From SibleyBirds

For a brief overview of Sibley Birds, the goals and principles of the site, and the data structure, please read the About article.

Registering as a user

In order to edit any page you must be a registered user. To create an account, click on the "login" button at upper right and follow the prompts. Once registered you can visit your user page and set some preferences under the "Account" icon.

Creating a new page

New pages can be created automatically (and should be created only) through the various forms available. First make sure that the page you are considering does not already exist. You can type in the search box to see existing page titles (remember that the search is case sensitive).

Page names and the structure of this site

This site makes use of subpages, which provide some of the key hierarchy of information. A main page can have many subpages, and several levels of subpages, each separated by a slash. Most of the top level pages are species, and each species can have multiple subpages, for example Black-bellied Plover/albinism.

As a general rule, bird species names are capitalized, subpages are not capitalized (unless they are a proper noun like "Alaska"), and descriptive titles have only the first word capitalized. If a page name includes more than one species name then the species are listed in alphabetical order, for example the hybrid "American Black Duck X Mallard".

Redirecting pages

If a page could have multiple names the standard Mediawiki solution is a redirect. Open the edit window on the alternate pagename and type #REDIRECT [[activepagename]]. This will automatically redirect links that point to the alternate title so that they open the active title instead.

Redirects are used very sparingly on this wiki, only in cases where there is no useful information that can be associated with the alternate title. For example, a common misspelling or different case in the title should be redirected - Texas Bird List could redirect to Texas bird list. But in many cases there is some value to keeping the alternate title as a page. For example, if the active page is the current official name "Barn Owl", alternate spellings such as "Barn-owl" should be retained to hold the "Alternate name" template.

Editing pages

Asterisk 18.pngEditing really works only in desktop browsers. It is cumbersome and unreliable on smartphones and tablets.

Editing is simple. To enter editing mode go to the "Actions" tab at top right, and in the drop-down menu look for "edit with form" (preferable) or simply "edit". The "Edit with form" tab at will open a form offering help with filling in fields: drop-down menus, autocomplete, date pickers, etc.

On some pages there is also an "edit" tab at the right side of each section heading. This will open an editing window showing that section. Some of these are linked to forms, others open the basic editing window without the helpful prompts provided by a form.

To view what the finished product will look like without saving, select “Show preview” at the bottom of the page.

MediaWiki links for editing basics

Wiki formatting

Description You type You get
Italic text


Bold text


Bold and italic
'''''bold & italic'''''

bold & italic

For more details and options see the Mediawiki help page


Description You type You get
Link to a page in the wiki


... with different link text
[[Mallard | link to species]]

link to species

Link to an external website

...with different link text
[ Sibley Guides]

Sibley Guides

Variations in links

Description You type You get
Link with spaces works
[[ Mallard ]]


First character not case sensitive
[[mallard]] or [[Mallard]]

mallard or Mallard both work

All other characters case sensitive
[[Barn Owl]] but not [[Barn owl]]

Barn Owl but not Barn owl

plural link


A red link, e.g. Barn owl or Barn-Owl instead of Barn Owl, indicates a pagename that does not exist in the wiki. This can happen if you misspelled the name or used the wrong case. Clicking on the red link will open a page asking if you want to create a new page by that name.

Description You type You get
Link to a nonexistent page in the wiki
[[No such page]]

No such page

To link to a page on the greater internet use single square brackets, add a space, and then the link text that you want to appear,

[ the Sibley Guides website] becomes the Sibley Guides website

To create a heading use equals signs on a new line, and enclose the heading. Two equals signs makes a top-level heading ==Heading==, and subheadings have three equals signs - ===Subheading===, sub-subheadings four, etc.

Reverting to a previous version of a page

  • To undo unwanted saved changes, navigate to the “Actions” dropdown at the top right hand corner and select “History.” You will then be able to revert to the previous version of the article by choosing the version you want from the list of changes (this is why it is a good idea to label your changes in the summary at the bottom of the edit page).

About Templates

Most of the data in the wiki is held in templates. Each template is essentially a set of instructions for how the wiki should handle the information entered in each field. This can involve formatting, data manipulation, data storage, etc.

Templates are enclosed in double curly brackets {{Template name}}, and often include multiple "fields" where data can be entered. The processing and display of that data is then handled by the template.

Adding references

To add a reference in the text of a page, add the author and year to the Ref template in this form {{Ref|Sibley et al 2014}}, with author names capitalized, no punctuation, two authors are joined by the word "and", more than two authors are listed as "First author et al" . This will create a link to the page for that reference, and display it in the References section at the bottom of the page. If a page by that name already exists the link should just work. Check to make sure the paper being cited is the one you intended. If not (for example if there is more than one reference named "Smith et al 2000", then you will need to disambiguate, or leave a note explaining what happened.

If the reference you are linking to is new, it will show as a red link, and you can use the link in the left sidebar to "Add reference". Make sure the name and capitalization of the reference you enter there is exactly the same as the one on the page, and fill in the fields in the form as needed.

Adding rare records

Coming soon...

To add a single rare record, use the link in the left sidebar. This will open a form that can be filled in with any information available. When you click "save" the software assigns a unique number to the record as a pagename. You can then go back and edit the record any time, which should show an "edit with form" tab at the top of the page.

If you have a large number of records to enter, these can be formatted as a .csv file and imported automatically. Contact me for details.


To add a photo to the wiki, use the form linked in the left sidebar, which will allow you to enter data about the image.

Inserting images into a page

To insert an image into a page, use this format:

[[File:filename.extension|thumb|400 px|caption]]

Simply replace the filename of the image and write any caption needed. The size (listed in pixels of the longest side) can be adjusted. The default alignment of a thumbnail is right, but this can be controlled by adding |center, |left, or |none, for example:

[[File:filename.extension|thumb|400 px|none|caption]]

More help at -

Minor edits

Fixing typographical errors, broken links, adding links, or making small updates to layout are some examples of what constitutes a minor edit. Any substantive edit should be summarized in the "Summary" box at the bottom of the MediaWiki editor page. If you are unsure of the magnitude of your edit, err on the side of summary.


You can see a list of all categories at Special:Categories. In most cases, pages are categorized automatically by a template on the page. You should not need to manually add a category, but if you do, just type [[Category:CategoryName]] at the bottom of the page. To link to a category page add a colon before the pagename, e.g. [[:Category:Quiz]] which produces a link – Category:Quiz – instead of adding this page to the category.

Rights and licensing

For more details see the Copyright page

  • Please note that all contributions to Sibley Birds may be edited, altered, or removed by other contributors. If you do not want your writing to be edited mercilessly, then do not submit it here.
  • You are also promising us that you wrote this yourself, or copied it from a public domain or similar free resource.
  • By submitting work here you release it for use on this website and related digital products.
  • Do not submit copyrighted work without permission!