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rec.birds Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (Part 2/2)

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Archive-name: birds-faq/wild-birds/part2
Last-modified: August 24, 2001
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See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge
rec.birds Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) (Part 2/2)

This is part 2 (of 2) of the Frequently Asked Questions list for the 
newsgroup rec.birds.  The FAQ is posted every five weeks.  Its current 
is Lanny Chambers; send suggestions for new questions and other comments 
to him.
Remember the FAQ is intended as a living document about rec.birds, 
updating is welcome!

This section of the FAQ contains information about rec.birds and about
wild birds.  The other section of the FAQ contains pointers to more
information about wild birds.

Do not send articles to the FAQ editor for posting.  rec.birds is an
unmoderated newsgroup, so you may post articles yourself.  If you are a
newcomer to Usenet, please read the official articles about etiquette
in the newsgroup news.announce.newusers before you post.

This section of the FAQ contains pointers to more information about wild
birds. The other section of the FAQ contains information about rec.birds
and about wild birds.


2.0.  How can I get this and other FAQs by anonymous FTP? On the Web?
2.1.  Which field guide should I buy as a first purchase?
2.2.  I'm going on a trip. How can I find out where are good places to go
2.3.  How can I get on-line bird checklists?
2.4.  What are good wild-bird magazines?
2.5.  What are good wild-bird-related organizations?
2.6.  What is BIRDCHAT?  EuroBirdNet?
2.7.  Are there good computer programs for maintaining bird lists?
2.8a. Where can I get digitized pictures of birds?
2.8b. What are some birding resources on the Internet and the Web?
2.9.  Where can I find recordings of birdsongs?
2.10. Are there field guides for nests, eggs, and nestlings?
2.11. Are there newsgroups or mailing lists for my part of the world?
2.12. Bird House Information
2.13. Acknowledgements


2.0.  How can I get this and other FAQs by anonymous FTP? On the Web?

Many Usenet FAQs, including those for rec.birds, are archived on Here is a URL that will get you there:


2.1.  Which field guide should I buy as a first purchase?

The most general advice one can give is this: Go to your bookstore
and buy any field guide in which the birds are illustrated with
paintings rather than photographs.  Paintings in field guides pose
the birds for maximum learning, and call attention to the distinguishing
features that are most important in the field.  Regrettably, the
National Audubon Society's field guide uses photos, and is thus
of limited learning value.  On the other hand, photo field guides
do show birds as they would appear under actual lighting conditions,
so they can be valuable in making identifications.  You may wish to
consider a photo-based field guide as a later purchase; it's common
for birders to own and use several field guides.

The ultimate advice for a first-purchase field guide is this: go to a
bookstore and select whichever book for your area you feel most 
with.  Enjoyable associations with the birding hobby have begun with all.

In North America, the four most popular painted general-purpose field
guides are the following:

National Geographic Society: _Field Guide to the Birds of North America_
    ISBN: 0-87044-692-4

Peterson, Roger Tory: _A Field Guide to the Birds_ (eastern and central)
 and _Western Birds_ (published by Houghton Mifflin)
    ISBN: 0-395-26619-X, 0-395-51424-X

Zim, Herbert S., et al: _Guide to Field Identification: Birds of North
 America_ (published by Golden Books, hence called the "Golden" book)
    ISBN: 0-307-37002-X and 0-307-33656-5 (pbk.)

Each choice has its advantages and disadvantages.  For example, the
Peterson books are easier to carry in the field than the NGS book, because
each covers only half the continent.  Beginners may find it helpful that
each Peterson volume shows only those birds likely to be found in its
covered region, so there are fewer confusing choices (of course, birds
do wander).

The NGS book and the Golden book both present each species' range map on
the same page as its description, a great convenience.  The Golden book is
the only one of the three to to present "sonograms," graphical 
of birds' songs and calls, but these graphs are difficult to use 

All of the books include a few paintings which some birders find

North American beginners who feel overwhelmed by the number of birds in
these all-purpose books should consider the _Peterson First Guide: Birds_.
It displays the most common North American birds in a convenient format.

An often recommended European field guide is Lars Jonsson's _Birds
of Europe, with North Africa and Middle East_, although it is a bit large
for easy portability.  In the U.K. and central Europe, Harris, Tucker, and
Vinicombe's _The Macmillan field guide to bird identification_ will be
useful.  (The book is available in French and German as well as English.)
David Allen writes that the Macmillan guide does not cover all species;
rather, it shows those species most easily confused with one another.

Peterson, R., Mountfort, G., and Hollom, P.A.D.: _A Field Guide to the
    Birds of Britain and Europe_ (Collins, 1993)
        ISBN: 0-00-219073-7
"The basic Peterson guide with painted plates and pointers; maps and
descriptions separate.  The new edition is certainly available in Spanish,
and I think in French and German as well." --David Allen

Heinzel, H., Fitter, R., and Parslow, J.: _The Birds of Britain and Europe
    with North Africa and the Middle East_ (1995)
        ISBN: 0-00-219894-0
Expanded from the 1979 version, with improved plates.  Fits into a pocket.
"Especially good on geographic forms." --Derek Turner

Perrins, C.: _New Generation Guide to the Birds of Britain and Europe_
    (Collins, 1987)
        ISBN: 0-00-219769-3
"More plumage variants than any other small guide, maps and text
opposite illustrations, and a whole section on general ornithology
topics, anatomy, behaviour, etc.  BUT four of the illustrations fit
onto a postage stamp.  My favourite guide for use in the field."--DA

Ferguson-Lees, J.; Willis, I.; Sharrock, J.T.R.: _The Shell Guide to
    the Birds of Britain and Ireland_ (Michael Joseph, 1983)
       ISBN: 0-7181-2220-8
"Vignette illustrations, painted, including plenty of action shots showing
typical poses. Maps, text, and illustrations all together. Split into
two sections: regulars and rarities."--DA

Jorgen Grahn recommends _The Hamlyn Guide to Birds of Britain and
Europe_ by Bruun, Delin, Svensson; illustrations by Singer, Zetterstrom.
Select a recent edition.

The most commonly used field guides for Australian birds are Simpson and 
_Field Guide to the Birds of Australia_ (Penguin Books, Aust.); and
Slater, Slater, and Slater, _The Slater Field Guide to Australian Birds_

King et al., _A Field Guide to the Birds of South-East Asia_ (Collins,
London) has also been recommended (although it now seems to be out of


2.2.  I'm going on a trip. How can I find out where are good places to go

There may be a "bird-finding guide" for the area you wish to visit.
Bird-finding guides are books that cover the birdlife of an area in
detail; they include discussions of promising sites, maps and directions,
and indications of birds' seasonal abundance.  The American Birding
Association offers by mail order an enormous selection of these books,
covering both North America and elsewhere, and their service is quite
prompt.  See section 2.4 for information on how to reach them.

Please post your request as well to rec.birds.  Locals (and recent
visitors to the same area) may be able to give you up-to-the-minute
information, and you might even find people to go birding with when
you're there.

Many traveling birders write trip reports for the benefit of others.
There are several sources of archived trip reports on the world-wide web:

Lisa Bryan's North and Central American trip report archive:

Urs Geiser's archive of mainly Old World trip reports:

Archive of trip reports posted to BIRDCHAT and BIRDTRIP:

Trip reports posted to the mailing list EuroBirdNet:

Worldtwitch (tm), a repository of recent sightings and searches for
rare birds around the world:

Finally, Tina McDonalds armchair traveler's birding web site, "Where do
you want to go Birding Today?", has many useful links, grouped by 
and worldwide coverage:


2.3.  How can I get on-line bird checklists?

An excellent collection of lists is available at Jack Siler's

A checklist of the birds of North America is available on floppy disk
from the American Birding Association (see section 2.4 below).

Santa Barbara Software Products will send bird lists for any region
by e-mail at no charge.  Their e-mail address is

2.4.  What are good wild-bird magazines?

That depends on your purpose.  Bird magazines have three main offerings:
interesting articles, compelling photography, and records of unusual
sightings.  Many publications have strengths in only one area.

Below is a list of many magazines, with their organizations.  Bernard 
supplied much of the European information.  Also, see the next section, as
its subject matter overlaps this one's.

North America:

         _Audubon Field Notes_ (five issues; important repository of 
                           records; in financial difficulty; US$30/yr)
         P.O. Box 490
         Yorktown Heights, NY 10598
         700 Broadway

          (editorial address is 700 Broadway, New York, New York 10003, 
                +1 212 979-3000)

         _Birders Journal_ (bimonthly; general-interest; C$34/yr)
         Circulation Department
         8 Midtown Dr., Suite 289
         Oshawa, Ontario L1J 8L2

         _QuebecOiseaux_ (4 issues/yr; C$16)
         Box 514
         Drummondville, Quebec J2B 6W4

         _Birder's World_   (bimonthly; general-interest;
                             outstanding photos; US$19.75/yr)
         Subscription Dept.
         434 W Downer Pl
         Aurora, Illinois 60506-9919

         _Birding_ (bi-monthly; with _Winging It_, a monthly newsletter;
                    US$36 with membership)
         American Birding Association, Inc.
         P. O. Box 6599
         Colorado Springs, Colorado 80934
         Toll-free phone (North America) (800) 850-2473
         ABA Sales: in North America (800) 634-7736
                    Otherwise +1 719 578 0607

         _Birds of the Wild_ (quarterly; C$16.00/yr)
         P.O. Box 73
         Markham, Ontario L3P 3J5

         _Bird Watcher's Digest_ (bimonthly; aimed at novices and backyard
                                  feeders; US$17.95/yr)
         Pardson Corporation
         P. O. Box 110
         Marietta, Ohio  45750-9977
         In North America (800) 879-2473

         _Living Bird_ (quarterly; US$30 with membership)
         Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology
         159 Sapsucker Woods Road
         Ithaca, New York  14850

         _Partners in Flight/Aves de las Americas_ (free quarterly)
         National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
         Suite 900, Bender Bldg.
         1120 Connecticut Ave., NW
         Washington, DC 20036

         _WildBird_     (monthly; general-interest; US$23.97/yr)
         Subscription Dept.
         P.O. Box 52898
         Boulder, Colorado 80323-2898

In the United Kingdom:

         _British Birds_ (monthly; Europe, the Middle East, and North
                         Africa.  US$73 or 38.60 pounds sterling.  Sample
                         issue requests should be directed to Erika
                         Sharrock at this address, mentioning this FAQ)
         Park Lane
         MK44 3NJ

         _Birds_ (quarterly; 20 pounds sterling/yr)
         Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
         The Lodge
         SG19 2DL


         _Nos Oiseaux_   (quarterly; bird behavior and distribution, 
local bird
                          sightings, in French with German and English
         Musee d'Histoire Naturelle
         2300 La Chaux-de-Fonds
         Phone and Fax: +41 039 23 39 76


         _Alauda_  (quarterly; bird studies in France and Africa, in 
         Museum d'histoire naturelle
         Laboratoire d'Ecologie generale
         4, avenue du Petit-Chateau
         91800 Brunoy

         _Ornithos_ (quarterly, field ornithology, national rare birds
                 report, in French with English summaries, FFr. 270/yr)

         Ligue pour la Protection des Oiseaux
         BP 263
         17305 Rochefort Cedex

         _L'Oiseau magazine_ (quarterly, more general public oriented, 
                              protection, in french, FFr.140/yr)
         Same address as Ornithos


         _Limicola_ (six issues, field ornithology, in German with English
                     summary, DM 69/yr)
         Uber dem Salzgraben 11
         OT Druber
         D-37574 Einbeck
         Phone +49 (05561) 82224, Fax 82289

         _Ornithologischer Jahresbericht Helgoland_
                     (annual, report of bird sightings on the famous
                      island, in German with English summary, DM 15)
         Ornithologische Arbeitsgemeinschaft Helgoland e.V.
         Postfach 869
         27490 Helgoland


         _Ardeola_ (biannual, papers in Spanish and English with summaries
                    in both languages)
         Facultad de Biologica
         28040 Madrid
         Fax +34 1 549 5740

The Netherlands:

         Dutch Birding (in Dutch and English)
         Postbus 75611
         1070 AP


2.5.  What are good wild-bird-related organizations?

Start locally.  Your local bird club, or, in North America, chapter
of the Audubon Society, organizes birding trips that will help you
hone your skills.  Many states and regions have independent ornithological

The National Audubon Society, once a bird-oriented conservation
group, is now trying to be a broad-spectrum environmental organization;
whether it is succeeding is a matter of debate.

        National Audubon Society
        700 Broadway
        New York, New York 10003

What was formerly the Canadian Audubon Society is now:

         Canadian Nature Federation
         1 Nicholas, Suite 520
         Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 7B7

In North America, the organization dedicated to birding as a sport
is the American Birding Association.

        American Birding Association
        P.O. Box 6599
        Colorado Springs, Colorado 80934
        Toll-free phone in North America (800) 634-7736
        Otherwise +1 719 578 0607

Professional ornithological associations, by and large, are much more
welcoming of amateur members than those of other sciences.  They publish
scholarly journals, which may be had very reasonably with membership.

        The American Ornithologists' Union, US$35/yr
        (publishes _The Auk_ quarterly)
        810 East Tenth Street
        Lawrence, Kansas 66049-8897

        Western Field Ornithologists
        (Covers Western North America US$18/yr (outside U.S. US$23))
        c/o Dori Myers, Treasurer
        6011 Saddletree Lane
        Yorba Linda, CA 92696

        The British Ornithologists Union, 18 pounds sterling/yr
        (publishes _The Ibis_ quarterly)
        c/o British Museum
        Sub-Department of Ornithology
        Herts HP23 6AP

        Ontario Field Ornithologists
        Box 1204, Station B
        Burlington, Ontario L7P 3S9

        (the Dutch Society for the Protection of Birds; publishes 
        (member of BirdLife International)
        Driebergseweg 16c
        3708 JB Zeist
        +31 03404 37744
        fax +31 03404 18844
        birdinfophone +31 03404 37773

        Norsk Ornitologisk Forening
        (publishes _Vaar Fuglefauna_ quarterly)
        Seminarplassen 5
        7060 Klaebu

        Bird Observers Club of Australia
        (publishes The Bird Observer, monthly except January; A$40/yr,
         overseas A$60 includes airmail)
        183 Springvale Rd
        Nunawading, Victoria 3131
        fax +61 3 894 4048

        Birds Australia (RAOU), A$64/yr
        (publishes _The Emu_)
        415 Riversdale Road
        Hawthorn East
        Victoria 3123
        fax +61-3-9882-2677


        Papua New Guinea Bird Society
        P.O. Box 1598
        Boroko, NCD

        Southern African Ornithological Society, around R65/yr
        (publishes _Birding in Southern Africa_; scientific members
         [around R20 more] also receive _Ostrich_)
        P.O. Box 84394
        Johannesburg 2034
        +27 11 8884147
        fax +27 11 7827013

Here is a sampling of international conservation organizations:

        The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
        The Lodge
        +44 01767 680551

        BirdLife International (formerly International Council for
                                Bird Preservation; quarterly journal, 
        Wellbrook Court
        Girton Road
        CB3 0NA
        +44 223 277318
          (U.S. affiliate : World Bird Club
                            P.O. Box 57242
                            Washington, DC 20037-7242
                            +1 202 778 9649)

        British Trust for Ornithology
        The Nunnery
        IP24 2PU

See the previous section for more such organizations.


2.6.  What is BIRDCHAT?

BIRDCHAT is one of a family of mailing lists dedicated to wild birds.
BIRDCHAT is for discussion of general wild-bird topics; the subjects
are much like those raised on rec.birds, but the tone is substantially
more serious.  It is not forbidden to post an article both to BIRDCHAT
and rec.birds if the content is not frivolous.

BIRDEAST, BIRDCNTR, and BIRDWEST, other mailing lists in the family,
contain reports of rare birds (transcribed by volunteers from hotlines)
from eastern, central, and western North America, respectively.

To subscribe to BIRDCHAT, send a message to LISTSERV@LISTSERV.ARIZONA.EDU
containing this command:


To unsubscribe, send this message:


BIRDCHAT subscriptions can generate many e-mail messages to you per day.
If you would like to receive only one daily message which will contain
all of that day's traffic, send this message after subscribing:


For more information, send this message:


See also EuroBirdNet below.


2.7.  Are there good computer programs for maintaining bird lists?

Commercial computer programs exist for this purpose; they are advertised
in the back pages of many birding magazines.

One prominent commercial program, AviSys, is reviewed in the August
1992 issue of _Birding_.  _Birding_ has reviewed several such programs
in the past few years, including Plover.  _Living Bird_ reviewed nine
PC-based programs in its Summer 1992 issue.

Many shareware and public-domain programs also exist, such as LifeLister.
Check public-domain archives to get copies of these programs.

Carena Pooth <> graciously provided the following list
of names, addresses, and phone numbers.  If you find any problems with
it, please notify her as well as the FAQ maintainer.  All prices are
U.S. dollars.

FOR MS-DOS or Microsoft Windows:
  AviSys ~ Perceptive Systems, P.O. Box 369,
    Placitas, NM 87043. (In N.A. (800) 354-7755)
    The latest version is AviSys 4.58 for
    Windows 3.x, 95, 98, Me, XP, NT, 2000.
    It is priced at $99.95 + $4 S&H.
    Information at
  BirdBase for Windows:
    Santa Barbara Software Products, 1400 Dover Rd., Santa Barbara,
    CA 93103 [BirdBase for Windows 3.X, 95, 98, ME, XP, NT, and 2000,
    including the world species list, is US$59.95 + US$4.00 shipping to
    the U.S. and Canada, or US$8.00 shipping to elsewhere; with the
     North American/Hawaiian species list it is $US$39.95 + US$3.00 S&H]
  Birder's Diary:
   Thayer Birding Software
   PO Box 110613, Naples, FL 34108 [Birder's Diary 2.5 is compatible with
   Windows 9x/Me/NT/2000, includes four different species lists (Sibley,
   ABA, AOU, Thayer) and the last edition of Charles Sibley's 
   reference - "Birds of the World".  US $140 + $5.95 shipping to U.S. and
   Canada, $20 shipping to elsewhere.]
  BirdRecorder 32, Wildlife Computing: 
    [US$125.00 for the Windows version (Including World Bird Data)]

  BirdBrain 4.0, Ideaform, Inc., P.O. Box 1540, Fairfield,
    Iowa 52556 (In N.A. (800) 779-7256, or +1 515 472 7256).
    [US$79.95 or US$99.95 with World Birds Data]
  MacPeregrine, Whole Life Systems, P.O. Box 162,
    Rehoboth, NM 87322

If you use a bird-listing program, please post a review to rec.birds.


2.8a.  Where can I get digitized pictures of birds?
2.8b.What are some birding resources on the Internet and the Web?

Here is a sampling.

Jack Siler's page:


2.9.  Where can I find recordings of birdsongs?

For North American birds, Houghton Mifflin's Peterson series includes
Walton and Lawson's _Backyard Bird Song_, a simple introduction to common
birds, as well as _Birding by Ear_, a more advanced course.  These are
available in CD and cassette format.  They also offer "aural field guides"
for North America on cassette and compact disc: there is an Eastern/
Central and a Western volume.

The National Geographic Society (In N.A. (800) 638-4077) offers an audio
field guide.  Lang Elliot offers a series of recordings called _Know Your
Bird Songs_ that are very useful for advanced and intermediate birders.

Bernard Volet suggests the following for European bird songs:

Roche, J.-C.: _All the Bird Songs of Britain and Europe_
    4 cassettes covering 420 species or 4 CDs covering 396 species,
    Comments in French and English.

"For research, teaching, identification problems, covering Western and
Eastern Paleartic, Afro-tropical, Oriental, Australasian, Nearctic,
Neotropical and Antarctic, inquire at:
British Library of Wildlife Sounds (BLOWS)
National Sound Archive
29 Exhibition Road
London SW7 2AS
Fax +44 071 412 7441"

The British Library maintains an archive of wildlife recordings.  See
their web page at .

2.10. Are there field guides for nests, eggs, and nestlings?

Yes, but they must be used with great caution.  Never interfere with
nesting birds, and spend as little time as possible in the nest's 
Needless to say, do not touch the nest's contents.

The main North American reference is:

Harrison, Colin: _A Field Guide to the Nests, Eggs, and Nestlings of
 North American Birds_ (published by Collins, 1978).
    ISBN: 0-00219-316-7

Be sure to read this book's introductory text; don't skip right to the
species entries.

If you have an interest in nests and eggs, the FAQ editor suggests that
you seek out and get involved with an organized bird survey.


2.11. Are there newsgroups or mailing lists for my part of the world?

EuroBirdNet is a private mailing list for relaying information about birds
in Europe (or actually the whole Western Palearctic region), consisting
of, for example, rarity reports and trip reports. Join by using the link and only if that
fails by writing to the list administrator at

There is now a newsgroup uk.rec.birdwatching for birding in
the United Kingdom.  A mailing list UKBIRDNET also exists; to subscribe,
send e-mail to with the word "subscribe"
in the body.  Subscribers to UKBIRDNET automatically get all EuroBirdNet


2.12. Bird House Information

This section is meant only to give several internet links to Web sites
which contain more detailed and complete information about specific topics
related to birdhouses that you may want to explore on your own topics like
birdhouse dimensions, placement, timing, etc.. I couldn't begin to rewrite
all of that information here.

For you builders and handypeople out there, several sites on the Web
provide dimensions and drawings for many of the birds who are cavity
dwellers.  As of March 12, 1998, the following sites contain this
information. At least one is principally devoted to Bluebirds, and the
struggles they've had against rival, non-native birds like the House
sparrow and Starling. Enjoy: (bluebird site, BB box drawings,
etc. - good one) (Nestboxes
and bird houses) (Homes for Birds) (Homes for Birds plus some
commentary) (How to
Build a Bird Feeder basic) (Building a Basic
Birdbox - good one) (Song bird nesting
box plans)

Further, web sites which contain information about birds/birding and
related issues abound and one need only to do some searching to find them
(also discussed in FAQ 2.8b).
Try the following sites:        (Overview of Wild Bird Feeding) (lots of stuff - good one)  (principally devoted to bird sounds) (has many links to other, specific
sites - good one)  (birding hot spots around
the world)

Bill Oldroyd, Gail Spitler and John J. Collins provided the links and
information above. Much thanks.


2.13. Acknowledgements

The acknowledgements list is maintained in part 1 of this FAQ.

*********end of part 2 (of 2) of the rec.birds FAQ*********

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