2024 and Beyond: Milestones, Plans, and our Conservation Purpose

BOW Team January 9, 2024
Buff-breasted SandpiperCalidris subruficollis

Happy New Year!

We hope this note finds you well and eager to start a new year.  As Birds of the World inches towards the close of our fourth year (!), we have much good news to report about how the project has developed, expanded, and adapted to new opportunities. Please read on for details! Por favor haga clic aquí para leerlo en español.

More ornithology content

As the Cornell Lab’s groundbreaking ornithological reference, Birds of the World continues to expand the quantity and quality of natural history information it features on every bird species. Individual contributors, supported by a global team of editors and partners, have been working on generating and curating new scientific texts, taxonomic relationships, photos, videos, and sound recordings for species from around the world. This work has resulted in 1,957 newly revised species accounts since project inception, making it essential to readers no matter where they live or what birds they study.

More life history accounts

After incorporating 2023’s extensive eBird/Clements taxonomic revisions, Birds of the World expanded to 11,017 species accounts and 251 bird family accounts. This included accounts for 3 newly described species, 124 species gained because of splits, and 16 lost through lumps, resulting in a net gain of 111 species accounts and 2 new family accounts. More than a thousand other species accounts are in draft – meaning authors have accepted the challenge of bringing the account up-to-date. Fluctuations in the number of world species will moderate as the major taxonomic systems converge.

More features

In a commitment to an ongoing expansion of the platform, several behind-the-scenes technical improvements were made, including the expansion of data-entry tools that support contributors as they add new information. We also expanded information on subspecies and hybrids by adding new text, photos, maps, and sound recordings, bringing these taxonomic puzzlers into unprecedented focus.

More maps

Understanding the distribution and abundance of birds is paramount and, thanks to modern GIS and databases like eBird and BirdLife Data Zone, Birds of the World is putting as much effort into updating maps as we are to updating text and media. This year our team, which includes more than a dozen student mentees, updated 352 distribution maps and incorporated state-of-the-art Status and Trends maps into 1,100 species accounts. Other students provided essential support by copyediting accounts and curating new media assets from the Macaulay Library.  We also collaborated with the Royal Saskatchewan Museum to add egg specimen photos to species accounts, thus adding critical insights to the breeding biology of more than 150 species.

More partners

Partnerships” were the name of the game in the last two years, as Birds of the World continues to forge meaningful partnerships with regional ornithology organizations that are engaging large communities and/or conducting important research on vulnerable species. The work contributed by this global network of 16 content partners helps the pages of Birds of the World reflect deeper, more inclusive regional expertise that can be leveraged by others to advance conservation.  Partners are benefiting by expanding their networks, surfacing local knowledge, and distributing free access to Birds of the World to their constituents. We are deeply grateful for their collaboration and encourage you to learn more about these partners and to support their work.

Deeper connections

We continue to learn, teach, and stay connected through attendance at major events such as the Ornithological Congress of the Americas in Gramado, Brazil (where we hosted a contributor workshop) and the South American Birdfair in Ecuador (where we attended a partner meeting at Universidad San Francisco de Quito and mingled with Ecuadorian birders and ornithologists in Mindo). In November, we took the red eye over to Brisbane to learn more about Australasian bird conservation at the Australasian Ornithological Conference. We are long overdue in attending the Global BirdFair and hope to rectify that in 2024. New friends and new opportunities evolve from every experience and this energizes our work.

More education

In the virtual space, our popular “Birds of the World Discovery Series” returned for its second season, offering free science webinars on topics ranging from the Search for Lost Birds to Annual Taxonomy Updates. Nearly 5,000 people from 122 countries – many practitioners in research or conservation – have already tuned in. We invite you to watch for the 2024 slate, starting with the January 18th webinar: Life History of the Black Falcon with Dr. Steve Debus. Past webinar recordings are available on our YouTube channel. A transcript is provided with every webinar to aid in translation.

More languages!

Speaking of translations, we are laying the groundwork to make Birds of the World available in other languages. We hope this will include the ability for authors to contribute to the platform in their native language. We’re incredibly excited by the potential this will have to expand development of and access to this top-tier ornithological content.

Clarity of purpose

Building a strong network of interconnected people and partners is critical to the success of Birds of the World, and indeed critical to bird conservation success at any level. That is why, as our purpose has matured, we emphasize that Birds of the World is as much a participatory platform as it is an authoritative resource. We seek every opportunity to learn and engage the world through ornithology and encourage you to share your own media, data, or insights.

By expanding content and access and developing stronger partnerships, Birds of the World plans to remain a foundational resource for global bird conservation. We will do this by being the singular source where the collected biology of every bird species, along with integrated data resources, can be discovered and used to power novel scientific research, education, and biodiversity conservation. The birds need us now more than ever, we must do our part. 


We can’t do it without your support! Thanks for all you do, as a reader, contributor, or partner for Birds of the World.  We’d love to hear feedback on how Birds of the World is working for you. If our work excites you and you’d like to give a special gift to the Cornell Lab to support projects like Birds of the World, we’d appreciate your support.

Our entire team wishes you a happy, healthy new year.

The Birds of the World Team


Photo credit: The IUCN endangered Cape Gannet (Morus capensis) by Adrian Boyle / Macaulay Library.