I want to alert you to a new on-line resource for birders called BirdFellow (www.birdfellow.com).  It is a crowd-sourced mine of information on North American birds.  It shares some features with Wikipedia and with Facebook in encouraging communal sharing of information.

Brewer's_SparrowWhen you visit the site, you first see a glorious panorama of a mountain lake.  It’s a very inviting entry site.  From the homepage, you can take a useful video tour of the site.  It’s an easy site to navigate so you can jump right in and explore if you prefer to skip the video.

I started by visiting the Social Field Guide.  I decided to begin by investigating the coverage of Brewer’s Sparrow, a western sparrow whose distinguishing characteristic is the lack of distinguishing characteristics!  Many Brewer’s Sparrows are dismissed as Little Brown Jobs.  I typed in Brewer’s Sparrow, hit Enter and was presented with an absolutely gorgeous photo of a Brewer’s Sparrow.

I clicked on the Identification Photos and had access to another 20, equally stunning photographs.  Other links allow you to upload your own photos to the site, part of the crowd-sourcing nature of BirdFellow.

Like all species pages, the Brewer’s Sparrow page has text fields below the photograph window.  An identification section describes the field marks of females and males.  The author of this account agrees with my take on Brewer’s Sparrow by writing, “Sometimes the best field mark is no field mark.”

The Length and Wingspan are provided along with sections on Habitat , Behavior, and Feeding.  A Voice section gives a brief description of the songs and calls and a Listen button allows you to hear high-quality recordings of those sounds.

At the bottom of the account, several links are provided.  Field Notes allows you to enter your own notes.  The Expanded Life History link takes you to a number of categories (e.g., Nesting Habits, Relationships to Humans) where you can contribute content to the site.  You can post your sightings via another link.

I’ve barely scratched the surface on this promising resource.  Once you become a member (free), you can join various discussion groups or create your own.  Give it a try.  At the very least, you will have the pleasure of enjoying a wealth of photographs of these winged animals we love.

[Originally published on March 3, 2013]