Saturday, November 15, 2014

Review: Thayer Software Birds of North America version 7

Thayer’s Birds of North America is a robust, yet easy and intuitive to use, program that belongs in every birders’ computer. Recently Version 7 has been released. To see how the program works and to find out why you should own it, see my previous review of a previous version, or watch Thayer’s You-Tube video.

There are a few things you should know about this new version.  First, it is only for the Windows platform. A Mac edition is promised for next spring. Next, Version 7 is free if you already own version 4.0, 4.5, 5.0, or 5.5!  Finally, if you don’t own any of these versions, then the price has been cut in half, from around $100 to $49.95. As a reader of this blog, you can use the code “DAN55057” when you place your order, and the price is reduced by $5.00! Orders can be placed at www.OnelineNatureMall.com or through http://www.thayerbirding.com. Because this program is downloaded from the publisher, it is not available through Amazon.com.

Why upgrade? The program now includes 6,504 photos (versus 3431 or fewer, depending on your current version) and the photos are larger. There are 1499 songs (older versions boasted up to 719). 985 species are covered (vs. 970 or fewer). The general layout and the maps are improved. The program now reflects current bird taxonomy. Finally, the number of videos has increased to 552 from 275 in some of the older versions.

One reason for the price reduction is that the program is now delivered by downloading or via a memory stick. The program is very large, at 6.86 gigabytes, and comes in six separate files. Directions for installing are remarkably clear, but, can take several hours if you have slow Internet service.

I am an enthusiastic, long-time Thayer Birding Software user. Readers of my previous reviews will recall that I required this program instead of a textbook in my ornithology classes. The cost was often less than a classical textbook, and The Birder’s Handbook, a 785-page reference book, is embedded in the program. Among many other aspects, what makes this program such a powerful learning tool is the ability to make customizable quizzes (or you can test yourself using quizzes that come with the program). My students were responsible for any species seen during their field trips. We reviewed birds after every lecture, and soon the students knew their birds well. And, if questions about subtle differences between birds arose, then the students could easily compare species by viewing side-by-side photographs. For more advanced birders, this program allows you to import your own photos and videos. Better yet, you can export photos and videos from the program into your iPod or MP3 player.

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