Why is Birds of the World a subscription service?

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology is dedicated to advancing the understanding and protection of the natural world. Inspired by the ability to galvanize a worldwide audience to learn about and protect birds, we provide a great number of free resources, including Merlin Bird ID app; the entire Macaulay Library collection; free maps at eBird Science and Trends; as well as the short species profiles used in All About Birds, Merlin Bird ID, and eBird.

However, these and other free resources are sometimes not enough. The questions people have about bird biology and ecology are sometimes too big, too broad, or too specific, to be answered in the free resources found on the web.

That’s where Birds of the World comes in. This resource is the most comprehensive collection of ornithological life histories on the planet. Not only is it taxonomically complete at 10,834 bird species and 249 families, but it is masterfully woven with multimedia from Macaulay Library; dynamic range maps from eBird (and other sources); and rich with factual content, data, and insights backed by hundreds of thousands of science citations.

Developing and maintaining this encyclopedic resource – and distributing it around the world – requires a scalable digital platform, a global and well-coordinated team of writers, editors, and media contributors, as well as a reliable business and customer support infrastructure. Therefore, every dollar generated by a paid subscription goes back toward supporting this ambitious project.

In short, the Cornell Lab gladly embraced the massive responsibility of maintaining, curating, and expanding this collection far into the future, and subscription revenue will ensure the resource grows to meet that challenge.

You will be glad to know that we also make Birds of the World freely available to people around the world that need it, especially in areas of greatest conservation need.

If you cannot afford access to Birds of the World, we encourage you to contact us to discuss options.