially the new one.

    Bob Griffiths

    High River AB Canada

  58. Lisa Schulz says:

    I really like your site, the info on individual birds is great. However please refine your search features, size and alpha by name isn’t nearly enough to narrow it down. For instance adding to that search by REGION and PRIMARY COLOR would help narrow a search a lot.

    As it is, if you search for “hummingbird” you get a long list, with no way to narrow it down to hummingbirds IN YOUR REGION without clicking on each one to see the details.

    Otherwise your site is great, but the search tool is way too basic. Take an example from this page–not as pretty but much more useful search tool:

  59. Gweis says:

    I did not have the pleasure of seeing the old site so I cannot comment on it but I love the new site!

    I love bird watching and I am so glad I happened to find your blog.


  60. Gary Richardson says:

    I have a bird coming to my suet feeder which appears to be a female hairy woodpecker. The birds head is all white, and the barring on the back of the body is a smaller pattern. Can you help me I.D. this bird?

    Thank you,

    Gary Richardson

  61. Erna says:

    Your website is awesome! My daughter will really enjoy using it in her homeschooling studies. She told me just the other day that she wants to be an ornithologist (she’s five).

  62. Great site! I especially like the recordings of the bird calls and the backyard science pages. And the pictures too are great.

  63. James says:

    The California Law on the Cell phones is a great big joke of the decade since it passed. I see so many drivers on the freeways, cars, suv’s, and even truck drivers on the cell phone talking on the ear and one hand on the wheel. And even on the city streets, what is up with that, these people are getting away with it and not one patrol catching them. I guess this is okay, it seems like it. My wife and I are just wondering why this law is made and there are still people talking on their cell phones and including texting. What a JOKE!!!, please advise.



  64. Maureen Dougherty says:

    Wow, I am a teacher and we study wetland birds for a field trip. This has great resources and information that is readable for my 4th graders. I can’t wait to use it. Thanks

  65. Joan W. says:

    THANK YOU for consolidating all the birding information I need in one spot. I recently found a house finch with conjunctivitis and needed a refresher on disinfecting feeders. Voila! It’s on your site.

    PS – the bird was taken to TriState Bird Rescue in Delaware. Fingers crossed…

  66. Kathi Fluck says:

    Hi! I’ve been coming to this site only for about 2 months. I have a female dove who is kind of loose and has had 3 batches of babies this summer! Anyway, I’ve got a bunch of birds in my backyard that I’m trying to ID, and you asked for comments. I’m 58 years old and don’t want to know every tiny detail as some might. I tried to watch the various videos on identification, but my internet speed must be s l o o o o w because it stopped about every minute to load. Ok-my suggestion: Do a KISS bird identification for us impatient people: using this criteria: 1. Birds you’d see in your area (I know it can’t be a flamingo, so don’t make me to thru all that) 2. The different classifications of birds–Wrens, finches, etc. 3. Identifying sounds 4. identifying colors/patterns 4. Normal habitats 5. How to attract/feed

    I know you’ve worked hard on this site, but there are old people like me that want the info quick. Thanks for reading my comments!

  67. Never thought I’d say this, but that is one sexy bird site! Love the colors, love the slider, well done!

    Sullivan Web Development

  68. Emily Jordan says:

    I live in Sanford NC and I have a purple finch at my feeder with the eye disease. It looks like it may die. Have there been other sightings of this disease in my area? Thanks.

  69. Joan says:

    Your web site is really nice if we think the others

    I think you had worked about that web site, hardly.

    Like I see.

  70. roshan says:

    site is very simple and very good ,colour of the site is very nice

  71. james b williams says:

    please file my federal asst payment

  72. Joan G. says:

    What a great site! Thank you for it. My students are using it to research birds of the bayou in Houston Tx. Please check out our website. Thanks, Joan G.

  73. All About Birds link on the sidebar at eBird however, it takes me to the old site.

  74. Kei says:

    Great site! I love the browse taxonomies page with pictures, the auto complete search, and the similar species section on individual bird pages. They helped me identify that the bird I saw one day by the river was a herring gull and that a random bird I took pictures of was a northern mocking bird! Before this, I had to google my guesses and go through wikipedia. This was so much easier. Thanks a lot!

    The only problem I’ve had is that the videos don’t work (I’m using firefox 3.5.6). I press the play button and it pretends to start loading, then does nothing.

  75. Susan says:

    This is so sweet. I really like this a lot. Best of luck to you.


  76. Pauline says:

    This website is a great resource, nice job! I’ve had fun browsing around here. I couldn’t find any pages on the birds of Hawaii though, which I’d really love to see. They’re beautiful, numerous and highly endangered, and just as American as the mainland birds. Please help people learn more about them too.

    Keep up the good work!


  77. Lisa says:

    I love this site! It is packed full of useful information and stunningly beautiful bird photos. I just have one suggestion for the bird guide. I think it would be useful to be able to search for birds by geographical location. That way, if you are looking for birds in your area, the search engine could weed out all the birds that don’t live in your area. Thank you for the wonderful website!

  78. Bob Higham says:

    Challenging weather here now. Where do birds go to weather high winds and slashing rains.

  79. Maria says:

    Thanks for a great website. My daughter and I were looking for information on owls for a school project. Your site was so easy to use and had the information so well organized, it only took us a few minutes to find what we wanted. We especially loved the photos and the recordings of owl calls.

    The only thing we didn’t find was info about Elf Owls (except for one brief mention). Any plans to expand?

  80. Mike says:

    Wow!! What a great website. Easy to use and very well organized. Text is clear and easy to follow even for a beginner birder. The site for persons wanting serious scientific data is a little daunting but looks very useful to ornithologists and experienced birders.

    The young hosts of the skill building video are naturals. Thanks to all of you for a job well done. Keep up the fine work.

  81. Bill TODMAN , Jr says:

    What a truly beautiful, engaging and very deep site with substance for all things birds! Eye candy galore, whether novice or pro, the visuals of your re-designed site are fanastic. I will be spending tile here – guaranteed. Thanks Cornell!

  82. Sabramedia says:

    Great post… Bookmakred + Subscribed to your RSS feed.

    Keep it up. 😉

  83. Sarah says:

    Love your site, especially the birds calls. Thank you so much.

  84. I LOVE your new site!!! Easy to navigate, loads of content, overall great job!

  85. Deb W. says:

    What a fabulous website. Thank you for all of the work that went into creating it. I recommended the site to all of my Facebook friends. Hopefully they will come and enjoy the treat you’ve created for everyone to enjoy.

  86. Diana Grayson says:

    The site is wonderful – one of my favorites. I like to just browse around and learn something new everyday. It would be great though if there was a way to get a listing of birds likely to be in a certain state or region, even better if it could also be by season due to the variation in the those that live in the area year round, summer, and stop over during migration. Beginning birders and youngsters could really benefit by having an idea of what birds they are likely to find where they live or vacation.

  87. Jobs says:

    This website could definitely benefited from the use of some Flash. It’s just so static and boring with animation.

  88. Dale says:

    I love this website…well organized, bright, lots of GREAT detail. Thanks for all the hard work that was put into the site!!!

  89. Debbie says:


    There are at least 2 pairs of Oreoles in the wooded lot next to our house. In an attempt to feed them, we put a cut orange out.. It’s been over 2 weeks and the only thing feeding off the oranges are ants. Is there a certain height to put this? It’s about 6ft off the ground.

    What is the secret to attracting finches to the thistle feeder? We have both a feeder and socks out, I changed the sock feed thinking it may be ‘older’.. I’ve seen the yellow finches flying through, so I know they are around.

    Thank you for your suggestions..


  90. Matthew Hopcraft says:

    I’ve just spent some time trying to access your entries for Jaegers, but to no avail. Does one have to pay to access this information, or is there something I’m not doing properly?

    • Hugh says:

      Hi Matthew. You’ve found a weak point in our species guide! Although we have 584 species accounts at present, we don’t yet have accounts for any of the jaegers—that’s why you couldn’t find them. We do hope to upgrade this in the near future, so please check back. In the meantime, you can get a courtesy preview of the jaeger accounts in Birds of North America Online or sign up for a month for only $5. Thanks for using our site and we’ll try to get to those jaegers soon.

  91. Lorna Atkins says:

    I would like to see the unusal nest sites but lost track of it and can’t bring up on the screen again. Can you help me?
    I am learning more about birds,and like the sounds of their songs feature.