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.