Monday, June 18, 2012

Review: Thayer Birding Software

I have always been a big fan of Thayer's Birding Software. Thayer Birding has released two interesting new editions of their software: Version 4.5 (For Widows XP, Vista, Widows 7 and Mac OSX 10.4 to 10.7) and Gold version 5.5 (for Windows XP, Vista, and Windows 7--BUT NOT FOR THE MAC, unless you run a Windows emulation program in your Mac.) Thayer provides free updates for birders who already own version 4.0 and Gold 5.0. Those of us with older versions need to purchase new DVDs.

This software is an incredibly robust tool for learning the birds of North America. When I taught ornithology, my students bought these DVDs in place of a normal textbook. Although the prices of these products seem expensive, most college textbooks cost more! In any case, the DVDs come with an imbedded 785-page copy of The Birder's Handbook. While perhaps not replacing a traditional ornithology text, this handbook, linked to individual species accounts, provides extensive bird biology.
These DVDs provide students with the ultimate set of flash cards for learning birds. Students can easily produce quizzes covering all birds, state birds, or even local birds. After using these quizzes, my students commented that identifying birds was pretty easy. I replied that most things become easy if you study as hard and as often as they did while using their Thayer bird quizzes. Bird calls included in this software can be transferred to iTunes, and thus used on cell phones, iPods or other MP3 players. 

There are many improvements among the various editions of these DVDs. You can check out the many features of these DVDs at Thayer Birding Software. The one that inspired this review, however, is the inclusion of over 600 photos of bird eggs and nests. This feature makes this resource all the more valuable for birders. Briefly, the Gold edition now contains 970 species and 3,431 photos. There are 719 bird songs and 552 video clips.  (Compare this to 702 species, 2,501 photos and 655 songs in version 3.9). In addition to more video clips, version 4.5 adds 53 new species from previous editions.
Don't be misled by my emphasizing beginners' learning birds with these DVDs. This software will be enjoyed by birders of all abilities. More advanced birders will enjoy identifying new birds, studying birds to be found during travels to new parts of the country, studying unfamiliar bird calls, and even keeping up electronic lifelists. For example, I used my Thayer Birding Software in south Texas to identify the Mottled Duck photographed below. I was able to pull up side-by-side comparisons of Mottled, Black, and Mallard ducks, facilitating the identification of this difficult species.

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