Sunday, February 17, 2008

Bird family resources

If you are interested in family-level bird taxonomy, or even just want to view pictures and video of cool birds, here are two excellent resources:

Don Roberson's Bird Families of the World pages
Don does an amazing job summarizing the latest in family-level bird taxonomy. He has individual pages with information on almost all families, and includes a lots of information about changing taxonomic status (see the break-up of the Old World Warblers). Don is liberal with his family splitting, but this just serves to highlight diversity. This is the reference I use when I have any questions on bird families.

Handbook of the Birds of the World: Internet Bird Collection (IBC)
The Handbook of the Birds of the World is a series (still in progress) to illustrate and describe every species in the world. This amazing reference is, unfortunately, rather prohibitively expensive. If you want a taste, though, go to the Handbook site and view a healthy sampling of plates from each of the volumes. For example, check out Owl and Hummingbird plates here.
The really cool part of the Handbook online is the IBC. This is an extensive online collection of bird videos, some of which are really amazing. Here are some highlights:

Black Heron (Egretta ardesiaca: Ardeidae): displaying its unique feeding behavior. It folds its wings over its head to provide shade for poor, unsuspecting little fishies.

Hamerkop (Scopus umbretta: Scopidae): this unique African species, a monotypic family, destroys a Xenopus frog.

Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias: Eurypygidae): another monotypic family, this one from the Neotropics. Check out that display. And check out my close-up of a spread-wing of the species here.

Marvellous Spatuletail (Loddigesia mirabilis: Trochilidae): a male displaying its unique tail morphology. See my previous post on this species here.

Shoebill (Balaeniceps rex: Balaenicipitidae): monotypic families are cool. I'm pretty sure this one could kill you.

Kagu (Rhynochetos jubatus: Rhynochetidae): Run Away!

Note to students: If you use the resources to study, make careful note that the taxonomy of these sites doesn't always follow what we are teaching. Always refer to your Birds of the World handouts.

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