We’re redesigning: Come along for the ride!

May 29, 2008
redesigning our online presence blog website Bobolink.
New self-paced course: Learn How to Identify Bird Songs, Click to Learn More
Thanks for looking in on the Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s newest blog! We’re hoping you’ll stop by often – and not just to listen to us. We’d much rather listen to you.

On this blog, we will chronicle a major redesign of the Lab’s website, starting with the most popular section, All About Birds. You’ll start seeing the first site changes this fall, and periodic upgrades will continue over several years.

It’s been five years since our last site upgrade, so it’s about time for an overhaul. With more than 90 major topics and 500 pages, there’s a ton of information here. Regular visitors will have found a lot already – but have you ever come away wondering if you’d missed something? If you’re a new visitor, are you wondering where to start?

With our redesign, we’ll find new ways to put the information and features you want right at your fingertips – as well as up on your screen in vivid color, captivating video, and brilliant sound. We want to give you ways to stay in touch with other birders, learn about the latest in bird science and conservation, choose equipment – or just figure out what that little gray-brown bird hopping around your backyard is. (Hint: we’re thinking it’s a Dark-eyed Junco.)

There’s just one catch: We barely even know you. Nearly 3 million times per month you visit our site, but all we see are your footprints. We hope this blog will change that, by giving you a place to speak up. Remember: this redesign is for you, so don’t be shy about telling us how we can help you with your bird watching.

In coming posts, we’ll show you our ideas and ask what you think. For now, please feel free just to say hi, introduce yourself, or tell us a good bird story. To get things started, I’ll go first in the Comments section.

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  • hughpowell says:

    As promised, here’s my introduction and bird story. My name is Hugh Powell, and I’ll be the main blogger here (read about the rest of the team on our About page). I’m a science writer with a background in field ornithology. I’m brand-new at the Lab, but I’ve been watching birds ever since I was big enough to hold my binoculars steady.

    As for birding, I love late summer. That’s when fledglings are learning the basics of life. One great memory is watching adult Black-backed Woodpeckers leading young through the sooty trees of a burned forest in Idaho. The adults would expertly drill through the bark, then turn and feed a fat beetle grub to one of the kids. After the adult moved on, the young birds would stare in amazement at the hole in the bark, then give a few, hopelessly ineffectual taps of their own. Soon they gave up and hurried on up the trunk for their next meal.

    During summer, one part of the website I really like is the NestCams page. You can follow along as a whole range of species raise young right before your eyes. No Black-backed Woodpeckers yet, but this Eastern Bluebird nest in Kentucky makes for great viewing.

  • Terry says:

    I’d love to see an online bird guide within ALL ABOUT BIRDS that features a customized search engine which allows you to search for a bird species using primary colors of birds, field marks, size, key behaviors, etc. – or perhaps a combination of some of the aforementioned – to help search for (or narrow down) an ID for a bird species.

    Many people write to me and describe birds they are seeing (sometimes they even send pictures, which helps), but it would be nice to be able to point them to a web page within our site that they could use themselves to figure out what bird they are seeing.

    I know that cornellbirds email also gets a lot of email about this as well….and I bet the project assistants have also answered questions about Bird ID, so this would be a great online resource. There are a few online Bird ID searches out there already, but I bet WE could put together a REALLY great one!

  • Alex Chang says:

    my favorite moment with birds was the first time i held one in my hand as a banding station volunteer. the smooth feathers, radiating body heat, and just having a wild animal in hand was an exhilirating experience. nothing else has quite topped it. although recapturing birds that have been banded is pretty close, too. One time, I retrieved a Common Yellowthroat that was banded 11 years ago!

  • Martha Fischer says:

    One thing I notice about the Lab’s web site is how deep you have to dig to get to the Macaulay Library. Maybe it could be up front more?

    Thank you very much for doing this. Martha

  • George Dillmann says:

    I love to tell this bird story – still my most exciting bird “encounter” ever…while taking my first undergraduate ornithology course in college, our lab section visited Swan Lake Wildlife Refuge in central Missouri on a brightly sunny and cold January day, and got to see the amazing sight of 25,000 Snow Geese in winter plumage taking off from a field. They rose up in a vortex like a slow-motion tornado in reverse. I think I stopped breathing for a few minutes!

  • Julie Craves says:

    As someone who does a lot of online writing, I frequently link to Lab pages. PLEASE PLEASE factor in the tens of thousands of links pointing your way all over the web and either don’t change the URLs or provide automatic re-directs.

    The American Bird Conservancy re-did their web site within the last year. Not only is is less usable, all their former links were broken and in many cases the pages were completely gone or difficult to re-find and link to again. A real shame.

  • LW says:

    I am a HUGE fan of ebird, even if I’ve been slacking off lately – PLEASE, please, please get European countries into ebird! Global birding has so much less incentive when I know I can’t come home and get it into ebird while the notes are still fresh. Otherwise, keep up the great work =)

  • Chris W says:

    I noticed that in the Macaulay library, if you you want to download a sound, you often have to buy it. I’m a young birder and I don’t have money for stuff like that and I can’t take my computer out in the field with me.

    Is there any way to make the entire library free?

    That would be a big help to be able to download a sound with have to pay for it.

    Thanks –Chris

  • Hugh says:

    Hey, thanks to everyone who’s posted comments so far. It’s great to hear bird stories, and the feature requests (Terry, Martha, LW, Chris) are duly noted on our to-do list (the bird ID tool is underlined and asterisked). And thanks for the prompt, Julie – we couldn’t live with ourselves if we stranded people by changing web addresses and not giving redirects. Anyone else with a story for us?

  • Jamal says:

    Just wanted to say Hi. I love the Cornell Lab site and I’m looking forward to the changes! I don’t have any stories, but I did follow some Canada geese nesting in the parking lot at my job recently for a little while. I posted my finds on my blog.

  • Laura Erickson says:

    I’ll chime in with Julie Craves that we need to keep our old links live even as we improve the pages.

  • John says:

    Like Julie and Laura, I do a lot of online nature writing (in my case for a birding blog and an Audubon chapter). My posts contain many links to species accounts in the All About Birds bird guide to give my readers a reference for more information. So I would second the suggestion for the URLs to be preserved as much as possible.

    A new feature I would like to see is easier navigation from one species account to another. It would help if there were a searchbox or dropdown menu on each species page, to make it easier to jump from one species to another instead of having to go back to the same intro page for each species.

  • Derry Hoggatt says:

    I would love to see more pictures of juveniles,

    nests, eggs, nestlings, fleglings and of birds in flight. And I would also love to see there be some way I could print the bird pages and download the audio files of both the Macaulay library and all about birds for free so I could take them out in the field with me.

  • Greg Dysart says:

    Let me know if you need bird photos to share for you praise worthy site.

    I recently got my best photos of a Kentucky Warbler that are yours for the asking, as a token of the appreciation of the Cornell Bird Sites.

    Best regards,

    Greg Dysart

  • Greg Dysart says:

    Just miss typed the website – volume3.com/birds

  • Alan says:

    Hi, my name is Alan and I’m a birdwatcher from south eastern VA. I’ve been a birdwatcher since I was about 12 years old. I just recently started a blog about my experiences and encounters with birds titled “Birds ’n Such”. I don’t really have an exciting story to tell, but the way I learned about birds was rather interesting. When I was a kid I used to shoot birds with my BB gun. I know, I know, you’re thinking how awful, but as a child that enjoyed hunting birds I learned so much about them; such as their names, their detailed features, habitat, etc. As a result, I became hooked on birds. Now, instead of shooting birds I enjoy watching, learning, helping and painting them.

    Thanks for letting us get involved with this exciting change. I really like Terry’s idea of an online field guide based on bird color, size, region, etc. I’m bad about laying my field guide down and it never is handy when I need it. Having something like this online would be handy.

  • Pamela says:

    I became an avid birder over the past two years, beginning with my fascination of the Great Blue Heron, their rookery’s in this area, and then the juveniles later that season. I was fortunate enough to have opportunity to bond with one young heron after it was pushed from the nest.

    Due to illness I became limited in going deep into the marshes, hence became equally involved with learning of smaller birds.

    Your site has been wonderful and a great resource to me in identifying not only the birds, but areas most likely to be found, foods they consume, etc. I visit your site regularly, comparing my notes with your information, making adjustments or just notations on information I might consider challenging in the future.

    Please continue the wonderful work, I have passed the message of your sit to many. By the way if there are photos on my site that would be useful to you, please contact me. It would be my pleasure to give in return for all I have received from your site.

    Pamela

  • Brigitte PeckKi Laou says:

    I feed birds in my backyard all years and become familiar with my feather friends behaviour. I treat them well regardless of spieces because they live a short and restless life. I am often wondering if I can see the same indivuduals in the following season.

    Even though they are about the same spieces, I am content with my backyard feather friends and never be bored.

    Besides, I landscape my garden such that all the flowers and shrubs are useful to birds.

  • Brigitte PeckKi Laou says:

    I love my backyard birds, no matter how ordinary they are or how they appear bored in other birders’ eyes. I appreciate their presence, especially during our frigid winter.

  • Jeane DeVries says:

    Hi- I really enjoy perusing this site, but I must admit that trying to find a specific bird is challenging. For your consideration, perhaps a search engine that would allow “researchers” to type in: size, color, beak (long, short, hooked, pointed etc,) environment, geographic area,nesting habits, etc? I have a large selection of birds in our backyard, most of whom have been quite easy to identify. HOWEVER! There is one that is perplexing me, and I can’t find it! Thanks.

  • Laura Erickson says:

    Brigitte, yes, you can see some backyard birds from year to year. According to the Bird Banding Lab, the oldest wild cardinal on record lived to be over 15 years old! The oldest known wild robin lived to be almost 14 years old, the oldest mockingbird to be almost 15 years old, the oldest Black-capped Chickadee lived to be over 12 years old, and even the oldest known banded Ruby-throated Hummingbird lived to be over 9 years old. And many backyard birds, including migrants, return to the same breeding area over and over, especially when they were successful there once.

    Birds are ever so fragile and vulnerable, yet so magnificently sturdy.

  • miyokochu says:

    Thanks to everyone for your comments–it’s great to get to know you and to hear your feedback, which is essential as we begin reorganizing, improving, and adding to our website.

    Greg, thanks for the offer of photos. Bird photos are like gold to us. We have kicked around the idea of enabling people to upload photos to our site, both so that you can share them with other birders and so we can pull them into species accounts and other areas of the website. Sounds like this would be a good future topic for this blog.

    Meanwhile, I’ve asked Diane, our design director, to set up a new email account so we can accept photos. I’ll post the address when it’s available. You’re all also invited to submit photos via the All About Birds featured photographer page:

    http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/bp

    Chris, thanks for mentioning your interest in free downloadable sounds from the Macaulay Library. We’d like to be able to offer the sounds free for non-commercial use and are discussing whether we can make this possible while sustaining the resources and staff we need to offer this service and curate the archives. I heard the team in the Macaulay Library has worked on an online tool that would enable users to mark and download just the portion of the recording they want, which would be especially nice, since some of those archived clips are pretty long. Right now you can listen to (but not download) tens of thousands of audio and video clips at our site

    animalbehaviorarchive.org. I hope those of you who haven’t been there before will check it out.

  • Mary Beth James-Thib says:

    My birdbath is constantly surveyed by what I eventually figured out is a Black Phoebe or is that three Black Phoebes! Wait, aren’t they supposed to be solitary? Duh! It’s a family! (cinnamon edging on the wings!) I love the way they stand on a stake above my Phacelia patch and nimbly fly out to catch insects.

    Which comes to my request: I can usually figure out an unknown bird’s family; I would like to be able to click on flycatchers and get a list that I can go through or, even better, thumbnails!

    I just spent a while trying to figure out by sound what kind of woodpecker is visiting my yard. (It sounds like one of those sweep and return sprinklers.) I had to find a list (SF Bay Area birds) and type each bird name into Google, open the Cornell page and play the song. It’s a Nuttall’s Woodpecker!

    Finally, I’d like to second the requests for a bird finder by description. I thought the page used to have something like that.

    And thank you for all the wonderful things that you do have!

  • Claudia Bliss says:

    Hello fellow birders. I got into birding after I saw my first bluebird while in NC at a neighbor’s house. I was hooked/enchanted immediately. That was in 1996 and since I have put up nesting boxes wherever I lived which have housed not only bluebirds, but tree swallows [NY/CT], great crested flycatchers [AL/GA], and chickadees [here in SC]. I currently have a bluebird baby—only baby to hatch–who is a week old today and I watch the action with our nesting box bird cam—-best thing ever! I like some of the comments for what to help us with ID’s, putting us in touch with other birder’s who could answer questions and give general info etc. [today, I am wondering about info on how birds handle heat in the nesting boxes, it’s 95 here!] I have used Cornell’s Ornithology web site for years and am thrilled to participate in recording my birding experiences. I am so happy you are dedicated to helping US learn and what would help the most. I thank you!! The world wouldn’t be the same without songbirds!

  • Stephanie says:

    Perhaps a list of volunteer opportunities organized by state? Volunteering to help with things like rehab and field studies and other bird care issues is an amazing experience!

  • Iris says:

    To expand on Stephanie’s suggestion, I’d enjoy a list of bird-banding opportunities by state. I see a lot of the top bird bloggers able to get into the banding action, but it’d be great if us everyday bird folk were able to get involved too!

    Glad to see that Cornell is staying active online and making more content available all the time! Also, the redesign of BirdScope is fantastic! More reader-generated content might be nice to see in that pub.

  • Laura Erickson says:

    Iris, I love the idea of adding more reader-generated comment to BirdScope! Thanks!

  • Thank you for the wonderful online birding resources. I’d also request that you preserve the URLs of the individual species accounts — both the detailed and regular versions. I’ve linked to them quite a bit!

    Mikael

  • Judy B says:

    I really enjoy your website, but I’ve had some problems downloading sounds. I’m not sure what I am doing wrong, but I can’t seem to get them to play. My favorite bird story involved a hummingbird. I live in Arizona and at the time had a “swamp cooler.” If you know anything about swamp coolers, they cool a house by evaporation. In order to do this, one has to leave windows cracked to allow for ventilation. We had a wooden mobile hanging right outside our patio window. One summer a hummingbird built a nest on top of the mobile. Not only was she under the patio roof, she was getting a cool breeze from our open window. That year she had two babies that we watched grow from the size of bees to full grown hummers. Eventually they got too big for the little nest and left their little home. Needless to say, hummingbirds continue to fascinate me.

  • Greg Dysart says:

    Attempting to get the dynamic link to my web site corrected….

  • Janet Akin says:

    I have many great birding experiences. But the one that remains among my favorite happened in my own yard. I have spent many years making a wildlife friendly yard. I have a bird garden and butterfly and hummingbird gardens. I used a book by Steve Kress and even took his SFO course at the lab. I had great birds coming to my pond and shrubs for berries etc. I love Cedar Waxwings and really wanted them in my yard and planted shrubs to attract them. One May day in 2006 as I walked out to the yard I spotted two birds in a pine tree and there they were my Cedar Waxwings it was a moving experience. They flew right to the cottoneasters I planted for them and started to feed. Last summer a pair nested right outside our bedroom window. I can’t say enough about getting your yard planted with native trees, shrubs and flowers. I always have great birds without leaving my house. Janet Akin, Seneca Castle NY

  • Esther says:

    One winter (I’m thinking ’78 – hard winter) in DeKalb, Illinois, when I was about ten, my brother 13, we were cross-country skiing in a park at NIU and saw a Snowy Owl standing on a fence-post. It was snowing, and the entire scene was etherial. The bird noticed us quickly, and flew – beautifully and silently (of course). Tremendous magic in the moment.

  • Laura Erickson says:

    That’s really cool! I saw my first Snowy Owl in downtown Chicago–I was walking along Lake Shore Drive and it flew right over my head, just a few feet away, in December, 1975. I never forgot that moment.

    How many of us report cool sightings like this, or ALL our bird sightings, on eBird?

  • Corey Husic says:

    I have noticed that some birds are not yet recognized as individual species on the webite, such as Dusky and Sooty Grouse, which we recently split, from the old “lumped” Blue Grouse.

  • Jason Saul says:

    Thank you all so much for all of this. The Lab never fails to put a smile on my face — I only wish I had more free cash on hand to donate more frequently.

    My favorite birding memory is the times I spent under the Live Oaks leading up to the New Orleans Museum of Art in City Park, before Hurricane Katrina knocked most of them down. I lived right across the bayou, and would sit on a bench in the shade with a big bag of peanuts for the Blue Jays. I always told myself I’d go out there to get some work done, but never managed to get more than a few pages read or written… I’d just empty the bag as the hours went by, reveling in the jays’ calls and delighting in watching them cache the extras.

  • Ooh, you’re right, Corey. We’ll have to fix that, but it might take a little while. The entry for the Birds of North America Online added some information about that particular split in 2005, but the ornithologists responsible for writing the Blue Grouse entry haven’t had a chance to put together entirely new accounts specifically for the Dusky and Sooty Grouses yet.

  • emily ward says:

    this website is stupid it does not find my tanager!!.?

  • Lee Pasquali says:

    I am a birder with many, many years of experience with computers. You need a good experienced database person who will work with a human interface expert to design a site that will allow a person to find the bird of interest quickly and easily. Don’t be afraid to throw away your old data base and start over. You need to use software that is designed to search a database not a website as you do now.

  • Johnny Fife says:

    My favorite bird sighting, when my family and I just moved to the Country near Katy Texas. I had put a thistle feeder in the back yard next to an overgrown rice field. The feeder had been there for about a week. One day while sitting outside watching the feeder I was surprized to see a very small bird that was finch or sparrow like in color and shape, but what really surprized me the bird was very small and I estimated smaller than a hummer. I have been watching birds and feeding them most of my life and never seen anything like this. It was actually hanging off a thistle feeder peg and then had flap it wings to get on top of the peg then to reach up for some thistle. All this happened in about 15 seconds or less. Needless to say I was in awe and watch the feeder for several days after that and never seen the bird again. A birding experience I will never forget. I search long and hard for some answers and never came up with anything. I had wondered if it could of been a new species or a species that was thought to be extinct. I have never heard of any birds samller than a hummer. If you were going to make some changes to your web site, I would sugggest possibly a section on extinct birds or a even have a consultant avaiable so someone who could be notified of peculiar sighting like mine. Or a even a national or even a Cornell website for these types of sightings.

  • owlUSA says:

    I have serious concerns about the effects of industrial wind turbines on the birds and bats and am wondering if any bloggers here feel the same way. I know they provide clean energy (eventually) which benefits humans, birds and animals, but what about the numbers that are killed each year?

    Since I am not a “professional” birder in any way, I have not been able to make 100% sense of the bird studies initiated by the wind developers. Has anyone here ever seen the bird study results of any wind farm? I’m referring specifically to pre-construction AND post-construction….and am particularly interested in both the amount of time put into the studies, the times of year and the duration…is it sufficient?

    All comments appreciated.

  • owlUSA says:

    Wondering if you could tell me the status of the Hooded Warbler, esp in NY state? I read “threatened” on one site and “rare” on another.

    I found one unfortunate soul dead in my driveway, an apparent collision with one of our vehicles…I took a photo of it and perused two bird books, so I’m quite certain my identification is correct.

    thank you

  • Hugh says:

    @owlUSA: sorry to hear about your Hooded Warbler casualty. In the larger picture, though, Hooded Warblers are fairly common, with increasing populations in some areas, although New York is at the northern end of the species’ range. Read more here: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/bfl/easternbirds24.html

    We are also working on a section for our Conservation department, where you’ll be able to find information on the important issue of wind power.

    @emily: sorry you can’t find your tanager here; we do want to make ID easier on this site. For now, and assuming you live in North America north of Mexico, you have four choices: Summer and Scarlet Tanagers in the East, Hepatic Tanager in the Southwest, and Western Tanager in the West. Good luck!

    @Johnny: sounds like a mystery bird at your feeder. You’re right, there aren’t any finches that weigh in at smaller than a Ruby-throated Hummingbird. As far as resources go, we have a small section on extinct birds at All About Birds: http://www.birds.cornell.edu/AllAboutBirds/conservation/extinctions/ And if a question has you burning with curiosity, you can always try our public information line: 1-800-843-BIRD.

  • sitta says:

    How about a species search box (and/or that fabled ID tool) in the sidebar on AAB and the CLO homepage? I’ve also seen something like this offered as a browser toolbar over at .

    It wouldn’t hurt to provide users with ways to know when you have updated a page, posted a new story, etc.–RSS feeds come to mind…I browse almost all of my news this way.

    Finally, it seems strange that there isn’t more cohesiveness between the different parts of the Lab’s website. I would like to see it evolve towards greater interconnectedness, e.g. right-clicking on any species name on any page could bring up the option of viewing a species account in BNA or AAB, photos/multimedia clips from ML, Lab projects/reports that involve a given species, etc.

    All in all, I’m looking forward to seeing what the redesign brings!

  • Andrea says:

    I am a young birder, and I have been birding for about a year. I don’t know many other birders, so I use a lot of online resources to learn about ornithology and to help me identify new birds. So needless to say, I use your website a LOT, and I think it’s great that you’re redesigning it.

    I like what people have suggested about creating a bird ID tool. I think that would be extremely helpful, especially for new birders.

    Thank you so much for your great website and resources!

    -Andrea

    http://earthbird.blogspot.com

  • Ginny says:

    Johhny, Check out the sites for Hummingbird Moths. There are several good ones that come up with a Google search. We, too, had an incredibly small “bird” visit our flowers and lilacs earlier this spring, which we thought was the world’s smallest Hummingbird.

    As far as the Website redesign, I would find it helpful (as others have suggested) to have help with identifying birds by characteristics, behavior, etc. Using the site now for an unknown bird is like using the dictionary to find a word you don’t know how to spell: difficult at best.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Jenn says:

    I really like the pages that have both the territorial song of the bird, and the casual call. Sometimes the only tools you have to id a bird is the silhouette, the location, and the call.

    Having all the pages fleshed out to include this would be great!

    (lotta work, I know, and perhaps outside of this request parameter, but there you go!)

  • Ethan Duke says:

    Amazing site! You CLO folks and collaborators make wonderful things happen. Thank you. Here’s a far-fetched idea. It would be great to surf the data at the Bird banding lab in Maryland. I’d love to see if there have been any resightings of birds that I’ve been fortunate enough to come in contact with. I know it’s a long-shot, but I’ll never underestimate the CLO. Thanks too for Ravenlite! It has opened up the world of birdsong to me in so many ways.

  • Mary Ellen says:

    I live in a rural area and use a dial up internet connection. Lately more and more of my favorite websites are refusing to load on my computer because of excessive use of videos and fancy graphics. Please make your site accessible to many like me and leave the videos and fancy graphics for users with more downloading power to choose.

  • Leilani says:

    I’m a brand new visitor to this site who would like to second this suggestion offered by someone upthread, because it’s a feature that is noticably absent on first use:

    “A new feature I would like to see is easier navigation from one species account to another. It would help if there were a searchbox or dropdown menu on each species page, to make it easier to jump from one species to another instead of having to go back to the same intro page for each species.”

    On individual bird pages, it would be very helpful to have the order & family classifications clickable to go back up the family tree.

    Lovely sight, though!

  • STEPHANIE says:

    You might want to make the writing on this blog a little bigger. Its kind of hard to read. Otherwise, I use this sight quite a bit! I like it.

  • Stephanie, if you’re using a Windows computer, look at the top left tool bar, and click on “View,” and look for “Text Size.” That will show you how to make the text size bigger.

  • It’s wonderful to see the folks behind the All About Birds website — a site I use nearly every day. Love the graphics on this blog!

  • Brigitte PeckKi Laou says:

    American Robins start singing at three o’clock in the morning, following by Northern Cardinals and then Black-capped Chikadees. Their concert continues until dawn. I enjoy my feather friends concert since our warmer temperature allows me open my windows.

  • Jeanette says:

    Just a New Yorker who enjoys watching and listening to the birds in my neighborhood. I appreciate Cornell’s Bird Lab site and other Cornell great stuff like Coop Ext.

    Would love more ways to connect with others in the area and learn more about local nature –and talk about birds. Would also LOVE to figure out a bird I hear often in my yard but never see. Search by sound?

  • Jeanette, how would you describe the song of that bird that is heard but not seen? All About Birds does have sounds for just about every species in North America–maybe we can suggest some possibilities if you describe it for us.

  • It would be great to see a more universal audio player that works on any web browser, rather than having to download a real player to listen to bird songs.

  • Karen Freeman says:

    In addition to the wonderful info on birds. Photos of the nests and young of each bird would be helpful. When people find orphaned birds, being able to identify them at an early stage of development could increase the chance of the survival of those birds. It’s very difficult to ID babies because they look so different from the adults.

  • Junor says:

    I’m trying to identify a bird by its song only as it hides high in the trees, but sings

    loud and clear all morning and evening all summer long.

    I’d like a link that first gives the area of birds (i.e.county/state or part of state) where this bird is found during summer, (or winter, or migration), then be able to hear songs of those in the area. Now I just guess a bird name then listen to it’s song. Too time consuming.

  • naomi Johnson says:

    I would like to see a “search” option on every page so one doesn’t have to go back to the search page every time one wants to search a different bird. I love your site!!!

  • Joanne Humphreville says:

    It would be really great if you had a place on the site to get information on birds in a specific location. When I am going on vacation (and I will be on the coast of Maine in late July), I would like to know which birds to look for and how to identify them. Since there are so many locations you obviously can’t do it all yourselves, but perhaps local Audubon clubs could participate. I do love your site already, though, and I use it for my home page. Thanks!

  • I love your website! I think the bird guide is a quick and easy way to look up birds around the world. Im a bird lover. I dream of having a back yard big enough for a forest so lots of birds can come and nest and live there.

    Birds are so cool!!

  • Martha says:

    This request has been expressed but I’d like to repeat it. I would love some way to search by habitat. A lot of my birding is in the mountains of Vermont and sometimes, I never actually see the bird but I’d love to know who is serenading me. If I could narrow birds by habitat, I could then listen to the songs.

    1. Is there a website where I could find a list of Vermont birds by habitat?

    2. Your song feature is wonderful and SO helpful! Thanks for the site!

  • Margaret says:

    I’d like a map that I can click on for identifying birds. For example, I live in Seattle, so I really only want to see a list of possible birds for that area when I’m searching. And if I could then dig by size (maybe not a big factor that you use, but for an amature, it’s easy) shape, and color.

  • I see you are planning to add more species accounts. Excellent! How about starting with the birds below on the Arkansas state list that are currently missing. :^) We already have links to your species accounts for the other 380 Arkansas birds on ArkansasBirder.net.

    Garganey, Tufted Duck, Yellow-billed Loon, Curlew Sandpiper, Ruff, Wilson’s Phalarope, Red-necked Phalarope, Red Phalarope, Pomarine Jaeger, Parasitic Jaeger, Long-tailed Jaeger, Bridled Tern, Sooty Tern, Long-billed Murrelet, Green Violet-ear, Gray Kingbird, Fork-tailed Flycatcher, Northern Wheatear, Bachman’s Warbler (perhaps in the extinct section), Green-tailed Towhee, Bachman’s Sparrow, Rufous-crowned Sparrow, Clay-colored Sparrow.

  • Bonnie says:

    I have been visiting for quite a while and don’t know how I never noticed–I guess because I didn’t need it. You don’t have a male, female and baby bird on each species! I quit trying to find my birding book a long time ago and have grown to depend on your site. I have a young bird who has fallen in love with the rear view mirror on my Cadillac and has been there for the last hour and a half. I’m not sure if it thinks it is “Mom” or just in need of company. I think it might be a Carolina Wren but it could be something else. It’s very comical to watch it run down the length of the door on the chrome rim, then walk casually back and look at it beak to beak, do it again and this time hop at it and side up to it with ruffled feathers. Adorable…

  • Lynne says:

    Just a few suggestions for the new website:

    Don’t forget that many of us have mac computers, and not all of us have the latest software. Every time you have updated in the past I cannot click and link on the website until I notify one of your technicians.

    I did not know you have some of the features you have on the website, such as the identification software library because I don’t like to spend an hour or two clicking through layers of links and other sites. I spent 2 hours one day identifying a caterpillar, and still did not have a definitive answer. I have had the same problems identifying birds and finding words, etc. The answer to this is to look at how government websites are set up. The best ones have a categorized menu running down the left hand side of the home screen rather than a few tabs across the top. When one of the topics is clicked on in the menu, a submenu appears. Each submenu has a submenu, etc. Other sites, such as medical sites, have an alphabet choice as a major menu. The viewer either clicks on the letter corresponding to the topic wanted, or puts in a term in the search screen. Choices then come that act as submenus. These two methods save time loading the home screen, save memory, and make it quicker and easier to find what the viewer wants.

    I cannot comment on the sounds and tapes, because the software for those things are for non-mac computers only, so they are not accessible to me.

  • Brandon says:

    First, let me say that you all do a great job overall.

    I have two suggestions…

    (1) Include an option to click count site results by city or region (like the GBBC does), and not just by state. It would be nice to have the option of comparing one’s count results to what others see locally. Some states (e.g., California) have very diverse habitats. What one FeederWatcher sees in Palm Springs is going to be very different than what one sees in Eureka.

    (2) Expand your photo galleries. It’s nice to see examples from each year’s counts, but it seems to me that you could publish more. Given how inexpensive digital SLRs have become over the past few years, I imagine that A LOT of quality photos are submitted but never see the light of day. Organizing them by species might also be nice.

  • Nancy Secare says:

    I already like your site very much. If I would do one thing more it would be to add additional pictures of juveniles. At this time of year (June) they are all over the place. I have a young red-bellied woodpecker at my suet feeder but he/she has not yet developed red feathers, even though his/her size is already very large. I’m leaning toward it being a female because what should be red on the head area is at this point a very dark gray. Looking forward to whatever develops.

  • Susan Penix says:

    Let me begin by saying you all do a wonderful job, this past year was my first experience using ebird. I have participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count in the past and found that the regional counts were interesting, maybe you could include something similiar. Also pictures of juveniles would be extremely helpful as would nest pictures with eggs. Also area rare bird or endangered bird by state might prove helpful.

  • Patricia says:

    Would it be possible to add small pictures or photographs of the listed birds to the feederwatch list (the one we fill-in with numbers)? I really like the pictures at the top of this webpage.

    Thank you.

  • Diana Go says:

    I’m very excited about your redesign project and would be more than willing to be an alpha or beta tester for you.

    I’m a relatively new birder and last week I decided that it was time that I got serious about developing a good life checklist. I’m not sure your website offers a downloadable blank form, but a casual browse and search didn’t yield anything. In a perfect world, the form would:

    * be easily exported into MS Excel or Word (or any other ubiquitous software) onto our own computers

    * and/or hosted by Cornell so that it can be updated anywhere in the world via a website at an internet cafe

    * have a bridge to Google Earth/Maps to pinpoint where the sighting occurred

    * allow Cornell to harvest and study the data provided by the users

    * be co-developed with Google (they might agree!) because they are masters of the mapping user interface

    * allow the birders to print out only our populated fields so that we don’t waste reams and reams of paper.

    * allow the birder to add a photo, video, and/or sound recording

    Thanks for asking for our input!

  • Bonnie says:

    Oh-like Nancy Secare–I meant I wish there were also Juveniles shown.

    Also—I have been watching what I thought was a Red Bellied Woodpecker hop around the edges of my driveway for the past month or so (next to a field). I was flipping through an inexpensive field guide today and a light bulb went off—–I have a YELLOW SHAFTED FLICKER!!!! I just had to share that with someone. I couldn’t figure out why it looked so dull and why as a female it had so little red on the back of it’s head, but it stayed on the fringes in the shade. Now after seeing it one more time it is brown not gray. I live in SW VA.

  • Rosemary says:

    I have been with PFW for two years and throughout this year I had two new sightings one was a Ruby Crowned Kinglet and recently I have seen 5 Swan Goose near the ponds where I live in Silver Spring, Maryland. I report these on e-bird but because I was so new at this I didn’t know about e-bird and frantically looked on the PFW Cornell website to report findings outside of my regular counting days. Can there be something on the website to report rare sightings? Don’t mess things up too much and make your website less usable. I really think you do a great job as is.

  • Jean says:

    I’m one of those bird watchers that votes for being careful not to be a bandwidth hog. Generally, I’m on a fast connection but not always. When I’m in a remote area, at a library or at a motel the connections sometime can be v-e-r-y- s-l-o-w. I would prefer a sleeker interface that lets me identify birds and learn just a little more about them. If I want more detail then there should be a way to find it via link or whatever.

  • I’m an 80 year old birder and bird photographer in Central Florida. Am also a volunteer (7 years) with Jay Watch, monitoring the FL Scrub Jay. I’d like to see bird calls added on to the ID info. I have the FL bird CD from Cornell (I think). It’s good but one has to go through many bird sounds to reach one. Maybe having a picture associated with a sound would be helpful to some birders.

  • Jason Saul says:

    Speaking of Scrub Jays… did anyone else read the article about two weeks ago in the New York Times entitled “Peter Rabbit Kust Die”? In it a breeder of coy in Florida talks about killing crows who attack his fish (though he’s proud to say he doesn’t kill the herons that do the same).

    however, he also says he kills, in quite brutal fashion, small birds that “look like blue jays with gray on them.” Could he possibly be killing Scrub Jays? I hope somebody can look into this…

    Here’s the story link, and thanks:

    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/06/05/garden/05animals.html?_r=1&scp=1&sq=rabbit+die&st=nyt&oref=slogin

  • misangela says:

    Just about everything has been covered so far, but I’d like to reiterate some things that I see on commercial sites very often that are hindrances to usability:

    – Make the site VERY fast loading for the bandwidth impaired. Satellite users don’t have much bandwidth, either, remember.

    – Avoid Flash at all costs.

    – Code (and TEST) the site with Mac and Linux browsers as well as Windows. Firefox is the #1 browser with Mac and #2 with Windows. Make sure the site works properly for EVERYONE. (This is a mistake I see quite often.)

    As for information requests, I’d like more photographic documentation: juveniles, chicks, nests, color variations. I also have trouble identifying birds by song, but with no info other than audio, I really don’t know how you’d improve that. Better maps would also be helpful.

    I use eNature.com for my species lists. I suggest looking over their operation for implementing your own. I typically bounce between All About Birds and eNature.com to ID species – but their documentation area is far better than yours.

    Thanks for a wonderful site and the opportunity to document birds. It’s a great hobby and one that gives back. :-)

    Angela

  • Rosalie says:

    I’ve been posting my FeederWatch data entry online ever since it was available and it gets better/easier each year. My suggestion is instead of having to scroll down the whole list of birds every two weeks, allow me to “create” my own list by checking the birds I expect to see perhaps for the whole season based on previous seasons. I could do this when I enter my first counts for the season. If I need to add a bird to my season list, then I could do that as I do now. Just a thought. Hope it makes sense.

    I love participating in Project FeederWatch and enjoy your website. Thanks!

  • jwp-catskill says:

    Suggestions – When identifying birds it would be useful to have a color/body part key that could be used by the typical lay person who will not be familiar with ornithological terminology. For example: HEAD/Color(s); Crown/Crest/Color(s+, Beak/color(s), Pattern: solid, striped or banded, speckled, eye color. NECK/Throat (area under beak on bottom) Color(s), Pattern/spots/rings/banded/v-neck/color(s), BODY: color(s), patterns,/WINGS/LEGS/FEET/CLAWS, you get the idea.

    Next would come BIRD TYPE: WADING/PERCHING/GROUND/HUMMING/WOODPECKER/

    BODY SIZE:

    All the above is fairly standard, but the main component where I see a lot of crossed code is in color combinations and patters, which are often the main determinate.

    Obviously, REGION, HABITAT OBSERVED IN, FEEDING CHOICE would also help narrow things down.

    Also useful would be: Special Movements and behavior: tail bobbing, hopping, walking-stalking, scavenging, shy/bold, etc.

    Provide a UNSURE button, which can skip to the next set of choices. By the third or fourth tier it should be possible to post possible choices. Here, a MORE CHOICES button would help.

  • Tina Mitchell says:

    Hi. I often refer people to All About Birds for a good overview of a particular species. I think it would be very helpful if one could search for a different species when one is in the Web page that features a particular species. Instead, the only way I can figure out how to get to another species is to click back the All about Birds home page. Not a big deal, but adding a search box at the top of each page seems like it wouldn’t be that hard. (This addition was recently made to BNA Online and it’s a terrific improvement, in my opinion.)

  • Tina Mitchell says:

    For Project Feederwatch online data entry–it would be helpful if the list of birds to enter data for could be populated based on the birds I reported the year before. We generally have 10-15 species in the winter; I have to scroll through tons and tons of species that we will never see. I suppose I could use “delete species” (I think that exists along with “add species”), but that would take forever. I never mind adding a species, because that means something new and interesting showed up. But the scrolling through hummingbirds, warblers, etc. in the middle of winter here in central CO gets a bit tiresome.

  • Pascale DUHAMEL says:

    Hello,

    I am a musicologist from Quebec. I began by doing “passive bird-watching”, that is to be interested for birds coming to my sight. I am more active now and involved in bird photography.

    I would suggest that your new site allows to search birds specificaly from their names in French. I noticed it’s not always possible. The reason is that you would then be the *only complete* site about birds useful to francophones bird watchers in North America.

    Also, a search according to the group would be very useful, ex.: ocean birds, prey birds, sparrow birds (passereaux), etc.

    Cheers

  • Nancy Brown says:

    I have been a birder most of my life. My Dad always feed the California Quail and we had lots of birds on the ranch.

    I now feed birds mostly in the winter. Summers are hot there and any water feature is a big draw.

    In the past, on the map that shows where all the Project Feeder Watchers are, the names of the cities would be listed and I miss that feature.

  • Liz Neill says:

    I am happy to have another source of reading about birds, other than my magazines. Having these articles on site is great. I usually read the site thoroughly and look at the pictures. Changing it more often would be great. For report on Project Feeder watch, perhaps being able to choose an area, such as Allegheny region or New England would speed reporting. Thanks for all your efforts.

  • Essie says:

    You’re site is boreing looking. Not that it isn’t helpful! You need more color, more pictures. Bird games and tirivias!!!!

  • Hugh says:

    @Jason: Thanks for telling us about the NYT story about people killing pests in their yards – I hadn’t seen it. While I know people who go to great lengths to rid their gardens of snails, slugs, gophers, chipmunks, and woodchucks, it’s somehow more shocking to think of people dispatching birds (not to mention most birds are protected by law). If the owner of the koi pond were really killing Florida Scrub Jays, that would be really serious, as the birds are on the Endangered Species List. Although the description sounds like a scrub jay, the location – near Homestead – is well south of the Florida Scrub Jay’s range. Can any other readers chime in on what species this might have been? Thanks again for pointing this out.

  • Jan says:

    Hello All! As I type we have the most wonderful Mocking Bird in our front yard doing it’s best to imitate every bird and bug for miles around. This is the best part of birding is listening to the sounds and then finally finding them flying from limb to limb.

    As to the website, I really like the current design. To improve I would like to see stats from other birders in my area as to what birds they are seeing (maybe a dashboard like Apple computers use).

    Thanks so much and keep up the good work!

  • Michele Crane says:

    I’m a bird watcher with about 5 years experience here in my own backyard. I’ve been doing Project Feederwatch with my kids for two years. I’m hooked on watching “my” crow family each year. Three of the last four years they have nested in our yard. For the past month, they have been feeding and teaching their three noisy babies in our yard…so much fun to watch them. They come close to the house, but don’t do anything destructive…I’ve been fascinated by their cooperation during the nesting, breeding and fledling phases.

  • For the past 3 years I have been increasing my knowledge of birds in Virginia and especially in the Urban and “Riva’ areas of the eastern part of Virginia. Instead of listening to rock or the classics, I punch in my Birding By Ear CD each chance I get the chance,imagine the looks I get from the kids when they hear the sounds of a blue bird or robin comming from my car. I am an audio/visual learner and would really enjoy more video with birds nesting, in flight, and singing. To me, simple is best and the more “stuff” on the pages makes it more diffult to focus, your site is very balanced. Thanks for this resource.

    Debbie, LVtobird in Virginia

  • Janet says:

    Blogging about birds is delightful. A nesting box near my home was occupied by Tree Swallows. Another nearby box had Eastern Bluebirds with five hatchlings. The door was opened (animal? loose latch?) and the little ones perished. The bluebirds then built a nest in the nearby box on top of the Tree Swallow’s nest and laid an egg. The Tree Swallows claimed this new nest and added feathers and laid four eggs. All eggs hatched, including the bluebird egg. The bluebirds had not returned to the nest. The four swallow hatchlings were a good bit smaller and a few days later were gone from the nest. The bluebird was then raised by the Tree Swallows and fledged yesterday. I’ve heard of other birds hatching eggs not their own and am delighted to have been able to witness this marvel of nature, though I would have preferred that the Tree Swallow hatchlings had survived.

  • Mike says:

    Great site. The new articles are very interesting and well written. The hyperlinks are great. I am just curious as to why you did not use the target=”_blank” tag in you source code to allow the link to open in a new window. Without it, you have to constantly click the back button to return to the original article. One could control click the link and select open in new window, but that is a little awkward. Keep up the great work.

    Mike

  • Theresa says:

    I’m so excited about the new features you’re describing. Just this morning I saw a new bird in the yard and I’m dying to identify it. I spent an hour or so searching bird books and your site and have yet to identify it. I was thinking it would be great to narrow my search – by region and description (like you’re talking about – size, color, markings, etc.). I can’t wait till it’s up and running!

    I have enjoyed watching birds since I was a little girl and my parents hung our first bird feeder. But last summer my birding really heated up when my then 4-year-old started asking about birds at our feeders. After chickadee, nuthatch, and gold finch, I was stumped. So I purchased a bird book by Stan Tekela (with accompanying bird-song cd’s) for our region, and we started learning other birds together. By the end of the summer, my daughter could correctly identify more than 100 birds by looking at their pictures. (Including all those sparrows and warblers that look alike to me!) Once when I pointed out the Northern Flicker on our bird feeder, she said, “Mom, I don’t think that’s a Flicker. I think it’s a red-bellied woodpecker.” She was right.

    We’ve since learned many bird songs as well, so that now all that “tweeting” in the yard isn’t just some mumbled foreign language, but the individual songs of countless birds we never would have believed were there. Just the other day, Rielly (now 5) got out of the car, stopped dead in her tracks, and said, “Mom! I hear a brown thrasher!” Most people just hear tweeting. She and I are beginning to understand the language of the birds.

    Your site has already helped us separate the Veery from the Hermit Thrush from the Wood Thrush (I thought they were all the same bird singing out there!) and many other birds as well. So again, I’m so excited to hear of the changes to come. Maybe soon I’ll know what that bird was that I spotted this morning, or the one that keeps whistling that “hey you” call at me when I’m walking in the woods!

  • LF says:

    I’ve just recently discovered this website, and love it.

    I’d be even more thrilled if you’d add more for those of us who’re trying to learn to identify birds not by their looks (which is great, but does take good eyes, luck, and/or binoculars, not to mention time to stop and look) but by their sounds.

    These days, I’m mostly listening for birds, rather than looking, and listening especially every morning as I walk. I hear so many birds, but I’m walking for exercise, so I don’t really want to stop and look; but surely if I know more I can start to identify what I’m hearing?

    Thank you!

  • gandw05@earthlink.ne says:

    When I first discovered your site, I really had trouble because I was trying to identify birds and did not know the names. I have learned so much and enjoy the design and information you include. So far, the search engines I have used do not help much … I usually have already eliminated the obvious and they are not detailed enough to really identify the “odd” markings I find, so excluding known birds might be helpful in a search. We had a lot of rufous-crowned sparrows in the spring and it took quite a while to find them. I really appreciate the songs! We have so many I hear without seeing. You guys do a GREAT job!

    The Wilsons

  • Ursula Tocher says:

    The PFW site does not offer the opportunity to add birds except on count days, or rarities. I may have 50-100 band-tailed pigeons fly by. Or cedar waxwings on non-count days.Turkey vultures patrol

    my canyon view. It would fill out the picture!

  • Shari Briggs says:

    Please Help! There is a beautiful family of friendly swan geese at a local park in Silver Spring, Montgomery County, Maryland. The park conditions are not suitable for them. If anyone is willing to rescue the swan geese and relocate them to a more appropriate location, please contact me. Thanks!

  • stephanie says:

    Regarding your bird id quiz, i think you should change the prize occasionally. It would be more of an incentive for people to play if they knew they would get something different than a yellow bellied sapsucker each time. My daughter and i both played and both won the same prize.

  • Gina Corvari says:

    Hi – love your site for its helpful information. On the newly-designed site, I’d like to see a search blank so one could quickly look up info on any bird.

    Thanks,

    Gina

  • Baruch Sienna says:

    I found your website after doing a search to identify the bright yellow bird we spotted in our front yard. We can give a definite identification: a male American Goldfinch, and it was pretty exciting to get such a good view close up. We are not birders, but love seeing birds (and other elements in nature) and would appreciate a dichotomous key like we’ve seen for trees: If it has this click here; if it has that click here and eventually narrow it down to a few pictures for possible identification and further learning about it.

  • Donna C says:

    My husband and I were thrilled when a Carolina Wren set up a nest on the window sill of our bedroom. It was right next to the air conditioner, so we couldn’t see it from inside, and until it hatched and appeared, we couldn’t see the baby either. Finally the chick was visible from outside…I got my zoom lens and went to work. When I put the pictures on my computer, imagine my dispair when the baby didn’t look anything like a wren! I came to the All about Birds to check, and sure enough, it’s a baby brown-headed cowbird. I guess this is nature at work, but I have to say, I was hoping for a baby wren.

  • Debbie Smith says:

    Hey! I just found this blog this morning and absolutely love it. The website is fabulous and I enjoy the various options (i.e. identifying birds, listening to their calls, etc). You asked for suggestions. Maybe it is because I am really new on this site but it would be great to be able to send a picture now and again of a bird and request its identity when I can’t figure it out myself. Is there a place for that?

  • Paul Dragon says:

    If you want to add a nice forum for free try.

    http://maxwebportal.com/

    I use it for my system and it works/manages very nicely.

  • Fred Zilch says:

    I like your new arrival and departure pages very much.

    I was wondering if there is already or if you could create a link to help us identify birds by their calls. I know of and use the call section for each species located on their individual pages. The problem is a “tin ear”. By the time I listen to all of the other calls on my portable player or get home to the computer I’ve forgotten what I’ve heard. I’m currently looking for a hand held recorder to bring the calls home. Until then I’m jotting the calls down by making long or short lines on a note pad. These notes “resemble” the sound chart on the species page. Could a link be made with charts all together in a useable order? That way the time needed to search for each call could be reduced and I could ID more species during the summer when the visibility is restricted.

  • Kathy B says:

    Hi… love the designs but would like to see if there could be a tweak… here’s why — the black text over the tree-line that streaks down the site between the images is hard to read… and the link text is apparently the same color — which makes it a bit less usable. How about moving the image over about 2 inches (simply starting the TEXT just to the right of the tree bole image — and putting the links over on the left (strategically where people like to navigate from anyway). You could make the images link to the same place — and a bit of alt text would make a nice rollover reminder. Another option is to use a lighter image through the centers (at least after the first and before the bottom screens — an engraved, textured line, for example in very pale beige would carry the theme without distracting from the info.

    Love the content… just a bit hard to read because of the brown line (which I didn’t figure out was the tree bole for a while — cute idea, but maybe can be executed a bit differently?) Thanks… Kath

  • Jim says:

    I’m ALSO the main blogger!

  • Hugh says:

    @Kathy B: The scene you’re describing definitely sounds messy – so messy that it sounds like something is displaying incorrectly on your browser. As it turns out, your suggestions for improvement are a pretty good description of the way the site looks on most computers. Is it possible you’re using an old or unusual version of a Web browser? I’ve looked at the site in Firefox 2 and 3, Internet Explorer 6 and 7, and Safari and it seems fine. I’m sorry you’re having trouble – here’s hoping that switching browsers will fix it. Thanks for reading.

  • susan breen says:

    I have an orphaned juvenile scrub jay in my backyard living in the bushes and patio around my feeder. He cannot fly yet, although he can flutter his way up a few feet and he hops all over. He is eating, but I have not seen him take water…I put out a shallow dish of it on the patio. Does anyone have any idea whether he can learn how to fly on his own or suggestions on caring for him in the meantime. He seems pretty young…still has all his fluffy baby feathers although he is almost full size.

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