For the birds

Websites help to identify birds.

Gardeners always welcome birds to their yards year-round, but in winter, when we're usually not so busy growing things, we tend to pay more attention to them.

This is the time of year that we wonder about the names of certain birds that come to the feeder or that we notice on walks in the woods. It's always good to own a bird identification book, of course. But the Web can help, too. It's especially handy if you keep a laptop near the main window where you watch birds from indoors.

Dave's Garden, the commercial gardening community site, has just launched a bird identification database. It's called BirdFiles and includes 1,607 birds and 2,912 images.

It's great for those who know something about birds -- you can search by common or scientific name, or browse through an entire order of birds. But it didn't help me identify that little speckled bird I've seen lately.

The Patuxent Wildlife Research Center's bird identification site shows photographs of numerous birds, although to search you still have to guess a bird's name to click on. It also offers bird songs, which is nice.

A bit easier is the offering from Bird Watcher's Digest, which divides birds by category -- waterbirds, sparrows and tanagers, etc. -- and then you click on those to find the individual species. offers what amounts to a minicourse in how to identify birds, which is helpful if you want to learn more instead of just finding out the name of a particular birds or birds you've seen lately.

For the complete novice,  the Nutty Birdwatcher offers pages that allow you to ID Eastern US songbirds by their color -- blue, black and white, brown, red and orange, or yellow. For me, it was the easiest to use.

Do you have a favorite birding site you'd like to recommend?

Since it's snowing here in Boston -- yes, again! -- I was interested in Stephen Moss's article in The Guardian about British birds surviving snowfall and cold. (This is in areas that don't often see these weather conditions.)

He says that high-energy foods, such as sunflower hearts are excellent for birds braving cold and snow and reminds us to provide unfrozen water if possible and spread seed on the ground for those birds that generally don't use feeders.

And one last bird note: On Friday Soon, I'll post my review of the Bird Cam, a neat gadget.

(NOTE: The Monitor's main gardening site contains articles, blog posts, and essays on a variety of gardening topics. Visit it by clicking here.)

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