HBW Alive: A Message from Josep del Hoyo from Lynx Edicions

Josep del Hoyo January 23, 2020
Josep del Hoyo
Josep del Hoyo, co-founder of Lynx Edicions and Senior Editor of the Handbook of the Birds of the World

I am honored to help welcome you to the brand new Birds of the World, a multi-layered website that I believe is the most powerful bird reference ever created. As one of the founders of Lynx Edicions and Senior Editor of the Handbook of the Birds of the World (HBW), it is my pleasure to see HBW thrive and expand in its new home at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and I was invited to take a moment to welcome you to this new platform.

As long-time subscribers know, this new publication has well-established roots and solid foundations, including the 17 volumes of the Handbook of the Birds of the World and its first online version, HBW Alive, the deep-diving Birds of North America and the very much needed Neotropical Birds, as well as the Macaulay Library, which now also holds the Internet Bird Collection (IBC), forming undoubtably the biggest assembly of audiovisual resources in the world. Of course, I cannot forget the important role played by the innovative eBird project, which is closely intertwined with Birds of the World. The eBird project has changed birding for so many people while representing a significant advance in Avian Science. Each of these projects has been running successfully for a good number of years and encompasses a huge amount of work by so many people that their combination in Birds of the World means the new project is already extremely rich even from its early infancy.

HBW Editors in 1992
Josep del Hoyo with HBW editors, circa 1992.

While being a fan of all of these projects, I can talk in further depth about the Handbook of the Birds of the World given my close involvement in it since its inception, which was also the beginning of our publishing house, Lynx Edicions. The goal was to create the first work where each and every one of the world’s bird species was treated in reasonable detail and illustrated. Since I was aware that I could not take on this huge enterprise on my own, I looked for partners, co-editors and many team members, and together we were able to found Lynx Edicions in 1989, officially start the HBW project in 1989, publish the first volume in 1992 and continue through to publish the last volume of the series in 2013.

The three Lynx Partners and the four Editors of HBW were vital for the project’s success, as well as the more than 70 staff members working at the publishing house over the years. But the team of professionals that participated in the volumes stretched out much farther and wider than our Barcelona base.

The texts were written by 277 expert authors from 40 different countries, and they occupied 13,367 pages and contained about 15 million words, divided between 17 volumes.

The team of artists comprised 31 recognized scientific illustrators from four different countries. The collection of plates includes a total of 20,617 figures distributed in 1031 plates in the 16 regular volumes, plus 84 more plates in the Special Volume to illustrate all of the new species that had been described during the life of the series.

So, the project was very much a collaborative effort and we like to think that the results for the participants, as well as for the scientific community and birds themselves, were positive. According to a large number of almost unanimously enthusiastic reviews in practically all of the journals and magazines about birds and the direct praise from many of our over 20,000 subscribers, it seems that the general acceptance of the work was very high.

For me, and certainly for many others who participated in the HBW project, I think it would have been a shame if the output of so many people putting in their hard work and dedication was left to collect dust on a shelf and be forgotten. Even before the books themselves were completed, we were already thinking of ways to avoid this and to give the data and material that we were compiling an indefinitely long life and the possibility to reach more interested people.

Personally, I cannot imagine a better way for the HBW project to move forward permanently than by forming part of Birds of the World, alongside these other great projects and with a platform designed for them to empower each other, and with all the know-how, the powerful human team and the resources of such an admirable institution like the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

I want to close this post with a wish: that Birds of the World, in addition to the scientific improvements it facilitates, be used strongly to improve bird conservation and, hence, the conservation of all biodiversity in these environmentally difficult times. Let’s be dedicated birders and rigorous scientists, but also let’s not forget to continue to act as much-needed conservation activists! Birds of the World will be a great tool to help with this intention.

Congratulations to the ambitious team behind Birds of the World and thank you to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology for giving our HBW project a good home where it can grow and thrive.

To all of its users, welcome again and enjoy learning about the amazing diversity of the birds of the world through the most complete online source to ever be created.