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Help develop a Bird ID tool!



Wizard in Training Needs Your Help

Sarah Seroussi

We’re building a new kind of bird identification tool, and we need your help. By playing simple online games at our website, your answers can help a computer learn what birds look like.

Our Merlin™ project, funded by the National Science Foundation, will combine artificial intelligence programming with input from real-life birders and bird occurrence data from eBird. We’re building this computer-assisted ID wizard to help people with the perennial number one question about birds: What’s the name of the bird I saw? We want to give people a better way to get to the answer.

When it’s finished, we’ll make this free online wizard available on our All About Birds website. People will be able to quickly narrow down an identification by answering questions about what they saw. You can help train Merlin. Give it a try!

Enter Our New “Close Encounters” Challenge

If you’ve witnessed or experienced a memorable “close encounter” with birds, the Cornell Lab’s Celebrate Urban Birds project wants to know about it. We’re holding a contest in which participants show how birds interact with each other, with humans, or with other creatures. Your entry could be a story, a photo, artwork, video, poetry, sculpture, or any other creative art.

“You might see a House Sparrow trying to grab a sandwich at the park,” said project leader Karen Purcell. “Maybe a crow is teasing your dog or hummingbirds are dueling over who gets dibs on the nectar feeder. That’s the sort of close encounter we’d like to see.” Prizes include binoculars, bird feeders, sound CDs, books, and more. Selected entries will appear in the 2012 Celebrate Urban Birds calendar. Entries closed on November 15, but you can see them all here.

New Optics Help Students Study Cloud Forest

Rob Cahill

New Nikon binoculars in hand, students in Guatemala are now keeping an eye on Ocellated Quail, wintering Golden-cheeked Warblers, and other rare species that live in the cloud forests and pine-oak ridges near their rural schools. Two gifts to the Cornell Lab’s Neotropical Conservation Initiative provided five pairs of binoculars that will rotate through middle schools, allowing students to monitor the birds of this Important Bird Area. The project, in partnership with Community Cloud Forest Conservation (CCFC), also introduces students to scientific techniques via BirdSleuth (translated into Mayan and Spanish), eBird, and a new program called Connecting Kids through Birds. Says Rob Cahill of CCFC, “Our hope is that by opening eyes to the natural world through bird awareness we will be able to grow community support to save the cloud forest.”

Looking Back in Time at the Imperial Woodpecker

Big as a raven, the Imperial Woodpecker of Mexico disappeared in the mid-1950s, a victim of habitat loss and hunting. A 16mm movie made in 1956, recently uncovered by Cornell Lab researcher Martjan Lammertink, is the world’s only footage of the bird in life.The 85-second movie shows a female Imperial Woodpecker feeding in tall pines and taking flight, and was used to describe the lost species’ behavior and habitat in a recent journal article. Watch the film and read about the research.