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HBW Alive Newsletter
Nº8, February 2015

Behind the multimedia links in HBW Alive

Two years ago a group of editors started working on the new HBW Alive, an ambitious project that brings the acclaimed 17-volume Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW) series into the digital era. The work set out before them was huge, with the first main objectives being to update the species accounts of the first two volumes of HBW and incorporate links to videos, photos and sound recordings to complement the texts. I’d like to share a few details about the second goal from my personal perspective.

The idea of including related multimedia links in the texts is to enhance the reader’s experience and comprehension of the information. You can see plumage differences in photos, witness intricate courtship displays in videos and listen to actual calls and songs in sound recordings, bringing the data alive. The links themselves come from open-access sources all over the internet, especially our own Internet Bird Collection, making HBW Alive a quick and easy way to access related material of interest. This also showcases material from the birding and ornithological community, to which we are grateful, and puts it to good use.

At present, more than 76,000 links have been added to the texts— around 17,000 in the family texts and 59,000 in the species accounts—and more than 4,800 species have links incorporated. All of the non-passerine species with regular presence in the Western Palearctic, the United States, Canada, Brazil, South Africa and Australia have links, as well as most of the passerines regularly occurring in Europe and the United States. These last months we have been focusing on incorporating links into the accounts for the new species resulting from splits from the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World and also moving previously added links in the “mother species” accounts that are now better placed in the new species. At the end of January 2015, more than 175 new species had links, almost 38% of the new species.

And the process continues, with the aim that all 10,380 species currently in HBW Alive have links. As you can imagine, for some species the material available on the web is very scarce, so we encourage all of you to join and participate in the Internet Bird Collection, the main source of material linked to the HBW Alive. With your collaboration this goal will be more accessible and together we will make HBW Alive a more complete and powerful tool for everyone.

Arnau Bonan
Editor, HBW Alive
In this Newsletter
  • Read the “Brief News” selection that we have compiled for you.
  • Enjoy the First Country Reports, some are really remarkable…  
  • All of the Turdus species have links to photos, videos and sound recordings in their HBWA accounts. Find out more!
  • Now in My Birding you can organize all of the sightings of a birding trip in My Trips. Learn more…
News on Birds
Recent News on Birds

Crabs are an essential dietary item for migrant Red-crowned Cranes.

Red-crowned Crane
Analyses of faecal samples from migrant Red-crowned Cranes (Grus japonensis) staging at the Yellow River Delta Nature Reserve in Eastern China show that the mudflat crab Helice tientsinensis is the principal food source locally. In winter, they are thought to feed on marine snails, bivalve molluscs and other crabs at their wintering grounds in Yancheng Nature Reserve. It is also thought that in areas of severe coastal wetland degradation, cranes may have become more dependent on agricultural rice fields.
Photo by Josep del Hoyo

Millions of European warblers winter in West African mangroves.

Subalpine Warbler
West African Avicennia and Rhizophora mangrove forests attract numerous insectivorous birds. Palearctic species predominate in the most northern mangroves (14–16°N) but resident birds become as numerous as migrants further south (11–12°N). The European Reed Warbler (Acrocephalus scirpaceus) is the most common winter visitor in West African mangroves between 12°N and 16°N, with an estimated total of 4–6 million birds, some 30–50% of the European population. The Senegal delta mangroves are also an important winter habitat of the Subalpine Warbler (Sylvia cantillans).
Photo by Georgi Gerdzhikov

Food availability, not predation risk, determines clutch size in Fork-tailed Flycatchers.

Fork-tailed Flycatcher
It is well known that many bird species demonstrate a latitudinal gradient in annual reproductive investment, laying more eggs and producing more nestlings at higher latitudes, and fewer in the tropics. Two of the principal hypotheses explaining variation in clutch-size between populations are the food-limitation hypothesis: that clutch-size depends on food availability per bird during the breeding season, and the nest-predation hypothesis: that there is a negative relationship between clutch size and predation risk.
These two hypotheses have recently been tested by monitoring nests of Fork-tailed Flycatchers (Tyrannus savana) at a tropical site in Bolivia and three breeding seasons at a southern temperate site in Argentina. Mean clutch-size and mean brood-size were significantly larger at the temperate study site than at the tropical site. Availability of arthropod food per bird was significantly higher at the temperate site. There was no relationship, positive or negative, between rates of nest predation and either clutch- or brood-size, and thus no support for the nest-predation hypothesis. The conclusion was that food availability explains much of the latitudinal variation in clutch-size in this species
Photo by Lindolfo Souto
Brief News
Bar-headed Geese
1. Implanted dataloggers that record physiological parameters have revealed a steep relationship between heart rate and wingbeat frequency and estimated metabolic power and wingbeat frequency of migratory Bar-headed Geese (Anser indicus). Bishop, C. M. et al. (2015).
Photo by
Raniero Massoli-novelli
Black-necked Grebe
2. Ringing data has shown that the sex ratio of adult Black-necked Grebes (Podiceps nigricollis) moulting at the Odiel estuary, southwestern Spain, shows a strong and significant bias in favour of females (1.6–4.2 females per male). Biased sex ratios were not found among juveniles. Amat, J. A. et al. (2014).
Photo by Frank Bos
3. Unusually high natural concentrations of heavy metals in feathers have been recently found in Kagus (Rhynochetos jubatus) living in areas of ultramafic soils. Those concentrations, 1·2 to 21 times higher than in other bird species studied (the majority of these inhabiting polluted environments), could be linked to low reproductive success but nonetheless reflects adaptation to the local environment. Theuerkauf, J. et al. (2015).
Photo by Julien Baudat-Franceschi
Balearic Shearwaters
4. A minimum of 23,780–26,535 Balearic Shearwaters (Puffinus mauretanicus) were estimated to have passed each year through the Strait of Gibraltar in 2007–2010 during their westward post-breeding migration, many more than the 10,000–15,000 birds currently estimated for the global population of this Critically Endangered species. Arroyo, al (2014)
Photo by Pep Arcos
Northern Bald Ibis
5. The Northern Bald Ibis (Geronticus eremita) population at the Souss-Massa National Park, Morocco, has risen to over 500 birds, following two consecutive good breeding seasons in 2013 and 2014, when 148 and 192 young fledged respectively.
Photo by
Mustafa Sozen
Golden Plover
6. Primary moult scores of Eurasian Golden Plovers (Pluvialis apricaria) staging post-breeding in pastures in The Netherlands during 1978–2011 show no changes until 1990 but primary moult advanced by eight days from 1990 to 2011. An advancement of breeding has been shown to have occurred in several bird species that nest in northern temperate latitudes. Jukema, J. & Wiersma, P. (2014).
Photo by
Tomica Rubinić
Purple Sandpiper
7. Fifty geolocators attached to Purple Sandpipers (Calidris maritima) wintering in northern Scotland and southwest Ireland show that the spring departure from Scotland and Ireland took place mainly in late May and the birds staged in Iceland and/or southwest Greenland before reaching their breeding grounds. Those that staged in Iceland departed earlier than those that flew directly to Greenland. Summers, R. et al. (2014).
Arctic Tern
8. Five Arctic Terns (Sterna paradisaea) tracked from a breeding site in The Netherlands spent the austral summer in Wilkes Land, Antarctica, travelling around 90,000 km in total, which substantially exceeds previous estimates. Fijn, R. C. et al. (2013).
Photo by
Ben Lascelles
Long-tailed Jaeger
9. Eight adult Long-tailed Jaegers (Stercorarius longicaudus) captured while breeding in NE Greenland and Svalbard were fitted with light-level geolocators. Five wintered off southwestern Africa, in the Benguela upwelling, and three further south, in an area extending into the SW Indian Ocean. Gilg, O. et al. (2013).
Photo by Josep del Hoyo
Eurasian Eagle-owl
10. A study based on 143 Eurasian Eagle-owls (Bubo bubo) radio-tagged in Spain, Finland and Switzerland has shown that juveniles disperse mainly during a full moon, presumably to take advantage of the best possible light conditions at night. Penteriani, al. (2014).
Photo by Marc Guddorp
11. The Osprey (Pandion haliaetus) breeding population in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East numbered 9500–11,500 pairs in the early 21st century, which compares with c. 5500 pairs in the 1980s. Schmidt-Rothmund, D. et al. (2014).
Photo by Igor Shilokhvost
Bearded Vulture
12. A genetic study based on mitochondrial DNA has shown that not only is there little or no differentiation between the Bearded Vulture (Gypaetus barbatus) populations in Ethiopia and Southern Africa, but also that there is considerably reduced genetic diversity in the threatened Southern African populations. Krüger, S.C. et al (2015).
Photo by Gunnar Pettersson
Yellow-shafted Flicker
13. Light-level geolocators have shown that migratory northern Yellow-shafted Flickers (Colaptes auratus) use cavities not just for breeding but throughout the year, including during migration, when they pass through unfamiliar territory. The monitored birds spent 63–90% of nights roosting in cavities, suggesting that these provide wider benefits beyond serving as nest sites. Gow, E. A. et al. (2015).
Photo by Mark Houston
McConnell's Flycatcher
14. The two northern subspecies of McConnell's Flycatcher (Mionectes macconnelli) may actually comprise two species-level taxa; a widespread lowland form macconnelli and a highland form roraimae. The two forms are similar in plumage, but differ significantly in wing and tail length, and most importantly in vocalisations and display behaviour. Hilty, S. L. & Ascanio, D. (2014).
Rock Wren
15. The American Rock Wren (Salpinctes obsoletus) is well-known for building nests with a foundation of pebbles or small flat stones that may at times be quite massive but whose function remained obscure. An experimental study now suggests that stones serve both to keep the nest dry and to reduce nest predation by alerting incubating females when predators approach. Warning, N. & Benedict, L. (2014).
Photo by Erik Breden
Mascarene White-eye
16. A genetic study has shown that the existence of up to four different colour morphs of the Mascarene White-eye (Zosterops borbonicus) on Réunion Island, which only has a surface area of some 2500 km² reflects unusually low levels of historical and contemporary gene flow among populations that could be explained by an extremely reduced propensity to disperse. Bertrand, J.A.M. et al. (2014).
Photo by Joris Bertrand
Southern Grey Shrike
17. The Southern Grey Shrike populations of the Canary Islands have hitherto been regarded as a single subspecies (Lanius meridionalis koenigi) but a recent genetic study finds that they appear to be a polyphyletic group closely related to the North African subspecies (L. m. elegans). Padilla, D.P. et al. (2015).
Photo by Eduardo de Juana
House Sparrow
18. The decline in some House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) populations in Europe is a cause for concern. House Sparrows have declined in rural Sweden, unlike Tree Sparrows (P. montanus), whose population there has remained stable. Nestbox provision at southern Swedish farmsteads produced a significant increase in Tree Sparrows but House Sparrow numbers were unaffected. von Post, M. & Smith, H. G. (2015).
Photo by Guy Poisson
Male Zebra Finch
19. Although it has long been assumed that birds try to conceal their nests by using camouflage this has only recently been demonstrated experimentally. Male Zebra Finches (Taeniopygia guttata) were offered a choice of nest materials that either matched or did not match the colour of their nest cup and the surrounding cage walls. Bailey, I. E .et al. (2015).
Eurasian Siskins
20. Up to 38 Eurasian Siskins (Carduelis spinus) died on a salt-treated road in winter in the Czech Republic after having ingested large salt granules that they apparently had mistaken for potential gizzard grit, which was temporarily unavailable because of the snow cover. Töpfer, T. et al. (1014).
Photo by Nicole Bouglouan
Compiled by Eduardo de Juana.
First Country Reports
The following section lists first country reports around the world, obtained mainly during 2014. The reports are largely unchecked and their publication here does not imply future acceptance by the corresponding Rarities Committee.


Pied-billed Grebe (Podilymbus podiceps), one found on the Cávado estuary, from 5th to 11th November 2014, is the first recorded in continental Portugal.
Oriental Turtle-dove (Streptopelia orientalis), a first-year photographed at Corbu, Constanta, Romania, on 30th October 2014.
White-necked Petrel (Pterodroma cervicalis), one photographed about 17.5 miles from nearest land in Nyisky Bay, off Sakhalin, Russia, on 18th October 2014.
White Ibis (Eudocimus albus), an immature found in Sevenoaks WR, Kent, England, on 19th November 2014 would be, if accepted, the first for Great Britain and the Western Palearctic.
Red Knot (Calidris canutus), one male ringed about 10 km from Balykchi, on the western shore of lake Issyk-Kul, Kyrgyzstan, on 18th May 2012.
Long-billed Dowitcher (Limnodromus scolopaceus), photographed on Sorbulak lake, Almaty region, Kazakhstan, on 7th September 2014.
Report photo by Vassily Fedorenko
Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea), an adult at Nazaré, Leiria, from 16th to 21st November 2014, is the first for continental Portugal.
Report photo by Luís Gordinho
Steppe Eagle (Aquila nipalensis), one seen in NE Austria on 3rd November 2014.
White-crowned Wheatear (Oenanthe leucopyga), an adult present at Poelgeest, Oegstgeest, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands from at least 23rd September through November 2014. The bird was unringed, in contrast with another individual photographed in Ameland, Friesland, Netherlands, on 2nd November, apparently wearing a red ring.
Report photo by Gerard Visser
Desert Warbler (Sylvia nana deserti), one stayed at Alphen aan den Rijn, Zuid-Holland, Netherlands, from 12th November 2014 onwards, being the first of the taxa deserti for Netherlands and northern Europe.
Report photo by
Song Sparrow (Melospiza melodia), an adult male collected on 12th July 1988 NE of Chukchi Peninsula, Russia, proved the first to be identified for Russia.

Middle East

Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri), a bird photographed in Mashhad, NE Iran, on 21st January 2015. Still unclear whether it's Hume's Owl (Strix butleri) or Omani Owl (Strix omanensis), but either would be the first for Iran. Read the Birds Alive Editorial Nº7 about the recently described Desert Tawny Owl (Strix hadorami).
Report photo by Seyed Babak Musavi
Large-billed Leaf-warbler (Phylloscopus magnirostris), one found at Al Manzar Park, Dubai, on 11th October 2014, would be the first for the United Arab Emirates and the Western Palearctic.
Report photo by Simon Lloyd


Eurasian Wigeon (Mareca penelope), one male seen at Sipighat, South Andaman, Andaman and Nicobar, on 14th March 2014.
Great Frigatebird (Fregata minor), an adult female near the shore at New Manglutan, South Andaman, Andaman and Nicobar, on 3rd June 2013.


van den Berg, A.B. (2014) WP reports. Dutch Birding 36(6): 402-420.

Fedorenko, V.A., Isabekov, A.A. & Dyakin, G.Y. (2014) [The Long-billed Dowitcher Limnodromus scolopaceus –a new species in the fauna of Kazakhstan and Middle Asia.]. Russian Journal of Ornithology 1084: 4027-4030.

Korobov, D.V. & Glushchenko, Y.N. (2014) [The first record of the White-necked Petrel Pterodroma cervicalis in the territorial waters of Russia]. Russian Journal of Ornithology 1074: 3715-3716.

Musavi, S.B. (2015). Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri) at retrieved on 24th January 2015. 

Ostashchenko, A.N. (2014) [The Red Knot Calidris canutus – a new species in the fauna of Kyrgyzstan]. Russian Journal of Ornithology 1089: 4187-4188. 

Rajeshkumar, S. & Raghunathan, C. (2014) First records of Eurasian Wigeon Anas penelope and Great Frigatebird Fregata minor in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, India. Bull. BOC 134(4): 305-307.

Redkin, Y.A. & Koblik, E.A. (2014) [The song Sparrow Melospiza melodia and Oregon Junco Junco (hyemalisoreganus – new taxons in the avifauna of Russia]. Russian Journal of Ornithology 1045: 2789-2793
Compiled by José Luis Copete.
New Books on Birds
The Common Eider

The Common Eider

By Chris Waltho and John C. Coulson

A common species present around the more northerly shores of Europe, the Common Eider is one of the largest ducks in the northern hemisphere. It is particularly well adapted to cold-water environments; the insulating properties of eider down are iconic. The species is as well taxonomically interesting, with a range of well-marked subspecies reflecting the patterns of ice coverage during ancient glaciations, and these ducks have also provided the focus for a number of important behavioural studies, especially on feeding ecology and energy budgets.

Eiders have a long association with humans, and have deep cultural significance in many societies. However, modern lifestyles are exposing these ducks to a wide range of new pressures.

This monograph provides a comprehensive portrait of the Common Eider and the two other species in the genus, the King and Spectacled Eiders. Authors Chris Waltho and John Coulson bring together an extensive and diverse international literature, with sections on taxonomy, habitats, breeding biology, population dynamics, diet and foraging, dispersal and migration, and conservation.
IBC's Video of the Month
Magenta Petrel

Magenta Petrel

(Pterodroma magentae)

A video of one of the world’s rarest seabirds: Magenta Petrel (Pterodroma magentae). A non-breeding male of this critically endangered species being checked by researchers in a breeding colony in Tuku Nature Reserve, Chatham Islands.
Tuku Nature Reserve, Chatham Island, Chatham Islands, New Zealand © Martin Kennewell, 26 November 2014
IBC's Photo of the Month
Speckled Rail

Speckled Rail

(Coturnicops notatus)

A picture of a very difficult species to observe: Speckled Rail (Coturnicops notatus).

Buenos Aires, Buenos Aires Province, Argentina
© Alec Earnshaw, 3 January 2015

See last month's top-rated photos
IBC's Sound Recording of the Month
Rudd's Lark

Rudd's Lark

(Heteromirafra ruddi)

A sound recording of a singing Rudd's Lark (Heteromirafra ruddi). This species is classified as Vulnerable and it is endemic to South Africa.
Wakkerstroom, Mpumalanga Province, South Africa © Peter Boesman, 6 November 2014
News on HBW Alive
New Species from the Checklist Updated
During the last month, we have finished the updating process for all of the “new species” (resulting from splits) of these families:
Amazonian Black-breasted Woodpecker
Picidae (Woodpeckers), Capitonidae (New World Barbets), Megalaimidae (Asian Barbets), Lybiidae (African Barbets) and Indicatoridae (Honeyguides).

We have already started on the Trochilidae (Hummingbirds) and we are continuing with the Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles and allies).

Check out the updated texts.
Forthcoming Updates
Blue-bearded Helmetcrest
This February we will be working on the updating process for the “new species” (resulting from splits) of these families:
Trochilidae (Hummingbirds) and Accipitridae (Hawks, Eagles and allies).
New Species from the Checklist with Links
Once a “new species” (resulting from a split) has been updated in HBW Alive, we add links to videos, photos and sound recordings to complement the texts. Right now more than 175 of these new species have links. Here are a few recent examples:
Seychelles Parrot (Coracopsis barklyi)
Seychelles Parrot
Chequer-throated Yellownape
(Chrysophlegma humii)
Chequer-throated Yellownape
Some species have been split into several new species, like the Emerald Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus prasinus). Have a look at the new ones:
Wagler’s Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus wagleri)
Wagler’s Toucanet
Black-billed Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus cyanolaemus)
Black-billed Toucanet
Black-throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus atrogularis)
Black-throated Toucanet
Greyish-throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus albivitta)
Greyish-throated Toucanet
Blue-throated Toucanet (Aulacorhynchus caeruleogularis)
Blue-throated Toucanet
Or the Black-browed Barbet (Psilopogon oorti), that has been split into four species:
Black-browed Barbet (Psilopogon oorti)
Black-browed Barbet
Annam Barbet (Psilopogon annamensis)
Annam Barbet
Chinese Barbet (Psilopogon faber)
Chinese Barbet
Taiwan Barbet (Psilopogon nuchalis)
Taiwan Barbet
Recently Updated Species
Black-throated Thrush
We have added links to photos, videos and sound recordings for the 71 Turdus species, one of the bird genera better distributed all over the world. Some species have a wide distribution, like the Redwing (Turdus iliacus) or the American Robin (Turdus migratorius), others have a reduced distribution, like the Unicoloured Thrush (Turdus haplochrous) or the Ecuadorian Thrush (Turdus maculirostris), and some are restricted to small islands, like the Comoro Thrush (Turdus bewsheri), the Gulf of Guinea Thrush (Turdus olivaceofuscus) or the Izu Thrush (Turdus celaenops).
We have incorporated almost 1000 links within the Turdus species, with the American Robin, with 34 links, and the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula), with 33 links, being the species with the most links, and the Somali Thrush (Turdus ludoviciae) and the Unicoloured Thrush the ones with the least, just three links each.

Explore them!

We also have updated the texts of several species. Here you have a selection of them:
Malherbe’s Parakeet
Varzea Thrush
Malherbe’s Parakeet (Cyanoramphus malherbi)
Varzea Thrush (Turdus sanchezorum)
Hume’s Owl
Madagascar Paradise-flycatcher
Hume’s Owl (Strix butleri)
Palawan Peacock-pheasant
(Polyplectron napoleonis)
New HBW Alive Features

First Country Reports

With the new Birds Alive newsletter, the First Country Reports section was created in HBW Alive. Now you have the First Country Reports grouped here and you can organize them by post date, title or most viewed. You can access this page from the sidebar on the Ornithological News page.
Other Useful Features

Using the Geographic Filter and the Species Search as bird-identifying tools

Imagine that you are birding abroad and you see a bird that you can’t identify…
You are birding in Nicaragua and you see a Turdus thrush that it is completely black, with yellow bill, eyering and legs. In the field, when you look at the field guide, you realize that there are no black thrushes in Nicaragua!

Once back at the hotel, with your tablet or your laptop, you log into HBW Alive and in the Geographic Filter (upper left-hand corner of the page) you filter by Nicaragua, the country where you are birding. Then, in the Header Menu you place the cursor on Species, click on Advanced Search, and in the Species Search page, in Genus, type “Turdus”.
You quickly find that there are only three Turdus thrush species in Nicaragua, and none of them are entirely black...
What to do next? Thinking that possibly you’ve seen a vagrant species, you select two more countries in the Geographic Filter, a northern and a southern one, for example, Guatemala and Panama. Now you see that there are eight Turdus thrush species that can be present in all three of those countries.
And two of them have males that are entirely black: the Sooty Thrush (Turdus nigrescens), present in Costa Rica, and the Black Thrush (Turdus infuscatus), present in Honduras. The Sooty Thrush has a white iris, and you remember that the bird that you saw did not, while the Black Thrush has a dark iris. And so, with just some clicks in HBW Alive you have found the most plausible species that you could have seen: the Black Thrush!
Get the Most Out of My Birding

Trip List


Do you want to organize all of the sightings of a birding trip?

The first step is to create a Trip. From the Header Menu, place the cursor over My Birding and then click on My Trips. Now click on “+ Add a trip”, (right-hand corner of the box, to the right of My Trips). Or from My Birdlists click on “+ Add a trip”, (right-hand corner of the box, to the right of My Birdlists).

Once you are on the Create a Trip page, you have to assign a name to the trip. You can add a description of the trip and also the dates.
Then you can start adding your sightings from the trip, creating a Birdlist that will contain all of the sightings of one day/locality. Click on “+ Add a birdlist” and, again, you will choose a place/title for the Birdlist, the date, and the country/territory you want to link it to (this is very important as it acts as a Geographical filter, so only the regular species present in that country will be available when you introduce the sightings). You can also place a marker on the map to georeference the sightings.
Now, you can add the species sightings that you observed that day in the new Birdlist, by clicking on “Add sightings to this birdlist”. For each species, you can specify the number of birds that you saw, the subspecies observed and other aspects of the sighting (e.g. if it was heard only, if it was a captive bird, or if you took a photo or recorded a video or sound of the bird). You can create as many Birdlists associated with that trip as you want.
On the Trip page, you will see all the Birdlists from that trip and the trip’s statistics, with the number of species seen, number of first sightings, number of sightings, percentage of the regular species of that country seen, percentage of species seen related to your Wordlist and percentage of first sightings related to your Wordlist. At the bottom you will see that trip’s start and end dates and the number of days of the trip.
Read this tutorial to learn more about how to create Birdlists.
New Publications from Lynx
Illustrated Checklist - Set of 2 Volumes

 Volume 1 + Volume 2 


Take advantage of our Special Offer price
for the set!

  • Buy Vol. 1 now at the discounted price of 145 €.
  • Pre-order Vol. 2 at the same price and pay in 2016!
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