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by Tim Birkhead, Jo Wimpenny, and Bob Montgomerie

An excellent summary of what we know about birds and the people who discovered it.

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The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)
by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean

From Cornell University Press:

This is the one compact, portable, and user-friendly field guide the novice or experienced birder needs to identify birds in the field in the diverse habitats found in Costa Rica. It features descriptions and illustrations of all 903 species definitely known from Costa Rica, including pelagics and species regular to Cocos Island. Fifty-six of these species are placed in a “Rarities” section that includes accidentals, rarer pelagics, and species that have not been reported in more than twenty years.

The detailed full-color illustrations show identifying features—including plumage differences among males, females, and juveniles—and views of birds in flight wherever pertinent. Robert Dean has supplied more than 360 new illustrations, including sixty-four species that are illustrated for the first time in this edition. These include recent additions to the country list, pelagic species, Cocos Island species, and all accidentals recorded from the Costa Rican mainland. Range maps and nomenclature have been updated for this edition, which also has a new user-friendly organizational scheme and an alphabetical quick-find index of groups on the inside back cover.


This is the best field guide available for this wonderfully birdy country.


The Birds of Costa Rica: A Field Guide (Second Edition)
by Richard Garrigues and Robert Dean
Paperback; 440 pages
Comstock Publishing Associates (imprint of Cornell University Press); December 4, 2014
ISBN: 978-0801479885

Searching for Pekpek: Cassowaries and Conservation in the New Guinea Rainforest

I reviewed this book earlier this year – it’s a great story and even more important message about conservation. The author is offering free shipping to the US and Canada until the end of the year. Even better, a portion of sales are donated to support conservation in Papua New Guinea. Order here


Save 25% on a single book at Amazon and Barnes & Noble

Both expire on 12/14.

With the holidays and everything else going on, I totally forgot to post this :(

by Miles McMullan and Thomas Donegan

An excellent field guide to Colombia gets even better.

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American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of FloridaAmerican Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Florida
by Bill Pranty; Photographs by Brian E. Small

From Scott & Nix, Inc.:

From the dunes and great river swamps of the Panhandle, the flat woods, scrubs, dry prairies, and wetlands of the Peninsula to the coral reefs of the Keys, the Sunshine State provides habitats for an amazing variety of birds. Florida is rich in protected and preserved habitats, including 11 National Parks, 171 State Parks and Trails, and 100 important Bird Areas. Conservation organizations maintain many sanctuaries for wildlife throughout Florida, attracting birds and providing access for visitors to enjoy the outdoors. Written by expert birder Bill Pranty and filled with crisp, gorgeous color photography by Brian E. Small, American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Florida is the perfect companion for anyone learning more about the natural history and diversity of the state’s birds and when and where to see them.


Another excellent entry in the ABA’s state field guide series. Here’s a review of the series.


American Birding Association Field Guide to Birds of Florida
by Bill Pranty; Photographs by Brian E. Small
Paperback; 368 pages
Scott & Nix, Inc.; December 1, 2014
ISBN: 978-1935622482

American Birding Association State Field Guides: Colorado, New Jersey, Florida

I’m happy to report that I’ll now be contributing book reviews to the Nature Travel Network, in addition to this site. My first is now up, a look at the first three entries in the American Birding Association State Field Guide series (Colorado, New Jersey, and Florida)

The BirdsEye Bird Finding app is already one of the most useful mobile apps for birders, allowing you to access eBird data on-the-go and find birds and hotspots near you. But the BirdsEye team has been steadily improving the app and adding new features. They’ve recently announced the availability of additional sound packages for many regions of the world.

The Sounds

BirdEye has partnered with, a company that has produced many highly acclaimed bird sound collections. The collections available in the BirdsEye app are:

  • Peru
  • Colombia
  • Venezuela
  • Brazil
  • Costa Rica
  • Nicaragua
  • Northern Siberia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Australia
  • Belgium and Holland

These things are extensive! Costa Rica, for example, includes 2,061 recordings of 764 species (over 15 hours’ worth), while Colombia has 5,500+ recordings of over 1,600 species (46 hours!). Altogether, they average 2-3 sounds per species, but some birds have many more than that if warranted. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all the sounds available, but the ones I’ve listened to sound great.

Using the Sounds

You play the sounds from each bird’s species page. The easiest way to access those is to use the Nearby Birds or Browse All Species functions from the home screen. You can also get to them from the bird lists for each hotspot.

Even with these options, I felt that something was missing. I wanted a way to view and play all of the sounds from a given package, but just the ones from that package. I finally discovered a way to do so. Go back to the Bird Guide Store, tap on a package you’ve purchased, then go to the Bird List. Tapping on the names here will take you to the Species Account page where you can play the sound.

Playing the sounds is very simple – just tap on the speaker icon at the bottom of the species page. That brings up a list of all the sounds for that species across all the packages that you own. Then just tap on the sound that you want to play. Note that if you’ve downloaded the sounds for offline use that the topmost one starts playing automatically when you tap the speaker icon. That could be problematic depending on where you are and what you’re doing (it could potentially scare away a bird), but that’s easy to deal with if you’re prepared for it.

BirdsEye species account screen

Tapping the speaker icon on the bottom-left of a bird's page...

BirdsEye sound playback screen you the sound playback screen in BirdsEye.

This interface is a little too simple for my taste. From the screen you can only switch sounds, pause, or close the list. You cannot skip ahead or backwards within the track or set it to repeat. Also, a progress bar appears when playing, but it would be nice to have the total time and time elapsed displayed as well. Finally, the sounds are labelled as “song” or “call”. Rarely, further information is displayed, like “Pacific” or “Caribbean”, but it would be nice if this was done on a more consistent basis.

Getting the Sounds

BirdsEye sound packagesYou can purchase the sound packages either from the BirdsEye website or directly in the main BirdsEye app or the BirdsEye North America app (they are not available in the other regional apps) by going to the Bird Guide Store from the app home screen. From there, you can find extensive details on each package, including the list of birds included. Once you purchase the package, the sounds are instantly available within the app over the cloud (provided you’re connected to the internet, of course). Alternatively, you can download the whole package, which I would recommend if you’ll be traveling as you may not always have a reliable network connection. If you later need the space back, you can easily clear the data within the app without worry, because you can download the packages as many times as you want and from any device that you own.

BirdsEye sound package info BirdsEye sound package bird list

However, there’s one catch. You have the sounds, but you need to be able to access those species in BirdsEye. To do that, you need to have either a membership subscription ($4.99 or $9.99/month) or the appropriate regional app. For instance, if you purchase the Bird Sounds of Peru collection, you need to make sure that you also have access to Peruvian birds either through a membership or purchase of BirdsEye South America. Update: This is not the case. I’ve been informed that when you purchase a sound package, you also get full access and content for those birds in the app.

That’s not very straightforward, but this process is going to be made more user-friendly soon. Shortly, the main BirdsEye app will become free and will give you access to the 50 most common species anywhere you are on the planet. (The newly released Android version of BirdsEye already does this.) Then there will be several options to see more species:

  1. Purchasing a membership will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content (photos and text where available) for all of the species on Earth as well as unlimited favorite locations
  2. Purchasing a region will give you eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of the species in that region
  3. Purchasing a sound pack will give you access to that content, plus eBird data and BirdsEye content for all of those species

These sound packages are a great addition to an already useful app. If you’re going to be birding any of these regions, they’re a great way to have the bird sounds always at your fingertips. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you how important that is. These packages aren’t cheap ($24.99-$49.49 each), but they’re a good deal considering how many recordings you get. And purchasing them through BirdsEye is actually cheaper than getting them on discs, and much more convenient.

Disclosure: These sound packages were provided by the publisher for review purposes. But the opinion expressed here is my own, it has not been influenced in any way.

University Press Week 2014 logoThis week (November 9-15, 2014) is University Press Week. You may not be very familiar with them, but birders ought to be thankful for university presses, for without them many of the bird books that we use and love would have never been published. I did a quick survey of the bird books published in 2014 alone and found that at least 18 of them are from university presses. And for North American birders, if you’ve ever birded anywhere else in the world, chances are very good that the field guide you used was published by a university press.

So, as a birder who loves his bird books, I say, “Long live university presses!”

by James Alexander Currie, with Bonnie J. Fladung

A birding tv show host and former African game ranger has some pretty awesome stories.

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