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Instructions for Authors

Author's Role

The accounts will be written by ornithologists who are knowledgeable about their respective species. As an author your task will be to prepare the account for "your" species in accordance with the guidelines outlined below. This will be an opportunity for you to present a comprehensive account of this species, based both on surveys of the literature and also incorporating any of the unpublished data you may have. You will be cited as author of each species account to which you contribute, and you can list your article with your professional publications.

We welcome joint authorship of species accounts, especially if colleagues have studied aspects or populations of the species that you have not. In future editions of Neotropical Birds Online, the format will be more "open," allowing a collaborative environment that provides for the creation, editing and dissemination of natural history data.

[The platform for Neotropical Birds Online is LifeRay. We do not yet have online shell accounts online in LifeRay for most species. We apologize for that. We're working on preparing the site for the authors, and we hope to have all the pieces that authors will need in place soon. We will notify all authors, of course, as soon as we have these shells available. At that time we also will provide instructions on how to log onto this site, and how to enter and manage content - text, photos, etc. - in LifeRay. In the meantime, please continue to gather resources, collect your thoughts, and even to begin preparation of the text in a word-processing format, following the guidelines below and the example of the prototype accounts that already are online (e.g., Creamy-breasted Canastero and White-crested Elaenia, which you also can reach through the Species Accounts tab at the top of this page). If you have any questions, please contact the project editor: Thomas S. Schulenberg,]

Instructions: Text


You should provide a critically compiled, accurate, and concise summary of present biological knowledge (and ignorance) of a species. Please follow the standard format and terminology as presented below, to help a reader find desired information and to compare data for different species.

The account should be built upon published data, supplemented with new, previously unpublished data if these are available. The amount of information available for many Neotropical species, however, will be sparse. The species account will be a good opportunity to point out gaps in our knowledge. Point out any aspects of your species that seem intriguing for future research. The combination of information, references, and questions should be a powerful stimulus for new studies.

In most cases, the account should present the biology of the species as a whole. Be attentive, however, to variation between subspecies, populations, or morphs. In some cases it may be better to treat groups of subspecies separately. Consult the editor if you have problems with or questions about how to treat differences within your species.

The topical outline is not very long and or detailed, with only six major subject headings (Home, Identification, Distribution, Life History, Conservation, and Priorities for Future Research), and 25 additional subheadings (see Neotropical Birds Online Content Headings). Under many of these subheadings, we also list some recommended topics (in italics). This list of recommended topics is provided as an aid to authors, as a guide to suggest what kinds of information to search for regarding your species, and as a suggestion on which heading or subheading is the appropriate "home" for some kinds of information.


  • Strive to be clear and concise.
  • Use metric units.
  • Avoid overly technical language, bearing in mind that these accounts are intended to be useful to a wide audience.
  • Citations should be given parenthetically at the end of a sentence, where possible, instead of at the beginning.
  • Write dates in the following order: day, month, year (e.g., 25 Nov 1986).
  • Designate clock time in the 24-hour system and write it as 0930 or 1645 h.
  • Statistics should include, wherever possible: mean (x), standard deviation (SD), sample size (n), extremes (lowest-highest), and the source of the data (see below).


  • Use EndNote to organize your "references cited," if at all possible.
  • Descriptions of a general nature do not need to be documented.
  • References should be given both for non-original specific information that you are reporting and for details or discussion to be found in the literature.
  • New, unpublished information should be labeled in parentheses as to its source, whether your own work, another's, or the files of an agency or institution.
  • For your own data, give your initials; for other people's data, give their name (including first initials) plus "pers. comm." to signify "personal communication."
  • If the information will be reported in a manuscript that has been accepted for publication, it may be cited as "in press." Otherwise, do not cite unpublished information as "in prep."
  • Do not cite abstracts from meetings without an author's permission.
  • All citations of published literature given in the text should also be listed in the References section, and, conversely, all references in the list should be cited.
  • Carefully check the accuracy of citations against the actual sources.
  • Cite the original version instead of a reprint or secondary source wherever possible.
  • In-text citations of works by three or more authors should be in the form "Jones et al."
  • A series of citations should be listed in chronological order (e.g., Muridinger 1975, Baptista 1977).
  • In the References section, list a series of publications by the same principal author in the following sequence: principal author alone (chrono¬logical order); principal author plus one coauthor (alphabetically by coauthors, then chronologically); principal author plus more than one coauthor (alphabetically by coauthors, then chronologically).
  • Titles for serial publications should be spelled out, wherever possible.
  • For additional details, follow the format for "Literature Cited" for The Auk ( Consult the project editor for any remaining questions regarding literature citations.

Instructions: Illustrations


We will provide a map for each species. Accurate, high-quality distribution maps are lacking for many species of neotropical birds, however. Please consult the editor if you have important distributional data that greatly conflicts with the map that we provide.


One or more photographs of the species should be included in the account. Please feel free to use your own photographs, if you have images of your species and if they are of good quality.

Neotropical Birds Online can not pay for photographs or images. If you do not have photographs of your species, or if you believe that you need additional images, then please consult colleagues, and search for images on the internet. We initiated a web site for the collection of images to be used for Neotropical Birds Online, (, and this should be one of your first sources to consult. There are many other image sharing sites on the internet, which you should consult as well.

Images can be used throughout the species page, as needed to illustrate different points. (See, for example, the draft pages on Orange-breasted Falcon as a potential model on the use of photographs to compare two similar species: At least one image should appear on the "Overview," as an introduction to the species (e.g., . If appropriate, additional images can appear elsewhere in the account, to illustrate topics such as different plumages (male or female, immature plumages or adult plumages, etc.; e.g.,, geographic variation, separation from similar species, nest placement and structure, egg color, interesting behaviors, and so on. Also consider using images to illustrate typical habitat of the species.

Image insertion should also be done using LifeRay, as the image will be lost if it is included in a word processing file. [We will post instructions on how to insert images using LifeRay, once the shell accounts are online.]


Vocalizations (songs and calls) and nonvocal sounds (e.g., sounds produced by the bill or by the remiges or rectrices) should be described verbally. Hearing each sound is equally instructive for the user, of course. Therefore, after describing each sound, try to provide a link to a representative example of this sound, if available. The primary sources of online digitized birds sounds are the Macaulay Library, Cornell Lab of Ornithology ( and xeno-canto (

Sound spectrographs also can added to the account, as an additional feature that helps to describe the vocalization.

[We will post instructions on how to insert sounds and images (spectrographs) using LifeRay, once the shell accounts are online.]

Preparing Your Manuscript

It is most effective to write your account online ( ). The platform for Neotropical Birds Online is LifeRay; please consult the section on LifeRay for basic instructions on writing your account online. [will be available when the shell accounts are online - not ready yet, sorry!]

If your species does not yet have a template on the Neotropical Birds Online site, please inform the project editor. [Don't complain yet - we'll let authors know when their shell accounts should be online]

If your access to the internet is limited for any reason, then the account can be written in a word processing program (such as Microsoft Word) and later "pasted" onto the web site. Be aware, however, that many word processing programs will introduce hidden, and unwelcome, codes onto the web page. Therefore, please do not "cut and paste" a raw word processing document into your account. Instead, save your document as a .text file (.txt format), and then paste the text file to the web pages. Note, however, that once you paste a txt file into LifeRay, you will need to use the online editor to add formatting such as bold font or italics, as well as to add web links. [For those reasons, we are trying to get the shell accounts online as early as possible] Image insertion should also be done using liferay as the image will be lost if it's included in the word processing file.

Content Levels - Overview

The following outline shows which subjects to include, as far as possible, and their recommended arrangement. You are not expected to be able to provide information on every subject included in the outline. Some subjects do not apply to every species. On the other hand, you are welcome to include subjects that are not listed.

In the following list, the major headings are shown in capital letters and bold font. These are the headings that are listed down the left-hand side of each species page. The sub-headings are shown in regular font; these subheadings are built into the template for each species account. In places, under a subheading, we provide a suggested list of topics, in smaller font and in italics. This list of recommended topics is provided as an aid to authors, as a guide to suggest what kinds of information to search for regarding your species, and as a suggestion on which heading or subheading is the appropriate "home" for some kinds of information.

  • Home
  • Identification
    • Summary
    • Similar Species
    • Vocalizations
      • Development
      • Vocal array
      • Geographic variation
      • Phenology
      • Daily pattern
      • Places of vocalizing
      • Repertoire and delivery of songs
      • Social context and presumed function
      • Species recognition
    • Nonvocal sounds
    • Detailed description (appearance)
    • Bare Parts
    • Measurements
    • Molts
    • Geographic Variation
    • Systematics
  • Distribution
    • The Americas
    • Breeding range
    • Nonbreeding ("winter") range
    • Migration
    • Extralimital ("other") records
    • Other considerations: be sure to include some indication of the elevational range of the species, or of constituent subspecies/populations
    • Outside the Americas
    • Habitat
    • Historical changes
    • Fossil history
  • Life History
    • Food
      • Main food taken
      • Quantitative analysis
      • Microhabitat for foraging
      • Food capture and consumption
      • Food selection and storage
      • Nutrition and energetic
      • Metabolism and temperature regulation
      • Drinking, pellet-casting, and defecation
    • Behavior
      • Locomotion
      • Foraging
      • Self-maintenance
      • Agonistic behavior
    • Territoriality
    • Sexual behavior
      • Mating system and sex ratios
      • Pair bond
      • Courtship display
      • Extra-pair copulations
    • Social and interspecific behavior
    • Predation
      • Kinds of predation
      • Response to predation
    • Reproduction
      • Nest- includes description of nest, material, placement, etc.
      • Eggs ¿ includes shape, size, color, etc.
      • Clutch size
      • Incubation
      • Parental care ¿ condition at hatching, growth and development, brooding, feeding, etc.
      • Cooperative breeding
      • Brood parasitism
    • Populations and Demography
      • Age at first breeding
      • Life span and survivorship
      • Diseases and body parasites
      • Dispersal
      • Population regulation
  • Conservation
    • Conservation status
    • Effects of human activity on populations
  • Priorities for Future Research
  • References
  • Acknowledgements
  • Multimedia
    • Photos
    • Audio
    • Video [Video would be nice, but in practice this is something we won't add to the species accounts any time soon]

Content Levels — A Closer Look

Home (Overview)

The home page for each account should include an overview or introduction to the species. This could be from one to three or four paragraphs long. The purpose is to introduce this species to the reader. Summarize the major features of appearance, distribution, and natural history.


Summary:Provide a quick overview of the appearance of this species, and indicate whether it is closely similar to other species.

Similar Species: Present detailed comparisons to similar species, if any.

Vocalizations: Describe the vocalizations of your species, as best you can. Although data may be lacking for most or all of these topics, search for information on the ontogenetic development of vocalizations; geographic variation in voice; the daily pattern of vocalizing; the annual pattern of vocalizing; places where the species vocalizes; repertoire size; the rate of delivery of songs; the social context and presumed function of different vocalizations; and so on. We intend to allow authors to add links to recordings of many species of neotropical birds, using the collections of the Macaulay Library at the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology ( or xen-canto ( ( We will post further information about using sounds on your species page at a later date.

Nonvocal Sounds: Describe, if any, in similar fashion.

Detailed Description: Should be just that, a description of the plumage of the species, in detail. Describe a definitive (adult) plumage first, followed where necessary (and where information is available) on the plumage of the opposite sex, and of the plumages of non-breeding adults, and then of immature and nestlings/downy young.

Bare Parts: Describe the colors of the iris, bill, tarsi and toes, and exposed bare skin such as the cere and orbital ring. When possible, describe the colors of live or freshly dead birds, either from direct observation or notes on specimen labels. Do not trust museum skins or color photographs for subtleties of color. Mention geographic variation, if known.

Measurements: Relevant measurements include overall length and mass. Present any additional measurements that are relevant and available, such as wingspan. If sample sizes permit, arrange the data by sex, age, subspecies, or other relevant subdivision. Provide means, standard deviations, ranges, and sample sizes. Avoid using measurements from field guides, because these are likely to be secondary or inaccurate. When measuring wing length, measure the chord of the unflattened wing, from the carpal joint to the tip of the longest primary.

Molts: This is a very poorly known subject for most neotropical birds. To the extent that data are available, describe each of the molts and plumages in the sequence they in which these occur developmentally, i.e., from natal to Definitive Basic (and Alternate, if any). Include the timing and extent of each molt and the sequence of replacement in the remiges and rectrices. Base your description on a designated subspecies (usually the most widespread or best-known), then discuss geographic variation (if any) in other subspecies or populations. Give representative dates of each molt, if these are known. Discuss any geographic variation in the timing or extent of molts, if known. Use the concepts and terminology of Humphrey and Parkes (1959) for describing the molts and plumages.

Geographic Variation: List the subspecies that currently are recognized (see the Handbook of the Birds of the World series, Clements 2007, and Dickinson 2003). Briefly summarize trends in size, color, vocal¬izations, or any other traits that are known to vary geographically.

Systematics: Present information, if available, regarding the phylogenetic relationships to other species within the genus, or between this genus and related species. Discuss the extent of hybridization, if any, between this species and related taxa. This also is a section in which to discuss any data that might conflict with the current taxonomy of the species or of the genus.


Do not rely on the distribution map that we provide. Outline the current geographic distribution of this species in terms of departmental or provincial, and country boundaries. Discuss any significant details that cannot be expressed easily on the map, particularly on breeding status. Also provide an elevational range for the distribution of the species, if necessary sub-divided by season or by subspecies. Discuss the history of foreign species introductions where populations have become established.

"The Americas" includes North, Middle, and South America and all near shore islands; Bermuda, the West Indies, including the Lesser Antilles; and the Aleutian Islands. If relevant to your species, describe separately the breeding range and the nonbreeding range of your species, and areas where it occurs during migration. Describe the timing and routes of migration on a broad geographic scale, yet point out known differences among populations. Give references to regional works for details and representative dates. Mention differential migration of age and sex classes in time and space, if any, giving precise information where possible; whether migration is diurnal or nocturnal (if this is known); etc. Report valid records (with references) of occurrence beyond the normal range.

The Hawaiian distribution of your species (if any) should be listed at the beginning of the "Outside the Americas" section.

Habitat: We recommend that authors follow the classification of habitats of Stotz et al. (Neotropical birds: ecology and conservation, 1996, University of Chicago Press). Authors who lack access to this volume should notify the project editor.

Distinguish between habitats where the species occurs usually and those where it is uncommon. Do not discuss habitat selection unless there is evidence that the birds select where they are going to live. Compare habitats between your species and close relatives, particularly where they are sympatric. Where relevant, discuss habitat(s) according to the seasonal range in this order: breeding, migration, and winter.

Historical changes: Discuss any changes in the distribution of the species during the recent past, such as range expansions or contractions, introduced populations, etc. There will be little or no historical changes for many neotropical species, but this section will be important for the discussion of the distribution of some birds.

Fossil history: There will be little information on this topic for most neotropical species.

Life History

Food: Discuss the principal items in the diet of the species. The focus in this section should be on the food habits of adults; food provided to young birds should be discussed under Reproduction. Provide a quantitative analysis of the diet, if possible. Also discuss any microhabitats for foraging, and variation, if any, in diet or foraging behavior according to sex, age, season, subspecies or population, etc.

Behavior: Discuss a bird's manner of moving about, foraging, taking care of itself, and interacting with other individuals of the same or different species Describe the physical movements, mention any specific anatomical or physiological adaptations, and give any measurements of performance (e.g., speed of travel, number of wingbeats per second, altitude of flight, depth and duration of dives), if available.

Authors of accounts of non-aquatic species should use the classification scheme of Remsen and Robinson (1990, A classification scheme for foraging behavior of birds in terrestrial habitats, pages 144-160 in Studies in Avian Biology number 13 ) when describing foraging behavior. Authors who do not have access to this publication should contact the project editor.

Territoriality: Present any data on territoriality or spacing of the species.

Sexual behavior: Present any information on the mating system of the species (e.g., polyandrous, polygynous, socially monogamous, etc.). Discuss extra-pair copulations, if these are reported. Also describe any courtship displays.

Social and interspecific behavior: Describe where the species should be placed on a continuum from solitary to highly gregarious; also discuss whether the sociality of the species changes during different seasons, the approximate size of flocks or aggregations, etc.

Predation: This section is intended to provide data on the species as prey, or on its response to predators; if the species is a predator, then the subject will have been discussed under "Food."

Reproduction: This is an important part of the annual cycle of all species, but also is a topic that is poorly documented for many neotropical species. Data to report, if available, include: phenology (the representative dates for different stages of breeding, and, if documented, a mention of the factors that control breeding in this species); nest site, including a mention of any associated microhabitat; the roles of the sexes in nest construction, incubation, brooding, and in provisioning of the young; whether the species is a cooperative breeder, and if so, the roles and contributions of different members of the cooperating group; the composition and form of the nest; the number of eggs in the clutch (with mean, range, and standard deviation, if there are sufficient data); the color, size, and mass of the eggs; and the incubation period (the time in days, or in hours if possible, from the laying of the last egg in the clutch until the hatching of the last egg; the length of the period until fledging; and the number of clutches per breeding season or per year.

Also describe the condition of the young birds at hatching (amount of downy feathering), the length of stay in the nest, when the species develops the ability of move about and find its own food, etc.

Mention whether this species is known to be parasitized by brood parasites, and how the species responds to and is affected by brood parasitism.

If data are available, also report reproductive success.

Demography and Populations: There may be little data on these subjects. If available, report information on such factors as the age at first breeding; life span and survivorship (but please explain how these were calculated); reported diseases or body parasites; causes of mortality; population status (density or abundance), by season if data are available; and the factors, if known, the affect population regulation.


Conservation status: Discuss the conservation status of the species both in terms of relative abundance (which may vary geographically), and in terms of formal threat assessment rankings. Major sources of information on threat assessment rankings include the BirdLife International species pages (search from, and the data tables by Parker et al. in Stotz et al. 1996 (Neotropical Birds: ecology and conservation, University of Chicago Press). Also report whether this species has a special conservation status in one or more of the countries within its range.

Effects of human activity on populations: This is a broad topic, although data often are limited. Discuss "effects" both in terms of "negative" effects, such as activity that contributes to avian mortality or population declines; and "positive" effects, such as management and population or habitat restoration programs.

Priorities for Future Research

Given what you know about your species, summarize those aspects of its biology that need further study. For many neotropical species, of course, the answer may be "everything"! Previous sections probably already have indicated subjects for which data are lacking or are limited. This section gives you the chance to summarize and discuss these gaps, pointing out areas where future researchers should concentrate their efforts, and to prioritize these information gaps by their relative importance.


You should acknowledge individuals or institutions who gave unpublished data, loan of specimens, references, field or laboratory assistance, special facilities, or financial support, or who reviewed drafts of some or all of your account. If you borrowed specimens or received service from an institution, credit the institution as well as the person who handled it for you. Don't bother to say "I wish to thank, just "I thank."


ALL references cited in your text must also be included in this section. Do not give publication dates for references that are in press. Such references must be listed as "in press" if they have not actually been published at the time you post your account.

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About Neotropical Birds

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