Birdbase & Birdarea software

Published by Santa Barbara software

Please note that this software is sent from the USA.


Nearly all birders who declare life lists over 6000 in the latest American Birding Association List Report, and who use computers, use BirdBase and BirdArea. It is the birding software most widely used by all those over the 1400 species reporting threshold. The same is true of the top ten world listers.


BirdBase, which contains every species in the latest update of the latest edition of Dr. James Clements' Birds of the World, was built from the ground up by Santa Barbara Software Products to satisfy your needs as a serious birder: this Windows sightings program is easy to use, is extremely fast, has extremely-well designed and executed features, and yet uses the least computer memory and hard disk space -- a lifetime's accumulation of sightings will not even begin to fill the very smallest hard disk. And with BirdBase you will never have to discard your sightings database and start over again due to the frequent changes in bird names and taxonomy. The more sightings you record the more you will appreciate the way the program protects your database. A bird sightings database recorded by BirdBase will never be outgrown.


The latest addition to the Santa Barbara Software Products family of birding programs is BirdArea, a Windows database manager that has detailed information about the range of every Clements' bird species. It and BirdBase are independent programs. BirdArea used alone can produce check lists for any world area from the range data, with endemics labelled, that are invaluable when planning birding trips and during the trips. In fact, we sell BirdArea without BirdBase to world birding tour operators who use it to produce check lists for their clients. And some BirdBase owners do not have BirdArea. But most of them do because when BirdBase has recorded sightings BirdArea has many additional capabilities. Furthermore, BirdArea makes the BirdBase short list feature much more powerful.

Computer requirements

BirdBase and BirdArea will run on any computer that uses Windows 95, 98, ME, XP, NT, 2000, Vista or 7 and has a CD ROM drive, several megabytes of unused hard disk space, and enough RAM to run a substantial Windows program. The software can also run on a powerful Macintosh that uses a Windows emulation program such as Virtual PC.


  • It contains on disk a list of all the species in the new 6th edition of Dr. James Clements' Birds of the World (the American Birding Association's official world bird list). Every species is identified by its English common family and species names, by its scientific order, family, genus, and species names, and by a taxonomical sequence number that tells you at a glance where the species occurs in the list.
  • To let you keep up with the changes so frequently occurring in bird names and taxonomy, such changes are easily incorporated in either bird list: species, genera, families, and orders can be renamed, added, deleted, moved, combined, or split. In all of these operations (except a split) all bird sightings previously recorded are brought into agreement with the new bird list automatically -- a feature that can save you a tremendous amount of work. (After BirdBase has split a species in the bird list it shows the sightings of the split species and, for each, asks to which species produced by the split should the sighting be assigned.) There is absolutely no limitation to the taxonomical changes that can be made, so your database can never become outdated. And the common names can be translated to most European languages.
  • The 6th edition of Dr. Clements' book made major changes in the ABA list of world birds, such as moving many families to new positions in the taxonomical sequence. Santa Barbara produced a utility that automates putting all the changes in BirdBase, as well as in its previously recorded sightings. But with a little effort BirdBase users can do this themselves without the utility by employing the program facilities just described, and users have done so. As an example, moving a family of one hundred species with a total of two hundred sightings takes about a dozen mouse clicks with BirdBase. Before investing many hours over the years recording data in a sightings program be absolutely sure it lets you maintain the integrity of the database yourself instead of making you depend on someone else to continue producing special utilities!
  • A sighting gives the date, location, and circumstances in which a bird was seen. After recording once the date plus general location and circumstances for all the sightings of a birding trip, each bird seen on the trip is recorded by using a list which shows both the common and the scientific names of each bird species. A bird seen is recorded by scanning the list for it then clicking the mouse, or by using a very fast name-finding feature then clicking the mouse. A note of up to 5000 words can be recorded with each sighting to describe its specific location and circumstances. There is also a quick-recording mode available if no notes are used. And any errors in sightings can be corrected easily. Any experienced birder will confirm that it is often necessary to consider both common and scientific names to determine what birds were seen on a foreign birding trip.
  • When finding a common name you need to type only a string of consecutive letters which you think is long enough to make it unique to the name. You do not need to capitalize or include the spaces, hyphens, and apostrophes that are so difficult to get right since there is continuing disagreement about how they should be used. (For example, "rsseaea" will find "Steller's Sea-Eagle." If the string typed proves to have several matches, because it was not quite long enough to be unique, you are shown each and can pick the correct one.) In finding a scientific name you type the first three or more letters of the genus, a space, then the first three or more letters of the species. (Allowing these short strings to be matched anywhere in the names would produce many false matches. Furthermore, requiring them to be at the beginnings of the names puts the feature in accord with an abbreviated notation for scientific names frequently used by serious birders. For example, "pha pen" is used as an abbreviation for "Phalacrocorax penicillatus" and in BirdBase the abbreviation will find the name.) These features, are very important in making it easy to record the birds seen on a trip.
  • Recording is made even easier by the fact that either the "full list" or a "short list" of bird names can be used. The short list can be the birds of North America, or any other part of the world.
  • Nine built-in life lists -- plus thousands of life lists and annual lists that you design just as you like -- are updated automatically when sightings are recorded. The program can display any of these lists, and a hit list of the full list or short list birds you have not seen. Producing from nearly 30000 sightings a complete screen display of more than 3000 species on a world life list (the life list for the data demonstrated in the page linked to the list near the top of this page) takes only twelve seconds (on a 100 MHz Pentium computer with 16 Mb of RAM).
  • You design a list for the program to display by limiting the sightings on it to one -- or several -- of the following: any of the eight world faunal zones; any ABA reporting region or area; any nation; any state, province, county, etc., of every nation; any area with boundaries defined by latitude or longitude, any particular location; any particular trip; any species, genus, family, or order; sightings which are or are not "marked" in any way you wish (e.g., "photographed," "heard but not seen," "seen on nest," "immature," "particular birder," etc.); any range of dates between 1900 and 2100; the earliest sighting of each species in any range of dates. These lists, which are produced in taxonomical and/or chronological sequence, can show only the common and scientific names of their birds. Or they can show full information about every sighting they contain, with each multiline note for a sighting displayed in its proper place along with the sighting's other information.
  • BirdBase is uniquely well suited to dealing with subspecies -- which have recently become of great interest to many birders as a result of their inclusion in the 6th Edition of Dr. Clements' book. BirdBase allows a user to enter subspecies names in a sighting note drop-down list which can hold many more names than the total number of avian subspecies. Editing the list is easy, it alphabetizes itself automatically, and it has quick-find features. The subspecies names can be entered in the list by the user typing in only those that are needed and only when the need arises. Or all of them can be entered automatically when BirdBase is first installed by the All Subspecies Add-On described below. Since the list is accessible when the user is writing the note to be recorded for an individual sighting, specifying the subspecies sighted becomes a rapid procedure. Furthermore, the program lets sightings displayed be limited to those for which their notes contain a particular subspecies name and makes the drop-down list available when specifying the limitation. Consequently, BirdBase users can produce life and annual lists of all of their sightings of a particular subspecies for the whole world or any part of the world.
  • A trip summary display shows the date, location, and total number of species seen for birding trips in any season of earlier years. It will suggest fruitful trips to take this year. Another display shows for each year the initial sightings (first arrivals) or final sightings (last departures) at any location of any migrating species. And there is a display tabulating species and individuals seen in Christmas counts and other population surveys.
  • All displays can be put on screen, printed on paper, or written to text or data disk files for word processors, spread sheets, etc. The paper and word processor disk file outputs are exact images of the screen displays. And the use of a nonproportional font allows the formatting in the displays to be done entirely with space characters. This absence of special formatting characters makes it very much easier for you to post properly formatted lists of the birds seen on a trip to Internet news groups or mailing lists. And the disk files let you include the information in a document you are writing or use it for technical purposes such as statistical analyses and graphing.
  • Special provisions make it very easy for two people who frequently, but not always, do their birding together to record their sightings in the same database.
  • The program always describes on screen every choice currently available to the user. And there is on-screen help which shows an alphabetized list of every possible procedure, with click-by-click instructions for carrying it out. The users manual contains complete click-by-click tutorials that assume very little prior computer experience. And we provide at no charge unlimited help by telephone, e-mail, fax, and post.
  • What BirdBase does not have is a rudimentary data file backup facility. Santa Barbara consider such facilities to be undesirable because they divert users from making backups with the safety and convenience of backup software produced by professionals specializing in it.

Pocket PC Add-On for BirdBase:

Some time ago Santa Barbara considered the feasibility of entering sightings in the field on miniature devices using the Palm operating system, for subsequent transfer to BirdBase. But they concluded that it is not practical for the following reasons.

Serious birders want to record the circumstances in which a sighting is obtained. Also, for trips outside their usual birding territory they frequently must record field marks for later analysis to be sure they have properly identified the bird. Thus they need to include detailed notes with many or most of their sightings. But words are entered in Palm devices by writing their letters with a stylus on a region of the screen which is so small that they must be written one letter at a time. And they must be written very carefully in particular ways that for many letters are quite different from the ways they are normally written -- which is why they are called graffiti, not letters. This is difficult, time consuming, error prone, and therefore very distracting.

But the situation has changed dramatically with the recent introduction of equally miniature, and not very expensive, devices based on the Microsoft Pocket PC operating system. They remove the problem because with a Pocket PC a sighting note spoken into its built-in microphone is recorded on its memory chip and automatically attached to the sighting being entered.

We have developed software called the Pocket PC Add-On. It puts one or more of any of the BirdBase "short lists" in a Pocket PC as a document for the device's word processor, Pocket Word. To enter a sighting while in the field, the user finds the species in the document by applying the word processor's Find facility to its common or scientific name. Then several taps of a stylus put the sighting in the document. The user records a note for the sighting by speaking into the Pocket PC microphone. On returning from the field, the add-on software reads the document and enters its sightings into BirdBase. At the same time the user has the document open in the computer's word processor, Microsoft Word. When the software comes across a recorded note it indicates this to the user who, with only three mouse clicks, plays it back on the computer speaker and then types it (or an edited version) on the computer keyboard into BirdBase. The sighting notes are entered by the user with a keyboard while relaxed at home, not with Palm graffiti while under stress in the field.

After installing the Pocket PC Add-On in the BIRDS folder for use with BirdBase, you can install it in the MAMMALS folder for use with the Mammal Data Add-On described below. Furthermore, you can take a Pocket PC to some location loaded with lists of the birds and of the mammals which might be seen in that location, and then enter sightings in both lists. Switching from one list to another requires only two stylus taps.

All Subspecies Add-On for BirdBase:

If you do not wish to enter your own subspecies list in BirdBase there is an inexpensive All Subspecies Add-On that enters in the list the more than 21000 subspecies names taken from the latest annual update of Dr. Clements' book. The names are in groups, one for each species in the book that has subspecies. When the Add-On has been used, after you have selected the species for which you are entering a sighting one click immediately shows you all of its subspecies, a second click selects the proper subspecies, and a third click enters its name in the sighting note. Showing the subspecies names for a particular species when making a sighting display limitation takes one click, and putting the proper name in the limitation is done with a second click.


  • It can list, in detail, the range of any bird species.
  • Check lists can be produced for 318 world areas almost instantly. These include: every U.S. state; every Canadian province; every nation in the world, with major islands of Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, and Malaysia handled separately; many additional islands or island groups that have endemic species or are important for other reasons; the major world oceans. Furthermore, BirdArea can make check lists for many predefined combinations of the 318 areas such as the ABA reporting regions or areas and the major world faunal zones (including the West Palearctic as well as the entire Palearctic). It can even make check lists for combinations of the 318 areas you can define for yourself, like Scandinavia or Northeastern U.S. states.
  • All BirdArea lists can be displayed on screen, printed on paper, or written to text or data disk files. So that a check list printout will be most useful when taken on a birding trip, it can be produced in a variety of formatting styles which, for each species, have places for multiple check marks and/or for writing field notes. Any endemic species on the check lists are labelled to give them the emphasis they deserve.
  • If BirdBase is used then BirdArea has many additional capabilities: It can label each bird in any check list to show if you have already seen the bird within the area, outside the area, or both. For the birds of any area, BirdArea can list those you have seen within the area, or anywhere, as well as make a hit list of the birds you have not seen within the area, or anywhere. It can search your sightings for ones in which a bird is seen within an area although the range data predict the bird is excluded from it, or search for ones in which a bird is seen outside the area although the range data predict the bird is endemic to it. And it can search all of your sightings for ones in which a bird is seen outside its known range.
  • In most of the procedures described in the preceding item the sightings inspected by BirdArea can be limited to those which are or are not marked by BirdBase in any way you wish.
  • BirdArea can provide BirdBase with a short list for every area mentioned in the second item of this section. This capability allows world birders to use short lists with BirdBase when recording trips, no matter where, making them much easier to record and making it obvious when recording if a bird is seen outside its known range. Emphasizing these very important out-of-range sightings "in real time" encourages you to record their exact circumstances in detailed sighting notes.
  • A utility program called EditData is included to let you update the ranges in BirdArea's range data file, using published information or information from your own sightings. And EditData lets you handle all possible changes in the bird names or taxonomy in this file. Alternatively, you can use annual updates of the ranges, names, and taxonomy available in a disk file from Santa Barbara Software Products.
  • At each step of their operation, BirdArea and EditData describe on screen every option currently available to the user. There is also on-screen help, click-by-click users manual tutorials, and unlimited free support by telephone, fax, e-mail, or post.
  • The bird names and taxonomy in the range data file are taken from the new 6th edition of Dr. James Clements' Birds of the World. Its annually updated ranges come from more than eight hundred books and other publications, in ten languages. The major project of collecting and analyzing detailed ranges for every bird species was carried out over a period of years by Shawneen Finnegan -- with the assistance of private communications from many dozens of experts all over the world. Ms. Finnegan was also responsible for putting the range data in a computer file that contains more than three million "yes" or "no" entries, and produces the range data annual update files. She is a professional birding tour leader.
  • References for all the range data sources are given in the manual's bibliography to document the quality of BirdArea's range data, and to assist people interested in furthering research in such data.

Translation Utility Program for BirdBase and BirdArea:

Because BirdBase supports the full ASCII character set the common names in its species list can be translated into any language that can be written in Roman letters, including letters with diacritical marks such as â, ä, à, á, å, and æ. And since BirdBase makes it very easy to change the names in the species list plus those in any sightings that have been recorded, it would not take much time for you to translate into your language all the common names of the birds of your part of the world. You could later do it for birds you see elsewhere a common name at a time as you see these birds.

If you purchase the BirdBase plus BirdArea combination, on request Santa Barbara will include in your order a free Translation Utility Program that automatically copies all common name translations from BirdBase to BirdArea. This means that you will only have to do the translating once. Also, the utility stores your work in a file that lets it put the translations in the annual updates which is made available for the BirdBase species list plus recorded sightings and for the BirdArea species list plus range data. This again means that you will only have to do the translating once. Furthermore, after carrying out the translations you can give a copy of the utility and the translation file it makes to a compatriot who uses BirdBase and BirdArea so that he/she can take advantage of your work.

Mammal Data Add-On for BirdBase and BirdArea:

The Add-On, produced by Andrew Duff and Ann Lawson for the exclusive use by BirdBase and BirdArea, gives these programs the ability to handle the world's more than 4500 mammal species in exactly the same way that they handle the world's bird species. The Add-On's installation utility creates a new folder on the hard disk. Next a copy of BirdBase is put in the new folder, but with a list of mammal species and families instead of the list of bird species and families. Then the same is done for BirdArea and its EditData utility, but with mammal ranges instead of bird ranges. And then desktop icons are installed for the BirdBase and/or BirdArea plus EditData programs used for mammals, with labels that distinguish them from the icons for the programs used for birds. Henceforth the bird icons start the programs when birds are to be treated and the mammal icons when mammals are to be treated.


Here are some comments by birders reporting life lists of over 6000 species to the ABA:

"I would find it almost impossible to report totals without BirdBase. And with BirdArea I can make my own check lists in seconds." -- James Clements, California

"I expect to pick future birding trips more efficiently now." -- Martin Edwards, Canada

"BirdBase and BirdArea are essential tools for any serious world birder. I appreciate the ability they give me to easily and quickly incorporate latest taxonomic changes into the world checklist and my records." -- John Gee, Texas

"After studying the various products on offer, BirdBase combined with BirdArea was clearly my best choice." -- Tom Gullick, Spain

"I'm happy with BirdBase + BirdArea, much better than what I was previously using." -- Jon Hornbuckle, England

"Fantastic! Instant want lists for anywhere in the world." -- Peter Kaestner, Namibia

"I have used the DOS versions of BirdBase since 1991 and of BirdArea since 1994, and now use the Windows versions. I have been very pleased with them." -- James Plyler, Pennsylvania

More Testimonials

The following comments are from birders reporting life lists of over 1400 species:
"I am a person who likes to spend as little time as possible at the computer. Because it is so easy and quick to enter and retrieve data, I actually enjoy using BirdBase." -- Louise Augustine, Illinois

"The combination of BirdBase and BirdArea is unique. It helps me pick my next birding trip." -- Peter Bono, Connecticut

"Entering the data is fun. Reviewing the notes later is a great way to relive your trips." --Richard Collins, New York

"As a relatively unsophisticated computer user I was able to begin record entry, update and analysis with very little difficulty." -- Hue MacKenzie, Canada

"Easy to use and complete. One of the best parts of the programs is the excellent support offered." -- David Narins, Florida

"Within seconds of planning a trip, I can print a list of target species I haven't seen before." -- Mark Oberle, Georgia

Here is a comment from a user after she read all the preceding comments:
"I have 456 lifers and use your software extensively. I find it FUN to call up lists and compare yearly totals. Be sure folks know that even small-time listers can use your software with almost no training." -- Marcia O'Bara, Arizona

And here is one from the most well-known BirdBase and BirdArea user:
"We're enjoying your programs, and sighting new birds on all our trips." -- Jimmy Carter, Georgia