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The birds of Spain are the subject of the world’s most fully comprehensive digital ornithological encyclopedia

"La enciclopedia de las aves de España", a joint initiative of the BBVA Foundation and SEO/BirdLife, is intended as an introduction for the general reader into the fascinating world of birds.

This interactive, multimedia publication offers key facts on the life and habits of more than 500 bird species that reside, visit or have been spotted in Spain, along with their distribution patterns and the threats that confront them.

As well as the recreational and learning side of the bird-watching world, the encyclopedia describes the campaigns being conducted by environmentalist NGOs in favor of their conservation, and informs citizens wishing to get involved on how they can best contribute to this effort.

The first edition of this DVD-book runs to 60,000 copies and is supplemented by a dedicated website (, the idea being to reach as wide a public as possible. Though presented in an easy-to-read, educational style, the data contained in La enciclopedia de las aves de España draw on published scientific information and the expertise of the large network of volunteer ornithologists – some 4,000 in all – who collaborate regularly with SEO/BirdLife, compiling censuses of species or engaging in habitat recovery and public awareness campaigns.

A team of forty persons, plus over fifty collaborators and consultants, have worked for over two years under the editorial supervision of SEO/BirdLife to put together this multimedia project, making use of the latest computer technologies. Its authors, among them various reputed ornithologists, have strived to present their facts in plain language, accessible to the non-specialist reader, without sacrificing scientific accuracy. By this means, it is hoped, La enciclopedia de las aves de España will reach both an uninitiated public (children, young people, and adults) and those familiar with the subject but wishing to learn more, as well as professionals working in environmental, wildlife or related fields. Its more than 4,000 pages find room for around 1,600 photographs, 1,200 drawings, 370 sound recordings, 200 videos and 400 maps, alongside 15 ornithological reference works that can be downloaded in full, including titles like Libro Rojo de las Aves de España, Atlas de las Aves Reproductoras de España or Birds in Europe, Their Conservation Status.

All this information has been brought together in a DVD and website of 4 GB, produced using the latest, most flexible programming techniques to ensure that the same spectacular visual quality is maintained in both formats.

These features make La enciclopedia de las aves de España the most comprehensive digital birdlife guide ever. Its publication, moreover, comes at a time when experts are increasingly acknowledging birds’ importance as bioindicators of climate change, making a closer knowledge of their life histories more and more necessary. For this reason too, copies will be distributed free on request to education centers anywhere in Spain. The encyclopedia is divided into four main sections:

The encyclopedia covers 563 bird species found regularly or occasionally in Spain. Each common species (363 in all) has its own factsheet setting out its popular name in all of Spain’s official languages, its scientific and English names, its frequency and migratory status, identifying characteristics, habitats, distribution, population size, biology and ecology, the threats confronting it and conservation measures needed. As well as the audiovisual resources accompanying each entry, the DVD offers a comparison tool that helps users distinguish between similar species by their song and physical appearance.
This section combines play and learning activities, with features including three workshops on observing, photographing and drawing birds; interactive games for different ages and knowledge levels; a special section on garden birds and two main blocks devoted to bird-watching trips and soundscapes. Twenty-seven of the best bird-watching spots in Spain are described in detail, accompanied by a general map of Spain and interactive maps of each individual itinerary with photo highlights of local bird species and areas of outstanding natural interest. The soundscapes feature, meantime, takes users on an acoustic and visual tour through moving landscapes, where they can practice identifying the songs of the most commonly found species.
This section focuses on the main birdlife conservation activities organized by SEO/BirdLife and other environmental and wildlife NGOs. Citizens wishing to do their bit to protect birdlife and nature in general can participate as volunteers in a wide choice of programs including ringing campaigns, bird censuses, conservationist work and activities in protected areas.
Twelve ornithological themes are presented in this section. One deals with the origin of birds and their physical characteristics, in particular their reptilian ancestry, flying ability, skeletal structure, anatomic peculiarities, nervous system and sensory organs. Another looks at their distribution and classification, focusing on the evolution of modern birdlife, and its main distribution areas or endemisms. The chapter “Birds and their environment” covers topics to do with bird biodiversity and species’ adaptation to particular habitats, while “Flight” offers some little known facts on birds and their locomotion, with discussions on energy budgets, flightless birds and their adaptation to the aquatic medium.

Other themes covered are feeding behavior, courting and birdsong, nesting, hatching and chicks, and migration (its origin, navigation systems, flight techniques, etc.). The historic relationship between birds and humans, their conservation status in Spain and the main threats they face, conservation priorities, legal protection measures and citizens’ responsibilities are the remaining topics dealt with in this section, which also finds room for a brief history of ornithology.

Javier Fernández | alfa
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