For HBW Subscribers

Dear former HBW Alive subscribers,

Welcome to the new Birds of the World! The Cornell Lab is committed to providing you with deep ornithological content in innovate ways. Launch day is only the beginning. Birds of the World is a living resource, with data, science, media, and features in a constant state of evolution. What you don’t see today, may be there in the future, so check back often.

To start, we’d like to introduce you to the Cornell Lab and address some common questions:

About the Cornell Lab of Ornithology

We are a membership institution with a mission to interpret and conserve the earth’s biological diversity through research, education, and citizen science focused on birds. Our diverse work enables discovery of new knowledge, innovation of new technologies to reveal that knowledge, teaching to foster new environmental leaders, inspiration to motivate change, and transforming science to action to make a difference on the ground. If you’re interested in learning more about what we do, watch this introductory video from our director John Fitzpatrick and read more about the Cornell Lab programs.

Access to Birds of the World

All paid HBW subscribers who opted into receiving communications from Cornell Lab by 26 February 2020 were given access to Birds of the World. Just click on the blue Sign In button (above) to log in with the Cornell username and password. If you have forgotten your credentials, click Forgot username? or Forgot password?

If you did not opt into receiving communications from us, then we were unable to move your account over.

Birds of the World vs. eBird vs. Macaulay Library

Delivery of Birds of the World relies on the integration of three core pillars: scholarly content (Birds of the World), bird observations (eBird), and multimedia (Macaulay Library).

As Birds of the World grows, it will become even more tightly integrated with eBird and the Macaulay Library, creating the ultimate tool for record keeping, observation data, and media, all underpinned by unparalleled life history information on birds. Learn more about this source content here.

Though we closely collaborate, these are three stand-alone programs at the Cornell Lab. Birds of the World is an online subscription service while contributing media/data to eBird and the Macaulay Library is free (and will always be free!). They have reciprocal benefits and the experience of one is enhanced by the experience with the other. But unlike HBW Alive/My Birding, you don’t have to buy Birds of the World to use eBird and Macaulay Library.

Note: the eBird team will contact you when your MyBirding data has been entered into the eBird database. This has been a priority but importing millions of bird observations AND multimedia assets to our system has taken longer than expected.  We apologize for the wait. But please know you can enter new data into eBird at ANY TIME!  Questions about eBird and My Birding should be directed to, not to Birds of the World. 

Features not in the initial release

Bringing together content from four major publications, two multimedia libraries, and a dataset of 700 million bird observations was a significant undertaking. To meet our goal of releasing an authoritative, well integrated product by early 2020, we incorporated as much content and functionality as possible (features list here), but some features from HBW did not make it into the initial release. Several key pieces of functionality will be implemented at a later date:

  • Ornithological Notes
  • Etymology of scientific bird names from James A. Jobling’s book, “Dictionary of scientific bird names”
  • Original HBW Family Accounts
  • Geographical Filters

As explained above, the My Birding feature does not exist in Birds of the World, per se, but we incorporated My Birding user data into eBird, a global citizen science project that transforms the passion for birding into critical data for research, conservation, and education.

Within eBird you can find Printable Checklists, a list of Target Species for upcoming trips, and schedule Needs Alerts for regions of choice. Review the eBird Help Desk.

My Birding vs. eBird platforms

It’s important to understand the differences between these two platforms, as each was designed with different goals in mind. The My Birding platform was developed by Lynx as a premium service to HBW Alive subscribers, with the goal of allowing users to keep track of their bird records, lists, and trip reports in a very personal way. These data were not originally designed to be shared with others—hence the name ‘My Birding’.

eBird was designed to create a free global bird monitoring database that gathers checklist data from birders to share with scientists, educators, and birders through a variety of web visualizations and data products. eBird checklists require specific dates and locations, and contain observations of birds, counts for each species, as well as additional information about the data collection event, such as the distance traveled, route, and duration. All submissions also go through our data quality process and may be reviewed by our team of volunteer experts with local expertise in identification, status, and distribution. By collecting checklist data in this way, eBird is able to create powerful science outputs, turning data collected by birders into actionable information for research and conservation applications.

The two platforms provide some of the same services to birders, but not all the features of one can be found in the other. My Birding users will notice a difference between the two, with eBird offering more tools in certain areas and My Birding in others. The Cornell Lab is committed to improving eBird, and while some of the My Birding features are currently not available in eBird we hope to develop new features in the future. As always development at scale takes time, so we ask for your patience.

Life lists vs. geo- and time-specific data

During data migration, it was clear that many My Birding users had a mix of data that was site-specific and date-specific (highly compatible with eBird), as well as a subset of data that is more geared toward basic personal listing with vague dates and imprecise locations.

For users with imprecise data, we default to a date of 1 January 1900 and link records to an entire country or state. These checklists are included in your personal listing tools (and light up the eBird badge on Birds of the World species accounts), but were excluded from eBird’s science dataset, and will not go through eBird’s data quality review.

Our hope is that the transfer of your My Birding data will help introduce you to eBird and that you will continue to participate, mobilizing your observations to help fill out eBird’s observation maps and get the most out of eBird’s tools (like site-specific “targets”) while at the same time helping science and conservation.

How to use eBird

The best way to get started with eBird is to take the free eBird Essentials Course that covers everything from entering your records to finding the best birding sites to how scientists use the data to understand bird distribution around the world. Also feel free to dive into the Explore pages of eBird, which provide a variety of ways to dig into eBird data. With 500,000 global users and more than half a billion bird records, eBird is a dynamic resource that we hope you will enjoy. If you have questions regarding eBird/My Birding, visit the eBird Help Center.

Mobile apps for eBird and Merlin

Download our free eBird mobile app and start entering your observations and media into eBird.

You might also enjoy Merlin Bird ID, a powerful app that offers quick bird identification help for beginning or advanced birders.


HBW Alive users are savvy about bird taxonomy and its implications. Obviously, the taxonomies used by HBW/BirdLife and eBird/Clements differ somewhat, but we have already carefully matched the species concepts between the two taxonomies. The migration of your My Birding data required a transfer to our taxonomy, but we maintained the observations at the finest scale possible, such that species reported in My Birding but not split by eBird were retained as the equivalent subspecies group in eBird. We continue to work closely with the HBW/BirdLife team—and other taxonomic authorities (e.g., IOC)—towards achieving more consensus and standardization in avian taxonomy.

More on taxonomy here.

We provide annual taxonomic updates as a free service for participants.

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

Josep del Hoyo, co-founder of Lynx Edicions and Senior Editor of Handbook of Birds of the World, sent words of welcome as HBW Alive finds a new home. Read Josep’s welcome here.

Whom do I contact for help?

Please write us with any questions or concerns. Like most nonprofits, we have a small staff, with only one person doing customer support for 8000 customers. We ask for your patience as we try to get back to you Monday through Friday, 8 – 4 pm. Meanwhile, please check the Subscription FAQs, Terms of Sale, and the About page for answers to common questions.

Subscription and access questions can be directed to our contact form.