May 2007
Using Internet Avian Resources By Cathy Owano

Our fine-feathered bird friends add so much to nature and to life: Their beautiful plumage, the melodies they sing, the bugs, pests and rodents they dispose of! Birds are one of the great links in the food chain and in the balance of nature. There is much to know and learn about these winged creatures: How do you bone up on different avian aspects so you can help your customers when they have bird-related questions?

Check out these Web resources to help your customers begin their forays into the many splendored vistas of watching, feeding, attracting, conserving and identifying birds. Your staff can visit the sites and share what they learn with customers, or you can even provide the links for consumers so they can visit the sites themselves.

Avian Flu

One of the hottest topics where birds are concerned is avian flu. With more than 100 strains of avian flu in existence, there are two main Internet resources to get great information fast. One is the Audubon Society’s site (, and the other is the Centers for Disease Control ( flu/avian/gen-info/facts.htm). Both sites give a brief history of the disease, its status in regards to human infection in North America, as well as news about current threats. They also offer links to other resources.

Identify Different Types

Identifying birds is a great American pastime. Where can you go to help identify birds if there isn’t time to page through a book at a library or bookstore? One site if you have the bird in front of you and you know its shape, size, bill length, wing shape or color is the Whatbird site (http://identify.

Other resources are available:

  • eNature ( intermediate.asp?curGroupID=1)
  • North American Birds Photo Gallery (
  • The Academy of Natural Science’s video resource (

If you do have time to flip through a book or two, Roger Tory Peterson’s field guides ( are the Cadillac of books for learning to identify birds.

Learn To Conserve

Pollution, disappearing habitats, predators, pesticides and more are contributing to the disappearance of some of the world’s most amazing birds. Conservation tips, alerts and general information can be found on the following Web sites:

  • The American Bird Conservancy (
  • The Birds of Prey Foundation (
  • The Environmental Protection Agency Bird Conservation (
  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (
  • All About Birds ( Birds/conservation)

Bird Feeding Habits

Finding out what certain types of birds like to eat can help attract the desired birds for watching and pest control. Visit these good Web resources:

  • ( feedingwinter.html)
  • The U.S. Fish & Wildlife’s Consumer Information for the Birds site ( forbird.htm)
  • (
  • Backyard Birds ( v2.htm)
  • Cornell University ( BirdsandFeeding/BirdFoods.htm), which shows a great table of which birds eat which types of food

Watching The Skies

If your customers merely want to watch birds in their backyards, some tips on attracting birds can be found on Backyard Bird Watching (

If someone is interested in becoming a “birder,” or someone who explores natural areas in hopes of catching a glimpse of birds in their natural habitat, check out:

  • (
  • The American Birding Association (
  • Birding on the Net (

Information on which types of flowers attract which types of birds can be found on these sites:

  • The Garden Helper site ( plants.html)
  • ( for_birds.html)
  • AvianWeb ( birds.html)
  • (

Birding Accessories

What do you need to know about birdhouses and bird feeders? Check out these sites:

  • ( house.htm)
  • The Open Directory ( Birding/Backyard_Birding/) for a whole page of resources.

For those who have pesky squirrels raiding their birdfeeders, these Web sites have ideas on discouraging the amazingly nimble and persistent nut gatherers:

  • Find friendly suggestions at article.cfm/squirrels_and_birdfeeders)
  • The search for feeders that keep squirrels out is at www.real
  • What to consider when buying a bird feeder can be found at www.wise

Sing A Song

When walking through the woods, it would be nice to identify which bird is singing or calling and responding. Here are some Web sites to help you learn to identify if that whippoorwill is really singing “Whip Poor Will” or if a chickadee really sings “Chickadee-dee-dee.”

  • The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center ( songlist.html)
  • The Guide to North American Bird Songs and Sounds (http://sirismm.
  • Learning Bird Calls and Songs ( learnsongs/Learning_Bird_Calls_ and_Songs.htm)
  • Bird Songs and Calls (
  • Identifying Bird Songs (
  • ( Calls.html)
  • The Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( Library/search/freesounds.html)

Lifetime Benefits

You can literally spend a lifetime learning about birds — their types, their songs, which family they belong to, how they raise their young, what they feed on, if they are preyed on and by what, or if they are the predator, the list goes on and on. The wonderful thing about finding information on the Internet is that one link very often leads to another and soon you’re sorting through more information than you thought could possibly exist about any one topic. The resources listed here are not exhaustive by any means, but they will provide you with information that gets you off to a solid start.

Cathy Owano

Cathy Owano is a freelance writer based in the Chicago, Ill., area. She can be reached at [email protected]


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