On Warblers and Reference: A Linktastic post

This is a follow up to my post regarding Reference Without Words from October 2008.

For those who missed that post, Mom found a picture of a bird and I tried to identify it through some quick online research. This is that bird:

Yellow Bird

A few months later, in my reference class, I had to conduct a service review that consisted of my asking the same question of three different types of reference desks. I chose to ask them to help me identify the mysterious yellow bird. Given the need to share a photo, I reviewed face-to-face reference, online chat, email reference and Yahoo! Answers just because I felt like it. When I noticed that sometimes searches for “warblers” led users to this blog, I decided to share some of the sources I found. (Incidentally, the professor subsequently said that my choice of questions was “brilliant.”)

First, through my own queries, I located Birding.com. A sub-page on that site has information on bird identification (key features used in bird identification) as well as links to several identification quizzes to test your knowledge. These sources led me to conclude that the bird was a Warbler, possibly a Magnolia Warbler.

The Internet Public Library (something I didn’t even know about before my reference class) was another really helpful resource. IPL has an e-mail reference service. I sent them my question and a few days later got a thorough response back. Having been in class with students who volunteered for IPL I can attest that answering questions is intense and often a labor of love.

They led me to some other neat sources:

UNC Chapel Hill also has an unbelievable helpful e-mail reference service. They took a bit longer, but about a week later I got a response from the service which had forwarded my e-mail to one of UNC Chapel Hill’s Biology and Chemistry Librarians. Talk about customized service!

Last, but not least, never underestimate the help of the masses. Yahoo! Answers provides a giant user forum for, well, everything. You have to have a Yahoo! account, but then you can post a question, pick a category, and wait for a response. In my case I heard back from a woman who works as an ornithologist in real life.

To bring this back to warblers, no one source had a definitive answer. However, after pooling all of the various resources together, I am now able to say with relative confidence thaBlackburnian Warblert my bird was a Blackburnian Warbler.

What do you think?

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