Dang it! I missed the 2010 International Day for Migratory Birds. I had plans to put up my birdhouse with tinsel and little lights too. HALLMARK YOU BETRAYED ME!
Oh well, I can wait until next year, and in the meantime use a recently-announced tool to identify the birds that hang around in the backyard. Dendroica is available at http://www.natureinstruct.org/dendroica. This site does not have the most extensive number of details on each bird, but it’s easy to search and incredibly easy to browse a large number of birds at a time.
When you first visit the site you can choose being a visitor from Canada, the US, or Mexico. once you’ve chosen you’ll get a list of species available (in the US there are 642) and a search box for narrowing them down. Click on a bird in the search box and you’ll see a picture and hear an example of the bird’s song. (Very occasionally there is not a picture available for a bird.) Underneath the picture is a description of the birds’ song and in almost all cases links to hear more versions of the bird’s song and see more pictures. If you can’t think of what bird you want to hear/see there’s also a link to get a random bird from the list.
There’s no data about habitat, or range, or anything like that, but this is an incredibly easy site to browse. If you’re interested in sparrows, search for the word sparrow and you’ll get a list of 33 species through which you can easily browse, comparing pictures and songs. Most other bird sites I’ve used would require a lot of page reloads to go through a list of birds like this. Very nice.
Registration is not required, but if you DO register you’ll have the ability to contribute pictures and songs of your own, as well as take quizzes based on the birds you’re looking at, or create customized lists.
If you need a lot of scientific and habitat data about a particular bird, this site is not for you. But if you want to quickly get a bird song or photograph, or easily browse through lists of birds looking for whatever’s been ransacking your apple tree, this site is terrific! Recommended.