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Birds of the World | Discover them all

May 6, 2020

Birds of the World is Cornell’s latest masterpiece of crowdsourced information on birds. John Fitzpatrick, Director of Cornell Lab of Ornithology, explains it best in this introductory video:

You have available to you now the world’s most comprehensive, detailed, authoritative, and accessible resource on the biology and plumages and behaviors of every species of bird in the world.  It’s basically bird diversity at your fingertips. Birds of the World is more than just a publication. It’s actually a means of bringing the entire global community of birders and scientists and media contributors together on behalf of birds. Birds of the World will continue to evolve as new information is published and as our expanding network of contributors adds new information and multimedia to keep the resource accurate, complete, and alive!

Birds of the World (BOW) includes more than 10,700 species accounts, detailed family overviews, intelligent range maps, color illustrations, audio, photos, and videos. You can subscribe now with a 10% introductory discount, offered until 6/30/20.  To help you decide, BOW is offering free previews of nine species. The annual subscription price is a bargain at about $1 per week.

You may wonder why you should pay for the BOW subscription when you can use Cornell’s free Bird Guide found in the site All About Birds. First, note that the Bird Guide (Guide) covers only 600+ North American species, as compared to BOW’s 10,000+ worldwide species.

Let’s walk through a comparison of the two products for the Heermann’s Gull, a species found on many of our local beaches, and one that is included in the BOW free preview. The Guide is in a student-friendly format and is much more condensed than BOW. For example, the Guide’s “Basic Description” is 81 words, compared to BOW’s “Introduction” at 633 words

Heermann's Gull profile

Heermann’s Gull Larus heermanni | © Blake Matheson | Monterey, California, United States | 21 Jan 2019 | Macaulay Library ML140585271 | eBird S51903759  | TheCornellLab

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In the Guide, each species is described in five sections: Habitat, Food, Nesting, Behavior, and Conservation. It also includes a section of Cool Facts. Did you know that Heermann’s Gulls frequently steal food from Brown Pelicans, with adults stealing from adult pelicans, and immature gulls stealing from immature pelicans. The word for this is “kleptoparasitism.”

BOW includes up to 19 sections for each species: Appearance, Systematics, Distribution, Habitat, Movements and Migration, Diet and Foraging, Sounds and Vocal Behavior, Behavior, Breeding, Demography and Populations, Conservation and Management, Priorities for Future Research, Acknowledgements, About the Authors, Multimedia, and Tables and Appendices, Revision History, and References.  In a deep dive into Tables and Appendices, you will find such gems as phonetic renditions of 15 types of calls in Table 2, some of which are shown here…

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In BOW under the Diet and Foraging tab, you will find this photo of a Heermann’s diving for food and an explanation of the behavior. To obtain food below water while swimming, it jumps up and then dives down into water in a jump plunge. When flying, it plunges into the water in pursuit of a fish in a surface plunge.

Diving Heerman's

Heermann’s Gull jump plunge | © Charlotte Byers | Snohomish, Washington, United States | 13 Oct 2018 | Macaulay Library ML 118712161 | eBird S49167876  | TheCornellLab

Under the Sounds and Vocal Behavior > Vocalizations tab in the left column, you will find a link to video of a Heermann’s Gull calling (Macaulay Library 465956). It’s worth clicking over to see the video. Wait for it…the action starts at about 0:20 in the video.

If you’re planning a trip to Madagascar, you can learn all about the Blue Vanga before you go.

Blue Vanga

Blue Vanga (Madagascar) Cyanolanius madagascarinus madagascarinus | © Nick Athanas | Andasibe-Mantadia NP, Taomasina, Madagascar | 8 Nov 2015 |  Macaulay Library ML213092401 | eBird S53167131 | TheCornellLab

Or, if you’re in Panama and you spot the infamously secretive Rufous-vented Ground-Cuckoo, you’ll have all of the information about it at your fingertips.


Rufous-vented Ground-cuckoo Neomorphus geoffroyi | © Ronald Messemaker | Valle de Anton, Coclé Panama |6 Nov 2011 | Macaulay Library ML193822081 | eBird S62424458 | TheCornellLab

Are you convinced that Birds of the World is the perfect gift to yourself? Subscribe here.

[Jane Beseda]

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