Peterson’s North American Birds
Luckily, Peterson’s North American Birds (Houghton Mifflin Interactive) offers many of the features that the Thayer CD-ROM lacks. Containing much of the same information, the Peterson’s guide stands out because of its user-friendly features, searchability, and plethora of video and audio. The disc is hosted by Mr. Peterson himself, who seems to be an affable sort, as he dispenses advice, hints, and information in an understated, authoritative manner. One section of the disc consists almost entirely of him expounding on all things avian, in the form of short video segments that can be brought up by clicking a topic; the segments can also be played straight through, which is a nice touch. Beyond Mr. Peterson, there’s a visual category guide, a bird finder (by visual characteristics, colors, etc.), a skill builder (identification quizzes), and a lifelist. All these sections are interwoven nicely, so it’s easy to search out a bird, learn all about its habitat, diet, range, and nearest relatives, hear its song, see its picture, and add it to your lifelist, all with a couple of mouse clicks. The lifelist could offer a little more accommodation for notes or other entries – there’s only room for the date, bird and place. One other complaint is with the quiz section; the pop-up boxes that contain the clickable answers and hint buttons are ridiculously large, covering half the screen and most of the picture you’re supposed to be identifying. And it would be nice to have the option to identify from the bird photos, instead of just the drawings. These minor quibbles aside, this is a complete and well-conceived CD-ROM for amateur birders.
– April 1996, Science & Nature