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www.ebirdr.com

Written By onci on Monday, June 14, 2010 | 3:55 AM


What is eBirdr?

eBirdr is a new Web 2.0 bird guide that combines the search ability of Google and the photographic focus of Flickr.com. It is designed to aid birders of all experience levels. Not only does eBirdr provide an easy reference for all the birds of Canada and the US, it also provides an area for bird photographers to showcase their skills. Birders may submit their bird sightings and/or photographs to eBirdr, thus providing a unique community for birders to share their experience and to learn and grow from the experience of others.

eBirdr is for the birder in all of us, for birders young and old, novice and professional, for birders and photographers alike, for the weekend birder to the back yard feeder watcher, to any level from novices to professional.

The retro name, eBirdr, reflects the original moniker. Both Larry Bond and his programmer son, Kevin Bond, maintain the birding experience to be found here.

Where did eBirdr come from?

eBirdr evolved from the oldest electronic bird guide for North American birds, The Electronic Birder. Larry Bond, a wildlife biologist, began developing The Electronic Birder as a text-based expert system. By simply answering questions about field marks it helped to identify a bird. This helped birders improve their skills in the identification process by focusing on what to look for. It was designed as an alternative to Roger Tory Peterson’s patented method of arrows pointing to field marks. What better way to identify a bird, the author thought, than (like a game of 20 questions) to answer questions helping you to narrow possibilities down to probabilities, similar to how a birding expert would do it. However, it was only available on floppy discs for IBM compatible computers. When computer graphics emerged, The Electronic Birder developed into Birdstar and was available on CDs. Birds themselves are so multimedia that it was a natural progression to incorporate pictures and sounds to assist in the identification process.

A more detailed description of the guide's transformation including packaging layouts may be viewed at:

http://ebirdr.com/about
eBirdr now represents an evolutionary advance to the Web 2.0 format.

Why a web application?

With ever changing computer operating systems, a software developer must constantly struggle to keep a program up-to-date and compatible with multiple systems. Small developers with limited resources usually choose to support a single operating system which is why The Electronic Birder and Birdstar were developed only for PC compatible computers. Larry Bond was flooded with requests for updates for new systems and for an Apple compatible version of his program. He decided on a web-based application that would be available to anyone, anywhere - at work or in the field. Anyone on the internet, whether they use Windows, Mac, Linux, Blackberry, Android or iPhone, can now use this birding reference and join the eBirdr community.

How do I search for a bird?

eBirdr has an intuitive search engine based on the birds common name, alternate names or general categories such as sparrows or warblers, sea gulls etc. From any page a user can simply type in a name such as Blue-winged Warbler. Input a general term such as "warbler" and the search will lead to a list of all birds in that category. From there the user can select a specific warbler or enjoy exploring all warblers. Any link from that page directs the user to a Profile Page for the chosen bird. The Profile Page shows a profile picture of the bird, a short description, the sound the bird makes, a distribution map of the bird’s territory, links to related birds, scientific classification of the bird, and a photographic gallery where supporters may provide additional images. This makes eBirdr an excellent website for novice birders and even those simply curious about birds. It is also an exciting way for children to learn about birds.

The Profile Page for the Blue-winged Warbler, for example, may be seen here:
http://ebirdr.com/bird/Blue-winged_Warbler

From the species Profile Page, where the scientific classification is provided, one can easily skip to related birds. In this case the Profile Page for the Golden-winged Warbler can be easily accessed by touching this name in the list of related birds. Or by touching the Family Warblers (Parulidae) you are directed upward to a list of all Genera for this family. Similarly, you can advance upward through this relationship structure to the Order level or Songbirds (Passeriformes). Above this level to the Class Aves (Feathered Animals) all the underlying Order of birds may be selected from.

Experienced birders can choose the "Bird Tree" option from the home page and begin directly with the scientific classification of birds. Using such a system quickly reinforces a relational perspective and understanding of the classification system.

How is eBirdr different from other birding software?

Most guides do an excellent job in referencing birds. In fact, so much so, that many birders have multiple guides from which to glean knowledge. eBirdr is another source for this learning experience.

eBirdr was developed by a passionate birder/photographer. Some of Larry Bond's photographic material, much of which appears in eBirdr, may be viewed in The Joy of Birding at:

http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/1147669#author-bookshelf


The eBirdr site therefore doubles as a photographic gallery. Not only for the author's photos but also for anyone wishing to support this community and improve eBirdr's reference library of birds. Photos are selected for their ability to depict unique attributes of a bird such as in flight, feeding, posing etc. The goal has been for the Profile Pages, for example, to depict this bird's identification photograph, exhibiting not only key field marks but also in a high quality "portrait" fashion. If users of the site wish, they may contribute their photographs for inclusion in the reference section of the guide. Ray Barlow, for example, has contributed over 30 pictures to the guide. His latest contribution is:

http://ebirdr.com/bird/Scarlet_Tanager

There is nothing wrong with an illustrated guide but eBirdr aims to provide the best photographs of each bird species in an easy to find and display format.

Bird shots are some of the hardest images to get in photography. It is hoped that this site will provide a forum for birders, many who are becoming excellent photographers, to showcase their talent and in so doing allow countless beginners and veteran birders to enhance their joy of birding.

What about the authors?

That's easy. It's in the genes. eBirdr was developed and is maintained by a father and son team, Larry and his son Kevin Bond, both middle named James. Ian Flemming chose the name "James Bond" for the character in his book series after looking in a Jamaican bookstore at The Birds of the West Indies by James Bond, a famed ornithologist. So perhaps bird guides are in the Bond's genes.

What's planned next?

At present eBirdr serves as a point of reference for all birds found in North America, north of Mexico. This will remain the focus. The older guide, Birdstar, included features such as birding games, slideshows, a question and answer expert system for identification. The intention for eBirdr is to eventually include all these features and more. Automatic submissions for sighting and photographic contributions are also planned. And a mobile phone version will be available within a few months.

At this point, eBirdr is a fledgling site. It doesn't have all the features of other software systems. However, site development and feature addition is ongoing and derived from a long history of electronic bird guide development. It is hoped by the developers that eBirdr will become a go-to site for birders across North America wishing to share their joy of birding.

Larry Bond
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