New Book & App Upgrade From National Geographic

First person to guess in the comments what color nail polish I'm wearing wins a code to get the new National Geographic Field Guide app for the iPhone. (You can either guess the color name or what the color actually is.  HINT: It's from the Skyfall Collection of nail polish). I've long been a fan of National Geographic.  They were my preferred field guide when I was a kid and way back before we were iPhone and Android crazy and they were one of the first when they had the idea of putting their field guide on a Palm Pilot.  Now there's a blast from my blog's past! That's a blog entry I wrote over seven years ago...yikes, how long have I been doing this?

As field guides are establishing themselves firmly on the smartphone train, National Geographic released their iPhone app a few years ago.  I was disappointed. The illustrations were there, but as an iPhone app, it wasn't very intuitive, didn't do what most of the other apps did.  It was as if someone did a hasty job of taking the Palm Pilot version and wedged into an iPhone app and had the same results that a woman who wears a size eight shoe has when she tries to wear six six high heels.  You get the idea, but it's uncomfortable.

There is a new version! If you already bought the app and like me took it off your phone and it's been collecting dust in iTunes, update that bad boy right now and reinstall to get the new version.  If you are a fan of National Geographic illustrations, you'll enjoy this app.  It has all the images from the book and includes songs and calls for each species (as well as a sonogram).  You get the text of where to find the birds, their behavior, field marks--everything you want in a field guide.

If you see a bird and you don't know what it is, you can filter your search in the guide by color, size, range and time of year to narrow down your list of possibilities.  Man, remember when we first started birding and if we saw a small brown bird we had to sift through a field guide and try to figure out the difference between a female finch and a sparrow?

Now, this app comes with a price--it's HUGE!  In the field, Sibley may be one of the heavies, but in app form he's only 446.7 MB.  National Geographic has him beat at 880.9 MB (still not quite as big as Audubon's 924.3 MB). I had to remove some apps on my phone to get this app to fit.  Not only is this a guide, but you also get articles on how to watch birds, how to choose binoculars, listing capability (including mapping your location) and creating field notes.  Also included are some high definition videos which I think contributes to the app's large size, but hey, if you are jonesing to see and hear a bobolink...the app can help you out by showing a video.

I think my favorite feature on this app are the quizzes!  You have three levels: Beginner, Intermediate and Expert.  The Beginner Level might play a song or show a picture and give you choices to id the singer or illustration.

The expert level...well, it challenges you.  I only got 7 out of 10 questions correct on level 10 and more than three were guesses on my part. But I like an app that encourages me to learn from it. So, this is a vast improvement to the old National Geographic.  It doesn't have the comparison feature that I do appreciate on the Sibley app but the other features more than make up for it.


Now, if you are staunchly in the Luddite category and have had enough of the app business...check out the new National Geographic Bird Watcher's Bible. This book is not for the hardcore birder. It's a great kind of intro book for someone who is casually interested in birds. Maybe even a kid who is into the old form school of reading books.

The book uses a combination of great photos (check out that shot of a peregrine falcon nailing a willet) and National Geographic illustrations (cause hey, they own the rights and they can be good filler) to give you an eye catching book with fun factoids like,"Only 29 birds that regularly breed in North America have one-word names."

The book covers a little of everything from bird anatomy, history, migration, how to be a birders and I must say, even includes a mention of the Internet.  I would have loved this book when I was a kid and I would give this book as a gift if one of Non Birding Bill's friends told me, "Hey, I noticed this bird once, what is it?"

The book even includes a list of "Most Common Bird Blogs," not the best, not the most read, not the oldest or most prolific...the most common.  Regardless of how they phrase it, I'm honored to have my blog included in that list among some of my favorite people like 10,000 Birds, Nemesis Bird and Birding is Fun.



Music of the Birds iPad Book Review

I think I have found the missing link between the traditional paper copy of a bird book and an electronic bird book. Kudos to the awesome that is Lang Elliot and Marie Reed for coming up with Music of the Birds, a multimedia guide to 20 favorite North American species. If you aren't familiar with these two authors, you may recognize Lang's voice as the narrator of several bird song ID CDs and Marie is a a fantastic photographer. I've linked to some of the incredible footage their site Music of Nature.

This $7.99 book for the iPad available on iTunes is great for adults and kids, people who go birding all the time, the casual birder or someone you would like to get into watching birds. It takes 20 popular birds (like the above indigo bunting) gives you incredible photos, stunning video and some background information.

Here's a sample of one of the videos of a Veery--how many of us have heard that song but never actually saw the bird that can harmonize with itself?


I can really see this book appealing to kids. They love to play with iPads and with fantastic photos and videos of many birds that can be found it backyards, it may help inspire them to actually look for them.

I do think that some day we will see field guides that will also incorporate video of birds to aid us in id, rather than relying on illustrations and calls only. I'm really excited to see someone take this on and come up with a such a user friendly and beautiful iPad book.

So if  you have an iPad and an interest in birds, definitely check this one out.



Birdchick Giveaway: Sibley Shirt #birding

Once again I am trying to get things out of my apartment and office and I find myself with an excess of birding items.  So rather than a contest where someone answers the question but has no interest in the prize, the first person to email me with their snail mail (aka mailing address) gets the item!  (sharon at birdchick dot com) I get a lot of stuff and if I'm giving it away to the public, I find something I value in it but just doesn't suite me (or I already have it).  I get stuff because people either want me to mention it in the blog or review it for different publications.

Here's the item:

Liberty Graphics offers of a line t-shirts with art by David Sibley.  If you love those illustrations in his field guide, you will enjoy his shirts.  This is the Sibley's Favorite Birds shirt in a Anvil size medium, not a fitted t-shirt.  Yellow Haze is not my color and with my shape I only wear baby doll t-shirts or look like a sack of potatoes with legs (hint, hint Liberty Graphics, I'd buy your shirts if you made them in baby doll sizes).

Here's a close up of the bird species on the front of the shirt made with 110% water-based ink.

So, if you want it, email me (and be the first with you mailing address).

Who Knew? Barbie Is A Birder!

Mattel takes a stand to promote kids in the outdoors by coming up with Bird Watching Barbie! Now I won't be the only girl in the woods with lipstick and mascara.  Although, Barbie, babe, you might want to consider trading in your fold up chair for a set of binoculars.  You know, girl, you're popular enough, I bet any number of optics companies would love to sponsor you.  I think Swarovski is a natural fit--you could have crystal bins!

Can I say how much I love that Mattel went the extra distance to prove she's a birder by giving her a vest?  Granted, it's stylish and pink and helps accentuate her ample figure (wow, imagine her with a binocular harness) but I am so grateful they left off the Tilly Hat (no one looks good in those--no one).

I wonder how long Barbie's Life List is?  And does she prefer Peterson to Sibley? Or is she a Kaufman girl?

Cool Non Leather Binocular Harness

Periodically, I get questions from someone looking for a binocular harness without the leather patch on the back.  They might be vegan or maybe they want a harness without a particular logo on back. I'm happy to announce that someone has heard your request and answered. I get a lot of binocular harnesses. Some companies give them away at festivals like hats because their logo is displayed on your back as you are out birding.  I wore one for Eagle Optics (cause I worked there for a year), I had one from Fat Robin (because I think Jim Zipp the owner is one of the most awesome photographers ever and I have a sister named Robin), I've had one from Swarovski (because I love their optics and they have been incredibly supportive of my website), and more recently I wore one that was a gift from Guatemala.

Aaron Novak sent me a harness recently and I thought I would wear it in Panama to get a feel for it. It's a great harness and it has no leather in the back.  It's held together with a ring in the back.  It's great for anyone interested in a harness--especially those who prefer one without a leather patch in the back.

I used to make fun of binocular harnesses when they first came out.  I called them the bino bra, but once you use one, you never go back to the neck strap.  Harnesses take the weight off of your neck and if you are a lady like myself with a prominent chest, the harness does a great job of working around your chest and hold your bins in place--leaving your hands free to tote a scope or digiscoping camera.

New BirdsEye App

There is a very cool new application out for the iTouch/iPhone called BirdsEye and I love it!

The application was developed by Birds in the Hand, LLC, of Virginia, and brings together content from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, eBird, the Academy of Natural Sciences, and Kaufman. It's available on the App Store in iTunes.

This is not a field guide, this is a bird finding guide. There are photos and some information, but if you were expecting a Kaufman Guide for your iPhone this is not it. But what it is, is incredibly useful and solves a few problems for me.


The application requires access to the internet. I have an iTouch and so if I have access to a wifi signal, I can use it. If you have an iPhone, you can use it with your internet plan. The menu gives you the option to either look for nearby birds, look for a specific bird, find out what birding hotspots are near where you are at that moment, check out what birds are being reported at a particular location, and keep a life list of North American Birds. Above, I have entered where I was starting from--that's the green dot and all the red dots are birding hotspots near me--at least, hot spots that have been entered into eBird.

birdseye 2.jpg

I touched one of the red dots on the map and the name of the location came on. It mentions how many different bird species have been reported at this location (by eBird users). If you touch the blue arrow next to the name, it will bring up a list of birds and a thumbnail photo of the birds.


You can see the lower red arrow is pointing to wild turkey (and the two dark blobs behind my iTouch are turkeys that were staring at me at Hyland Lake's visitor center). But note that under the turkey it reads, "last week." That means someone reported it at this location last week. Check out the hooded merganser, it's been reported on eBird within the last three days. The green arrows are pointed to check marks. That means I have checked that bird off on my life list. Thanks to this app, I can look up a bird and see if I've seen it before...and I know how many birds I have on my North American life list.

turkey red head.jpg

Here's one of the turkeys that's listed as being seen in the last week at Hyland--I saw it. As a matter of fact, when I came home, I logged into eBird and entered in the birds I saw at Hyland...

birdseye app.jpg

And if I look at the Hyland list now--it reads that the turkey was seen today--that's my update! It updates surprisingly fast. I'm told that the eventual goal will be that you will be able to update your lists to eBird by using the app, but it's not quite ready for that yet. But for a bird finding tool, this is really, really cool.

birdseye 7.jpg

The initial app costs $19.99 and comes with gorgeous photos from VIREO as well as bird calls from the Macaulay Library of Sounds for 470 of the most reported species. The photos and bird calls also include a brief description written by Kenn Kaufman. The descriptions are not to give you clues to tell a first year Thayer's gull from a first year Iceland gull, they are designed to help you find the bird by mentioning behavior and habitat. Also, the photos tend to fall on the pretty side, not on the identifiable side of things.


For example, the above is an interesting photo, but I'm not sure it's the most useful for helping a person id an American wigeon. Keep in mind that this is designed to help you find birds around your home and travel in North America, the photos are just a reminder of the species. I will say, the bird call collection is very good. I was disappointed that there were only 470 bird species with the added photos, calls and descriptions. For example, when I was going through it for last week's Sax Zim trip, I was able to find photos and descriptions for northern goshawk, but not northern hawk ow. I can purchase the rest of the birds (another 377), either by group for $2.99 per or all of them for $19.99.

I understand why it is this way--it costs money to get access to the photos, bird calls and Kaufman's time to write the descriptions. This app is worth the price, I'm not sure I'll go for the rest of the photos and calls--I already have that with birdJam. But using this for locating birds birds is awesome.

I love this app because it's solving several issues for me:

1. I've grown tired of the birding listservs. Every state's birding qroup has their quirks and nothing brings out quirkiness like email. I unsubscribed to my state's birding listservs during one of my longer trips and was amazed at how much I didn't miss it. I didn't have to see the emails from birders arguing over how dead a bird has to be before it's no longer countable, or the hardcore birders who get mad about backyard sightings or the casual birders who take hardcore birders to task for for just listing. With this, I can get bird reports without the added quirkiness.

2. I've always thought eBird was a good idea, but never got in the habit. This gives me a good reason to form the habit--especially if the app will eventually let me report birds with it.

3. I now have a reason to use my iTouch. My phone is a Blackberry. I have the iTouch because it came free with Non Birding Bill's last MacBook purchase. I've half-heartedly been using it and seriously considered selling it (I still have an older iPod with all my music on it). But ever since I got this app, I've been using my iTouch on a daily basis...well, that and FourSquare.

I've been behind on getting my gift guide together, but this is the most exciting bird app I've seen come down the pike this year.

Misunderstood Birder Underwear

Wow, that was a title I never thought I would write.

Playing around on Magnificent Frigatebird, I found some underwear that might be confusing if you were dating a non birder. I should mention that all of these are available as either boxers or thongs.

First, in England, birders are called twitchers and instead of birding you go twitching. So, if you didn't know that, the following underwear could be interpreted as a warning label:

Something else is that in England, bird is another name for woman. So, this could be considered a bit randy:

I bet we won't be seeing that at a Wild Birds Unlimited any time soon. Also falling under the category of "you're just asking for it" would be this:

I'm just sayin'.

In some circles pishing can mean something other than making a "pish sound" to attract birds. It can be slang for urination. So this underwear might also be interpreted as some kind of odd warning or declaration of strange ability:

That's great. You go with your ability to pish anywhere. Or then there's this:

No, I don't want to hear a big pish story! Yikes! And then there this:

If you don't know what the device is pictured in the silhouette, this could be especially frightening underwear to a non birder. And let's not forget about the life list, not everyone knows what that is, so this could imply an entirely different meaning:

And it would just get worse as the number goes up:

Just kind of makes it sound like you've been around the block way too many times. Here's another:

Let's not beat around the bush on the above underwear, it kind of makes the wearer sound like a lot of birders have had a good time in that area. 'Nuff said. I think the following would go one step further for causing a non birder to run screaming from the boudoir:

The above is technically bird bander underwear, but terrifying to anyone not in the know to see that on a pair of panties.

And then this pair. Well this pair might make the person think that you want to do things with birds that you only read about certain movies stars doing in tabloids:

Just a warning to all you birders out there from someone who has been married to a non birder for a long time. Careful about your choice of underwear.

Birdchick Gift Guide 2008

It's time for some of my picks for gift ideas for the birder in your life. Here is a link to all my other past gift suggestions. The gift ideas range for birders of all ages and all abilities. I'm not paid by anyone to endorse any of these products, although a few you may recognize as sponsors of this site. These are all products that I totally dig.

If you have any birder gift ideas that you don't see listed, please feel free to add them in the comments.

Gifts & A Good Cause

The Duck Stamp (or The Migratory Bird Hunting and Conservation Stamp, ya happy, Paul?) Birders of all levels and is okay to give more than once in a year. I'd be honored if I ended up getting five this Holiday Season.

I've said it before and I'll say it again--this is an EXCELLENT gift for anyone into birds, especially for the birder who appears to have everything. The money from purchase of the stamps is used to acquire habitat for waterfowl but that benefits many species of birds including warblers, sparrows, herons, grebes, and shorebirds. The stamp costs $15 and 98% of that $15 goes to purchase habitat for ducks and other wildlife. People and birds benefit from this purchase.

Burning Hawk Wine (great for birders over 21 years of age)

This company was the hit of the show at the Rio Grande Valley Bird Festival. They hosted the Kiskadee Cordial where festival attendees could sample the wine and socialize. This past May a hawk was electrocuted and caught fire and set a vineyard ablaze. That awful incident sparked several people, like founder Nick Papadopoulos to create a line of wines that are not only tasty but help birds. They company devotes 10% of all sales to bird conservation projects. There's a red and a white and I purchase a red that is very robust, a little bit on the sweet side, but a great wine. Non Birding Bill really enjoyed it. This is a great gift even for the non birding people in you life. You'll note that I have a button ad for this company on my site. If you click on that to order the wine, I get a tiny percentage, but honestly, this company mission is so good, I don't care if you order it through my site or go directly to them from google. It's a great wine and even better cause.

Cornell Lab Of Ornithology Gifts

I was going to post some cool gifts from Cornell Lab or Ornithology, but they have their own gift guide this year. Please check it out. Some of my favorites include the Year Long Membership to Project Feeder Watch (great for backyard birders and kids), Birds of North America Online Membership (perfect for hardcore or intermediate birder--have a question about some bird in North America, you'll find the answer there. Especially with the growing popularity of iPhones and iTouches, this is a great online birding resource.


The Young Birder's Guide (kids and new birders)

BEST BIRDING BOOK TO COME OUT ALL YEAR. Bill Thompson worked with kids to find out what kind of a birding guide they would like. I have reviewed this book already, but this would be an ideal gift for any kid you'd like to get a little more into birding. It's in an approachable format, has cool birding facts, habitat tips, just about everything. I've even met a few adult birders working on honing their skills appreciate the book. I'd even buy one of these and donate it to Toys For Tots.

City Birds/Country Birds (backyard birder, especially in urban areas)

This is my second and it came out this spring. It's how to attract birds no matter where you live, even if it's in an urban area. The information is based on my 8 years working in a bird feeding retail store and from my personal backyard birding experience. Lots of photos (some from blog readers) and fun to read information. You can get it in a number of places, but if you would like a personalized copy, get it from the Birdchic Boutique.

The New Peterson Field Guide (birders of all levels, although if you know a hardcore birder, chances are good that they already have it).

This is a revamped version of the classic illustrated guide by Roger Tory Peterson. If you have always been a fan of Peterson, you will love this updated version--larger pictures and text, small maps on the species page with larger maps in back, added species, updated maps, and a url to video podcasts. A good classic birder gift. Should be available at most bird stores and book stores.

The Smithsonian Field Guide to Birds (birders of all levels)

This is a more comprehensive take on a photographic field guide. The photos are very good and unlike other photographic guides, there are several photos for each species. This is a newer guide that is not getting the attention it deserves, but would be a welcome addition to most bird watcher's shelves. This might be a bit overwhelming for a new birder or young birder, but for the gung-ho birder, this is a must.

The Boreal Owl Murder (birders of all levels)

This is a cute book. I read it on a flight, and I've loaned my copy to a few other birding friends (some hardcore) and I think one summed it up best: "It was good and it's a book you don't have to be 99% present to read." It's a murder mystery set in Minnesota involving birders. It's cutesy (the main character's name is Bob White--ha ha get it, cause he's a birder) but there all sorts of birding references and Minnesota references--I think she killed off Bill Lane in the book. Again, it's a fun, easy read and just about everything in it bird-wise is accurate (although I disagree with the character who said boreals don't respond to tapes, they sure do). I only found one glaring inaccuracy. She made a Minnesota Ornithologists' Union Board Meeting sound way too friendly and fun.

For The Birds (the backyard birder)

Sisters who own Wild Birds Unlimited franchises combined their birding feeding knowledge and created this book/calendar. It goes through the calendar year and lets you know what birds to expect, what feeds work best for the time of year, kids projects, and personal tips from the authors. The book is good for the entire US, both eastern and western. Available at a Wild Birds Unlimited near you.


Hand Painted Coins (birders of all levels)

I found these when I was at Civic Fest this summer. He paints coins and makes them into pendents for necklaces, cuff links, money clips, etc. I bought a Slovakian coin with a honey bee on it that's absolutely beautiful. He does the US Quarters and coins from other countries, so you can find any manner of birds or wildlife. If you are looking for unique, this is it.

Feather Brain (the flashy birder)

I just thought these were cute headbands.

The Mincing Mockingbird (the birder with a good sense of humor).

Off the wall bird art, what more do you need to know?

Go Go Birding Gadgets

Snapshot Adventures: The Secrets of Bird Island (kids)

This is an awesome little computer game. My only beef is that it is currently only for PCs and not Macs at the moment. But essentially, you use your grandfather's journal to find out where he disappeared to. You meet some of his friends along the way and they ask you to take photos of birds. The birds move and you get points for birds in different poses. Also, if you don't know what a bird is that they want you to find, you have a guide. The birds are fairly accurate and it's a fun way to do some nature photography on a rainy day as well as learn some mad birding skills. Awesome and fun computer game. Heck, some adults will even enjoy this.

Remembird (intermediate to hardcore birders)

This is an awesome little device! It's a digital audio recorder that you can either wear on your neck or attach to your binoculars. When it's on your binos, the buttons for recording fall where your fingers fall and it's very intuitive to use. It's great for taking audio notes of birds. Your looking at the bird and the card takes in all you info. You then can listen later and compare in your field guide. The microphone has 2 settings, one for up close recording for taking notes and one that will grab audio from further away. Can't id that bird song? Grab it on your Remembird and compare it to your birdJam when you get home. Remembird also comes with software and it will keep track of all your audio recordings and you can even make your own list of birds recorded. Very sweet and a useful tool for taking notes and learning your bird calls.

birdJam (great for birders of all levels)

This is as always a great gift idea, one I've mentioned several times. Also, I just noticed that they currently are having bundled special of an iPod Touch, iMaingo portable speaker, software, & songs. It's a really great deal.

The Gift Of Time

Another thing to consider is that if you want to give someone a really nice gift, maybe chip in with other family members, why not buy someone a registration to a bird festival? I go to a lot of bird festivals and they are fun, but the cost can add up between registering, flight, and hotel. If you can help a birder ease some of that travel burden, registration to a bird festival is a great way to go. Some festivals coming up in the near future that would be idea include The Space Coast Birding and Nature Festival (Florida in January) or the San Diego Bird Festival (southern California in March).

Again, these are some ideas that have caught my eye this year. Please feel free to add suggestions and links in the comments (although, I will delete things I find unsuitable for this list like World of Warcraft, Viagra, and Botox).