Compass is an archive of Library news from 2005 - 2008. For the latest Library news check the Library Blogs.
Compass Newsletter Masthead
   Volume IV, Issue 5
May 2008   

Birds of North America

Cornell University, through a grant from the National Science Foundation, recently compiled an invaluable online resource for anyone studying North American breeding birds.

According to Robert Curry, Ph.D., professor of biology, Birds of North America Online “is not just a database. It’s a series of monographs that present a detailed summary of everything known about the biology of every bird species that breeds in North America.”

The original print version, Birds of North America, took ten years to complete and was finished in 2002 as a joint project of the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology, the American Ornithologists’ Union and the Academy of Natural Sciences in Philadelphia.

Now developed into an online database, BNA is a dynamic resource that can be accessed by researchers and the general public alike. Each species listed has a community of scholars – researchers, citizen scientists, reviewers and editors -- who regularly submit and review data for all to use. Dr. Curry has co-authored species accounts on the Western scrub-jay, the island scrub-jay and the Carolina chickadee.

Species are listed alphabetically by both common and scientific names, and also taxonomically by category. Comprehensive individual species information includes articles, photos, maps, data tables, video clips and sound recordings of songs and calls.

One can hear audio clips of the familiar red-headed woodpeckers’ chatter calls and drumming noises, but also their “tchur” calls and alarm and territorial calls. The video clip shows a male woodpecker “hitching up a snag” on a tree trunk, a common behavior.

Information on evolutionary relationships, habitats, behaviors, breeding biology and conservation is included as well.

Because BNA covers breeding birds in North America, a region defined as the 50 United States and Canada, species that pass only as vagrants or migrants through this geographical region will not appear in the database.

All species accounts will be updated regularly, with preference given to those published early in the series. Examples of recently revised species accounts include the Northern saw-whet owl, the rock ptarmigan and the glaucous-winged gull, all updated within the last two months.

BNA includes 716 bird species at present. A handful, however, including the passenger pigeon and several Hawaiian species, are extinct, but because these birds formerly bred in North America, their life histories are given.

The latest version of web browsers should be used to access the data, with cookies and JavaScript enabled for full functionality. BNA will run via any internet connection but requires broadband connectivity to access audio and video material.

The Villanova University community can enjoy utilizing this exciting, comprehensive online resource for breeding birds in North America, especially now in spring, when birds are, in fact, breeding. BNA is available through the library home page under Databases by Title.

Contributed by Donna Chadderton; Snow goose image by FCIT at USF