Birds of the World Interactive CD-ROM
One of the fascinating aspects of birdwatching is the variety of the reasons that drive people to indulge in the pastime. From the strictly scientific study of ornithology, to the casual pleasures of admiring the beauty and grace of a familiar yet strange lifeform, birdwatching appeals to people in many different ways. Twitchers, and other hard-core birders, though perhaps a breed apart, are probably also driven by a variety of motivations: a desire to improve their identification skills and fieldcraft, competition with friends and colleagues, and so on, but what all these people seem to share is the instinct to create lists. The production of lists leads inevitably to detailed queries regarding taxonomy - what should be included on a list and what left out?
I can`t help but imagine that Lars Larsson has set out to create a list, but that he has gradually succumbed to the desire to develop more than a simple column of names. However it developed, now that it`s published, I can say that this is an astonishing piece of work. Lars Larsson has undertaken a monumental task, and has produced a database, which is unrivalled in my experience.
This database is by no means a field guide, though it contains much information that you would expect from a guide; but it is much more than a simple list of the world`s birds. Its` value will vary according to personal interest, but it is perhaps strongest in it`s attempt to sort and list not only the 9,970 species of the world`s avifauna, but also the subspecies of each entry. The inclusion of 16,500 subspecies is a massive undertaking, and whilst Larsson`s conclusions probably won`t suit everyone, it`s still a remarkable achievement.
The database is built around the list of the world`s species, presented in scientific and English names, with the facility for the user to choose further languages as required. Eighteen (European) languages are available! The user also has the facility to sort into seven basic orders of presentation. The list shows at a glance whether photographs or distribution maps are available, and how many subspecies exist for that entry.
Navigation through the database is slightly different from a normal Windows based system (the database has been prepared in Filemaker Pro). Nevertheless, a full operating manual is provided, and although there are some interesting hiccups in the translation (it`s apparently possible to obtain a bleeding list for all zoogeographical zones for instance! Page 49), following the instructions is fairly straightforward.
Each species entry is based on a form view, offering a series of clickable fields, which take the user directly to their point of interest. Larsson`s emphasis is on taxonomy and nomenclature, and he has extended this interest to include author and year of description of subspecies as well as full species.
Distribution maps, and photographs, are included for many species. Other fields offer information on altitudenal distribution, breeding distribution, conservation status, and endemic and restricted range status - a huge amount of information, concisely presented in a format that is easy to access. In addition, there are supplementary files of zoological areas, short author biographies, literary references, a gazetteer, facilities to sort by date of description, excellent search tools, and I`m sure, much more that I haven`t yet discovered. I understand that there are plans to add song, which would give the project yet another dimension.
The database isn`t perfect. I
can`t find a size adjustment that will allow a single record to be displayed in its entirety on my screen - at 100 it spills over the
edge, and at 75 it`s too small to read. It also isn`t complete; not all species have information in every field. These however are
observations rather than criticisms. Birds of the World is an extremely ambitious project which has come to fruition in an
exceptional database of information for birders. I offer Lars Larsson and his team of co-workers my admiration and
Created: 22nd Jul 2003
back to the top of this page
|Site developed by
|This site was last updated on Wednesday, 30th March 2005.|
|Fatbirder is best viewed with a screen resolution of 800x600 or greater using Netscape v4+ or Internet Explorer v4+
Feedback/Contact/Advertising Info ::