All About Birds: Definitive Resource or Group Effort?

By Hugh Powell
Zone-tailed Hawk All About Birds species accounts
Zone-tailed Hawk. Photo by Ned Harris via Birdshare.

The fall migrants are gone, the pond is frozen, and the tree branches once again have more Hairy Woodpeckers than leaves. It was 14 degrees here yesterday: time to dive back in to our website redesign.

So here’s a question we grapple with in nearly every meeting we hold. Do you want a site that tells you what you want to know, or a meeting place where you share what you want to know? My hunch is it’s probably a mix of the two. For example, we’re pretty sure people turn to our All About Birds species accounts to learn the basics about a species from a source – the Cornell Lab of Ornithology – that knows what it’s talking about.

But do you ever wish you could add a comment, caveat, or correction at the bottom of the page? Or, to be more radical (some might say 21st-century) would you prefer a Wikipedia-style All About Birds, where users can register and then edit the actual species accounts themselves?

Our flickr group, Birdshare, and the comments you leave on this blog are just two examples of great ways our readers can contribute to the site, but there are plenty more. What about favorite birding spots? Years ago, we compiled a list of our own favorites across the country – but this is clearly an area where local knowledge rules. So if you had a place where you could share your birding tips – right down to which rusted mailbox you turn left at, and which diner to stop at for lunch –  would you use it? Or might you prefer for the less well-known spots to stay that way? On the road – chasing that Zone-tailed Hawk, perhaps – would you have faith in somebody’s anonymous recommendations?

For now, our list of favorite spots is here. We’ll be revamping it, expanding it, and making it easier to navigate in the coming redesign. Would you like to be involved?

The Cornell Lab

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