For the birds!
WikiProject Birds is the go-to place for avian articles. Last featured in our WikiProject report in 2010, the project today reports more than 100 active members. Included in its impressive collection are 154 featured articles (FAs), 89 good articles (GAs), 23 featured lists, and 257 featured pictures.
In November 2016, Jimfbleak posted a call on the project talk page for featured article candidate (FAC) submissions, as more candidates were needed to supply Today's Featured Article. Members responded quickly, and by the end of January, seven bird articles had been promoted to featured status, including mangrove swallow, red-throated loon, red wattlebird, and water pipit.
The Signpost reached out to project members to ask about their experiences working on bird articles, and to find out where they get all of those wonderful pictures.
1. You had a recent successful run of featured article candidate submissions. How did you approach improving each of the articles? What helpful feedback did you receive?
- RileyBugz: Before improving an article, I usually search up and see if there is much research on it. If it is missing information about anything critical, like its breeding habits, description, or diet, then I will find another bird. After I have found one, I will do one massive improvement that covers basic things about the bird, its diet, description, distribution, etc. Then I will do some large improvements when I get new sources. At the end is mainly stuff like style fixes and spelling. I received, during my FA review, a lot of suggestions, ranging from references and gaps in information to style fixes. It was really helpful when editors like Jimfbleak just posted a message on my talk page with basic things that need to be changed.
- MeegsC: Unlike Riley, I typically work on articles for years and years — sometimes in short spurts, other times with weeks of fevered activity — before I consider them polished enough to submit. My full-time job (I travel a lot, often to places with little or no Internet) means I don't always have large blocks of time to devote to Wikipedia. I typically pick species that are present in places where I work, or subjects that I have some question about that I don't know the answer to. The project has some longtime contributors (Jimfbleak and Casliber being two of the longest-serving) who have made many trips to the FA lion's den, so they can provide good guidance as to what, if anything, is missing from something that's going to be submitted. I always get things peer-reviewed before submitting them to GA/FA.
- FunkMonk: Generally, it can be hard to get enough FAC reviews for an article before it is archived, but the bird project has enough recurring reviewers to prevent this from happening to most bird articles, which is quite nice. Other projects may have more active members, but this doesn't mean they are active at FAC, so a nomination can often fail simply due to lack of reviews. I mainly work on articles about extinct birds, and I usually choose what articles to work on based on the availability of free images and accessible sources, and then work intensively on the article until I find it ready for GA, and later FAC.
2. What research techniques and other skills do you employ to work on articles?
- RileyBugz: I usually just do a Google search with the bird's name when I am starting out. I then use sources that I know are reliable. I then put in a request to one of the people that I know has sources like HWB (Handbook of the Birds of the World) and usually one or two others. When I am trying to get it to FA, I usually do searches on specific qualities, for example, the parasites that afflict it. If I find something I would like to use, I try and find it where it is free, and if I can't, I ask the people at Resource Exchange.
- MeegsC: My real-life job revolves around wild birds, so I have a very extensive home library with thousands of reference books. I also have a JSTOR subscription through Wikipedia, which helps me to access more recent papers. And a direct email request to a researcher for access to a recent paper he'd written led to an offer to help me get access to any article I can't get through JSTOR. I spent many years as a freelance writer, which helps with the actual writing of things.
- FunkMonk: Researching for articles about extinct birds is a bit more focused on hunting down historical articles, so the above mentioned Resource Request page has also been an invaluable asset to me, in addition to my Wikipedia JSTOR subscription, and of course my personal "library" of books. It would also be impossible for me to find all the old articles without sites such as Archive.org and Biodiversity Library.
3. I've always been impressed with good bird photography, and you have many excellent photos of birds on your pages, including over 250 featured pictures. How have you managed to amass so many high-quality, freely-licensed images? Do you have members who focus primarily on photography rather than writing? How do the photographers and writers interact?
- MeegsC: We used to have a member (Snowmanradio) who spent much of his time amassing good quality photos for the project; he trawled through all the various Internet repositories, looking for photos with the right copyright permissions, and wrote to many photographers asking that they consider donating one (or many) pictures. Unfortunately, we lost him due to conflicts with a hostile editor. Wikipedia also has a number of very good bird photographers who willingly donate their fabulous images though. Even I've managed to take a few! ;)
- FunkMonk: I think most photos are nowadays mainly being uploaded to Commons by various photographers (or from Flickr), and only found and added to Wikipedia articles afterwards, when editors here start expanding the relevant articles. Snowmanradio isn't so active anymore, but he used to have a recurring thread where photos of unidentified birds from Commons or Flickr were posted, so that they could be identified and incorporated into articles. But there are still occasionally being posted photos for identification.
4. Your project has a Domestic Pigeon Task Force, which now appears to be inactive. Have there been other attempts to create task forces for this WikiProject?
- MeegsC: Not successfully. I remember one former editor spent months trying to get a birds of prey task force off the ground a number of years ago. One of the problems is that the project has never been particularly large, so there are never many people working in the task forces.
- FunkMonk: Task forces might be nice if a project has members in abundance, but in a smaller project, members work on a wide variety of articles within the given subject.
5. There is also a related WikiProject Poultry, which also appears to be inactive. Do you find that articles on farmed birds such as chickens and turkeys get less attention than those on wild species?
- MeegsC: Members of this project seem to be primarily interested in wild birds. I think those interested in farmed birds or domestic birds tend to be drawn to other projects.
- FunkMonk: I think our active membership is too small to really support sub-projects that specific. But it is interesting that when it comes to equids, it is the other way around; the horse Wikiproject is focused on domestic breeds, whereas not much happens with articles about wild forms.
6. Anything else you'd like to add?
- MeegsC: We'd sure love to see some new members! There are 10,000 species to write about, plus articles on things like feathers, nests, anatomical features, etc. to polish. With the number of people we have now, it will take us hundreds of years to get them all done.
- FunkMonk: It should be noted that this recent activity comes only after a very long period of dormancy: between 2014 and 2016, only a couple of articles about living bird species were nominated for FAC (including one renomination), and some editors have left Wikipedia in the meantime. So this renewed activity is a welcome surprise, it seems to be the result of some members returning to the FAC arena, as well as the arrival of first time nominators. Now there is also much more cooperation at the project talk page again, which is great to see.
- RileyBugz: Four things I would like to add, one, it would be great to see some new members. Two, impromptu reviews of articles in the process of expansion to FA status are really helpful (at least for me). Three, as of January 26, we only have had 18 [articles on Wikipedia] promoted [to featured status] so far, which is up from December, but still lacking a bit. Finally, it would be nice if other WikiProjects could do something similar so we could keep up with Today's featured article, which is the problem that made us take action.
Here's hoping that our feathered friends—and their fans—inspire other WikiProject editors to raise more articles to featured status!