Birders Invited to Contribute to Neotropical Birds Online

by Laura Erickson; Photographs by Juan D. Ramirez
Masked Trogon
The Masked Trogon (above) and the Andean Cock-of-the-rock (below) are just two of the gorgeous and scientifically valuable photos now online at the Neotropical Birds photo pool. Photo by Juan D. Ramirez.

One of the greatest frustrations for researchers in the Neotropics is the difficulty in communicating with other researchers. Published information about most species is scattered in different publications, and researchers in remote areas often don’t have easy access to public or institutional libraries.

To address this, Cornell Lab of Ornithology research associate Tom Schulenberg, one of the authors of Birds of Peru, and a team of Information Science staff at the Lab headed by Jeff Gerbracht, have initiated an ambitious new project, Neotropical Birds Online, which will be an authoritative and comprehensive online resource for life histories of Neotropical birds comparable in scope to the Birds of North America Online.

Andean Cock-of-the-rock
Andean Cock-of-the-rock by Juan D. Ramirez.
Although it will take months and even years to complete thousands of species accounts, another resource is already up and running, the Neotropical Birds photo pool on the flickr website ( This is a site for sharing photographs of birds found in the Caribbean and from Mexico south to Tierra del Fuego. Photographers provide these images with the understanding that they may be used in the species accounts on Neotropical Birds Online. As of early January, more than 130 members had contributed more than 3,300 photos to this extraordinary resource! If you’ve birded in the tropics, please consider sharing your bird photos, too.

The in-depth species accounts for Neotropical Birds Online are intended primarily for ornithologists, especially those based in the Neotropics, but will also prove useful to wildlife biologists, conservationists, birders with strong interests in avian natural history, and biology teachers and students. It will be available to all free of charge.

The long-term plan is to open up Neotropical Birds Online species accounts to contributions and edits by other competent observers following a Wikipedia model, so as people make new discoveries that fill in gaps in the knowledge base about a species, the information can quickly be added.

Neotropical Birds Online will ultimately include species accounts for all birds that regularly occur in the Neotropics, from Mexico and the Caribbean south to southernmost South America.

Originally published in the January 2009 issue of BirdScope.

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