Building Neotropical Birds in the classroom and beyond

Are you interested in new ways of building a love of biodiversity into your classroom? A Neotropical Birds species account can be a wonderful way to help a student build a personal connection with ornithology, while providing experience with some of the most vital skills a developing scientist will need.

Students, researchers, birders, ornithologists, photographers, and others from around the world are pitching in to create a truly collaborative resource for the life histories of Neotropical birds. Each account on Neotropical Birds is an online publication that represents a review of some of the most relevant aspects of avian biology for a species. Students who prepare an account will gain experience with the process of exploring primary scientific literature, synthesizing information across several sources, and writing on technical topics.

For many, preparing a species account can be a gateway to a better understanding of evolution, ecology, and natural history though the context of an organism. It can be a powerful way to get students to apply what they are learning to something tangible, and to get them thinking, and publishing, like an ornithologist.

Check out what people are saying about Neotropical Birds in the classroom:

I have incorporated writing an NB account as a requirement for my Ornithology course at Universidad de los Andes for three terms now, always with good results. My course involves both undergraduate and graduate students, and having students at various levels working in groups to produce an account has been a good experience for them, and has promoted collaboration among people who would rarely interact otherwise. I find that most students take the process very seriously and do really good work; they really value the experience in itself, and also because at the end they have something tangible that will be widely read and recognized and which they can add to their CV. I personally love the NB collaborative initiative, and I am very happy that my students can make a contribution to such a nice project; with so many birds in the Neotropics, there are tons of accounts to write, so I would encourage other professors in Latin America an elsewhere to join the project.

Daniel Cadena, professor, Universidad de los Andes. See: Bare-faced Ibis

The accounts have been great way to incorporate the science we are doing into my ornithology class because we are doing tanagers which are the subject of ongoing research in my lab. I think the students like doing it because instead of just a regular term paper, they actual contribute something that is shared with a broader community – scientists, birders, conservationists, etc. A typical course term paper ends up being discarded and forgotten, these accounts are something more permanent and are publicly shared. It’s something they can put on their CV/resume. Another thing I think students learn as part of the process is just how little is known about some species of Neotropical birds. I think many students start out assuming that we already know everything there is to know about all described species.” Kevin Burns, professor, San Diego State University. See: Seven-colored Tanager


I think writing an NB species account and having it published tackles many angles of academic and professional development for ornithology students. It makes you review the literature as well as contribute your own knowledge about a species of interest; it immerses you in the peer-review process of feedback and improvement of scientific writing, and finally you end up with a real, citable, contribution that can be widely used for research and conservation purposes as well as for your own professional records. Overall, it is well worth the while of any ornithology student.” Camila Gómez, Ph.D. student, Universidad de Los Andes. See: White-lored Warbler


Writing an article for Neotropical Birds was a fantastic experience. Not only did I learn great deal about my species, but I felt like I was making a significant contribution to our understanding of Neotropical bird species. After my first account, I volunteered to do more, because I believe that natural history information is critical to biology, with particular regard to ecology and evolutionary biology. Summarizing natural history information in a free and easily accessible medium like Neotropical Birds is massively important. It’s a great resource for ornithologists and birders alike.” Andrew Dreelin, undergraduate Biology student, Cornell University. See: Red Warbler


I‘m Vitor Gomes, fifteen years-old, from São Paulo, Brazil.  I am interested in tinamous because they’re mysterious, cryptic, and poorly-known birds, and this fascinates me so. When I saw Neotropical Birds for the first time, I got extremely excited. There is no other free and on-line resource with all this information. So I decided to contribute on the birds I love, tinamous. Actually all the research I did to fill the blanks was in some books I’ve got here and in a wide scientific literature, which I got searching on-line.” Vitor Gomes, high school student, Colégio Objetivo Senador Flaquer. See: Pale-browed Tinamou

Click here for more information about how to contribute.