In the last column, I sang the praises of eBird, the website maintained by the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and National Audubon Society. This site serves as the depository for bird sightings from birders and ornithologists throughout North America and beyond.

Today, I want to point out one great resource that eBird programmers have made available to take advantage of the many records in the database. You can now see occurrence maps for a number of migratory birds in the United States.

The maps were created by relating the records of a particular species with 60 variables describing aspects of habitat, climate and human population size throughout the U.S. This model predicts the weekly occurrence of a species of interest as an animated map. Check out the website at

At this point the animations only cover the lower 48 states. If you click on Lapland Longspur, you will see they move out of the United States during April. That’s because they are migrating to their breeding grounds on the Canadian and Alaskan tundra. They reappear in the lower 48 states in September.

Similarly, neotropical migrants like the Scarlet Tanager appear on the animation in early April and are mostly gone by the first of October. During the non-breeding season, most Scarlet Tanagers are in Bolivia, Peru or Ecuador. I expect that in the future, the occurrence maps will include all of the western hemisphere.


Princeton University Press has recently released the “Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior and Conservation” by Mike Unwin. The book is an overview of many facets of the biology of birds. The book is 144 pages in a large format (8.5 by 11 inches). The text is richly illustrated with color photographs and color maps.

The book is divided into seven units. Introduction to Birds provides information on the fossil history of birds and the relationship of birds to the dinosaurs. Brief coverage of feathers, a hallmark of birds, is provided.

Next is a section on Where Birds Live, focused on the birds of major geographic areas like Africa or Australia. The author briefly covers Important Bird Areas, sites identified by BirdLife International that provide vital habitat and resources.

The third section, Birds in Orders, is an efficient catalog of the major groups of birds.

A section on How Birds Live covers reproduction, foraging, coloniality and migration.

The fifth section is called Birds and People. Here, the author describes the importance of birds in human diets, human culture, and in simply providing human pleasure.

Birds under Threat discusses extinction and some of the reasons for bird declines (loss of habitat, pollution, introduced species, climate change).

The final section, Protecting Birds, focuses on the efforts of BirdLife International, an umbrella group of non-government conservation organizations.

I found this book to be delightful. The text is limited, so the coverage of any particular topic cannot be thorough. Nevertheless, the author conveys a tremendous amount of interesting facts.

The book is laid out in facing page units so you can start reading anywhere. It’s like eating at a smorgasbord. No particular dish will be enough to fill you up, but by the end of sampling all the dishes, you have a satisfying meal.

Herb Wilson teaches ornithology and other biology courses at Colby College. He welcomes reader comments and questions at:

[email protected]