Chances are if you look up in Alpine, you’ll see a bird before too long. Here on campus, we regularly spot Great Horned Owls and Rock Pigeons, but those guys can be found just about everywhere in the States. More special to our region, we often hear the “harsh kr-a-a-a-a” calls of Chihuahuan Ravens (photos at right) just outside the Library doors. Our resident birder and Administrative Coordinator, Cindy recently saw (and heard) a bunch of Cactus Wrens and Scaled Quail on Hancock Hill on an evening hike. “I love wrens for their size and for how vocal they are,” she says.

Aside from soaking up as much wisdom from Cindy as I possibly can, I’ve found out more about the birds I see around me by doing a little research using one the Library’s subscription databases, Birds of North America [click for access]. Originally produced in hard copy (as early as 1992), the database is maintained by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology  in collaboration with Cornell’s Macaulay Library and eBird, a global tool for birders that turns citizens into citizen scientists. On it, users can browse ornithological taxonomy or search using keywords. One function that would make my personal browsing experience better would be to incorporate browsing by geography. Still, there are plenty of regional bird guides available for cross-referencing. Or you can make friends with a birder, like I did with Cindy.

The great thing about a specialized database such as Birds of North America is that they allow you to browse and search with confidence that the information you’re finding, the pictures you’re seeing and the sounds you’re hearing are the right ones. With a little poking around and a little bit of background knowledge (#Cindy), I was able to read about, see pictures, and listen to the calls of birds I see around town. This particular specialized database even offers recommended citations for each species page — a serious perk for librarians promoting the ethical use of information (read: all librarians).


Each Wednesday this semester, we’ll highlight a different Library resource — from databases to collections to services found in the Library. Follow along!


Source for content and screen grabs:

Dwyer, James F., James C. Bednarz and Ralph J. Raitt.(2013).Chihuahuan Raven (Corvus cryptoleucus), The Birds of North America (P. G. Rodewald, Ed.). Ithaca: Cornell Lab of Ornithology; Retrieved from the Birds of North America:

DOI: 10.2173/bna.606