The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds is undoubtedly the most innovative avian reference guide to come along in many years. In fact, the guide represents such a bold leap forward that reading it makes one wonder what the future of bird guides holds. This is why we asked readers to share their views on the NEXT big step in bird guide design, philosophy, or technology as part of our Fun, Fun, Fun Crossley ID Guide Giveaway. This is the first entry in a three-part series discussing those predictions:

Almost every prediction about bird field and reference guides agrees that the future is digital and portable, featuring full multimedia capability

I think the future of field guides is advancing the digital versions.  While there are a few (nat geo, sibley, etc.) I can’t get a good feel for them (I still prefer my book version).  Although, I do like having bird calls handy.  I think the digital guides need to improve in user-friendliness.

The future definitely will be electronic. A complete guide would have pictures, audio, and video (something like Thayers birding software).

Based on the many references to how Apple products impact the future of birding guides, one has to wonder if Steve Jobs isn’t a bird watcher himself!

I think the future of ID guides is video.  With the availability of ipods, etc. videos of the birds would help out tremendously.

The future of ID guides in is handheld digital format.  Ipods are the big thing and can hold a lot of information you can’t possibly have in a physical guides.

The future of ID guides is digital.  With ipods and iphones you can carry a lot more information than multiple books. Digital guides still have to reach a better caliber (in my opinion) to really make books obsolete however.

Digital guides (for ipod, etc.) are the future of field guides.  Not only are there super portable and contain loads of information, they include audio of bird calls/songs.

A field guide run on an ipod or phone that not only shows pictures and audio butgives video of diagnostic behavior.  This and giving more audio options such as chip calls.

The future of ID guides will be electronic (ipod, iphone, etc.) with (hopefully) more extensive audio (chip notes, non-vocal sounds, etc.).  Video clips would be good too.

Some visionaries have a clear idea of how various technologies might converge to facilitate field birding…

An online version (and for the iPad)

  1. with sound files (including spectrograms) of birdsong associated to the pictures, and videos of birds in flight.
  2. The birdranges geotagged (I love GoogleEarth), so that when you visit an area, say Braddock Bird Center on Lake Ontario, you get the list of sitings for that site, I.e. a kind of where-to-eat app for birds. And in .kmx files
  3. as well as the bird counts, if available for an area,  done each fall and spring
  4. and information about the status of the birds that come through a given area

Others understand that, in this brave new world of birding, there will be customization…

The increasing ubiquity of handheld computers like iPhones and Kindles and the imminent completion of the Handbook of the Birds of the World will create a new kind of guide. With a library of every single bird on Earth at their disposal there will be an app that allows you to “create your own guide” based on your location.  Off to the Amazon? Download the relevant images and info into a location specific guide. No need to page through dozens of plates of similar looking species anymore. On a day trip to Oregon for business? Access all the local birds straight off the web.

And some lovely dreamers imagine the day that technology will once and for all solve ALL of our field identification issues…

I think the future bird books will have some sort of digital component that you can take out into the field and identify birds. Perhaps a chip that you insert into your digital binoculars, look at the bird, and it identifies it for you.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted their predictions about the future of birding field guides. How do you imagine technology will impact the future of bird field and reference guides?

Written by Mike
Mike is a leading authority in the field of standardized test preparation, but he's also a traveler who fully expects to see every bird in the world. Besides founding 10,000 Birds in 2003, Mike has also created a number of other entertaining but now extirpated nature blog resources, particularly the Nature Blog Network and I and the Bird.