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by Paul Bannick

One of the best – and certainly the best-looking – owl book out there.

Read the full review »

Owls: A Guide to Every Species in the WorldOwls: A Guide to Every Species in the World
by Marianne Taylor

From Harper Design:

Discover the fascinating and mysterious world of owls with this stunning full-color, encyclopedic visual guide that explores all 225 known species, packed with maps, photographs, illustrations, informative scientific details, and a bonus 35½” x 12″ accordion poster illustrated with the true-to-size wing length of the largest owl, overlayed with the wing length of the smallest owl and several owls in-between.

Humans have long been fascinated by owls. From prehistoric cave paintings to popular modern children’s stories, these magnificent predators have been seen as harbingers of good fortune and impending disaster, as icons of fear and wisdom, and as the powerful sidekicks of magic-makers, including the beloved Harry Potter. Scientists have faced tremendous challenges trying to document the lives of these solitary, nocturnal, and highly elusive creatures. New species are still being discovered, as are new insights into the habits of even the most familiar varieties.

Visually spectacular and authoritative, Owls includes full descriptions and maps of key viewing locations for all 225 owl species in the world, and is illustrated with drawings and stunning full-color images from some of the leading wildlife photographers from around the world which capture these birds’ breathtaking beauty and power. The book also features a special section on the art of hiding—a highly honed skill set of the owl.

Throughout, Marianne Taylor provides a wealth of detail on each type of bird’s hunting and breeding behavior, habitat, and conservation. Inside, are dozens of fun facts, such as:

  • Only nineteen of the 225 known species of owls are found in North America;
  • Owls can be found on all continents except Antarctica;
  • Owls, like humans, have binocular vision;
  • Owls cannot turn their eyes, but are able to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees;
  • Owls are carnivorous and are known to eat rodents, small mammals, nocturnal insects, fish, and other birds.

Lavishly illustrated and educational, this breathtaking volume is essential for readers interested in natural science, devout birders, professional ornithologists, and all owl lovers.

 

When it comes to owls, there is any kind of book you could want. If you’re looking for a readable introduction to each of the world’s owls, along with some great photos – this is the book you want. Of the 225 owls covered, 205 of them get a one, sometimes two, page account, complete with range map and a single, large photo. The remaining 20 fit two to a page, since they don’t have a photo (to be fair, many of these are range restricted, one is extinct, and another likely so). Also included is a 15-page introduction covering the basics of owl biology.

 

Owls: A Guide to Every Species in the World
by Marianne Taylor
Hardcover; 256 pages
Harper Design; November 22, 2016
ISBN: 9780062413888
$50.00

Book of Texas BirdsBook of Texas Birds
by Gary Clark

From Texas A&M University Press:

Drawing on the knowledge and insight gained from a lifetime of watching, studying, and enjoying birds, this book is full of information about more than four hundred species of birds in Texas, most all of which author Gary Clark has seen first hand. Organized in the standard taxonomic order familiar to most birders, the book is written in a conversational tone that yields a wide-ranging discussion of each bird’s life history as well as an intimate look at some of its special characteristics and habits. Information regarding each species’ diet, voice, and nest is included as well as when and where it can be found in Texas. Magnificent photographs by Kathy Adams Clark accompany each bird’s entry.

For those just beginning to watch birds to those who can fully relate to the experiences and sentiments communicated here by a veteran birder, this book reveals the kind of personal connection to nature that careful attention to the birds around us can inspire.

 

This book has roughly the size, heft, and feel of The Sibley Guide, but it is not a field guide. Instead, it’s a bird-by-bird introduction to Texas’ avifauna. Informative and readable, it would be the ideal companion for any Texan interested in birds. Here’s the author’s thoughts on how to best use it:

Browse the book. Look for birds you want to know more about. Learn what you want to learn and keep the book on hand when you want to learn. The book is meant for you to enjoy as a complement to your enjoyment of birds.

 

Book of Texas Birds
by Gary Clark
Flexicover; 512 pages
Texas A&M University Press; December 28, 2016
ISBN: 9781623494315
$39.95

Look and Learn Birds PBS KidsLook and Learn Birds / Insects (PBS Kids)
by Sarah Parvis and PBS Kids

From Downtown Bookworks:

A simple, fun, fully-illustrated introduction to birds comes packaged with kid-friendly binoculars to encourage kids to explore the natural world around them.

The clear, easy-to-follow reference is designed for a young audience with large pictures and minimal text highlighting the most interesting things to notice about the most common birds in North America–ones that kids would easily spot in their own backyard or local park. The book also highlights features and behaviors children can look for when they observe birds up-close (with the binoculars that come in the kit). In addition, the guide suggests fun, educational activities such as making a hummingbird feeder, or homemade bird treats to attract feathered friends. A portable checklist is included to help children identify common birds when they’re out birding, and there is a colorful, interactive poster as well. An engaging resource for budding naturalists, this kit will also get kids exciting about experiencing nature up-close.

This delightful kit comes with:

  • 64-page book packed with bright, informative photos and simple tips for spotting and identifying common birds
  • a pair of easy-to-use binoculars
  • a portable laminated list of common North American birds
  • an activity poster that encourages observation and creativity

 

The insect kit includes a magnifier jar, in addition to a book and poster.

These kits are ideal for children (approximately 4-9 years old) who are interested in nature (or who you’d like to get interested in nature!). The books are not field guides so much as introductions to these groups, with lots of interesting facts and guidance as to what to look for. The binoculars included in the bird kit is more of a novelty item than useful tool, they’re the same as those you’d get at zoo gift shops. In other words, if the child is legitimately interested in birdwatching you’ll need to get actual binoculars. The jar, on the other hand, actually works pretty well.

Younger kids should love these kits. In fact, I would have posted about these much earlier, but my kids appropriated them as soon as they were opened!

 

Look and Learn Birds / Insects (PBS Kids)
by Sarah Parvis and PBS Kids
Paperback; 64 pages each
Downtown Bookworks; August 30, 2016
ISBN: Birds: 9781941367292; Insects: 9781935703853
$19.99 each

I recently posted a list of my favorite books of 2016. What about you – what was your favorite?

As a bonus, if you post your answer as a comment here, you’ll be entered to win my favorite book of the year – Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific. Contest ends 1/23/2017 at 11:59pm eastern. Please include your email when submitting the comment to make it easier to contact you (it won’t be used for anything other than to contact you regarding this contest).

Terms and Conditions:

  • Winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified after the contest ends. They will then have to provide a mailing address within 3 days of notification, or another winner may be chosen.
  • Anyone is eligible to enter. Winners in the United States will have the prizes shipped to them for free. Winners outside the US may be asked to cover some shipping costs.
  • There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.

There were many great bird-related books published in 2016, including some, I’m sure, that I didn’t even see. So making a list such as this is tricky at best, perhaps even foolish. In fact, I just read the introduction for Scarlet Experiment: Birds and Humans in America, which has me eager to read more. But I’ve waited long enough to post this (as I’ll explain shortly). So without further ado, here are my favorite books of the year.

 

  • Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American OwlsOwl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls
    by Paul Bannick

    Simply open this book and it will be obvious why it’s on this list. The photos here are unparalleled. Plus, it’s a very interesting and informative read. Of the many, many owl books out there, this is one of the best and, in my experience, the best looking.

  • Hummingbirds: Volume 1Hummingbirds: Volume 1
    by John C. Arvin

    This is a large (ginormous, even), sumptuous volume covering the hummingbirds of North and Central America, along with the Caribbean. That alone should be enough! But such a book published independently by a conservation organization (Gorgas Science Foundation) – and at a reasonable price! – is noteworthy. I’m very much looking forward to the second volume and, greater still, hoping for many more such books published in the same model.

  • Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the NestBaby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest
    by Julie Zickefoose

    Any Julie Zickefoose book is an almost automatic inclusion on this list. All of them, and this one is no exception, are a delight to behold and a delight to read. I can’t ever decide which one more. And the fact that this book illustrates a stage of birds’ lives so rarely observed makes it all the better. For more, here’s my full review.

  • Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big YearLost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year
    by Neil Hayward

    Big year books seem to be published all the time now. This one stands out from the crowd not so much for the record-breaking birding, but because it’s about much more than birds. This is a story anyone – hard core birder, casual birder, even non-birder – can enjoy. For more, here’s my full review.

  • Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the PacificListening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific
    by Donald Kroodsma

    It took me quite some time to finish this book. (And I figured I ought to do so before posting this :) ) It sounds paradoxical, but it was partly because I was enjoying it so much. Plus, to get the full effect, you really must listen to the accompanying sound tracks while you read (which limits when you can do so in a house with small children!). But when I was able to devote the time to listen and read, it was incredible. You’re vicariously joining the author on his continent-spanning bike trip through both his words and bird sounds he recorded along the way. It’s almost as if you are listening to birds through Kroodsma’s ears – ears which are able to perceive and discern so much more than I ever could. I wouldn’t necessarily say that this is the best book of the year, but it was the most enjoyable reading experience, and so my favorite book of the year.

by James A. Eaton, Bas van Balen, Nick W. Brickle, and Frank E. Rheindt

The region’s standard field guide for many years to come.

Read the full review »

Birder's Library 10th anniversary giveaway #2

Here’s the second giveaway in celebration of The Birder’s Library’s 10th anniversary – two books from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest is the latest from artist/author Julie Zickefoose. It’s a treat to look at and to read. Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America is an excellent new field guide for Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

To enter:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for supplying the prizes!

Please be assured that any information collected will only be used to contact you regarding this contest – it will not be sold, used to send you spam, or anything else.

Fine print:

  • Contest ends December 18, 11:59pm eastern
  • Winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified after the contest ends. They will then have to provide a mailing address within 3 days of notification, or another winner may be chosen.
  • Anyone is eligible to enter. Winners in the United States will have the prizes shipped to them for free. Winners outside the US may be asked to cover some shipping costs.
  • There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
Anniversary Giveaway: Listening to a Continent Sing and The Unfeathered Bird

How better to celebrate this site’s 10th anniversary than to give away some books? For the first giveaway, we have two fantastic books from Princeton University Press: a new one and one of my favorite books from the past 10 years. Listening to a Continent Sing is one of my favorite books from this year; it’s just an enjoyable read, and you can’t help but learn a good bit about birdsong as it goes. The Unfeathered Bird could be the most surprising book I’ve seen since I started this site. I never would have imagined that a book about, well, birds without feathers could be so beautiful and so informative and relevant to birders.

And now you have a change to win both of them.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Princeton University Press for supplying the prizes!

Please be assured that any information collected will only be used to contact you regarding this contest – it will not be sold, used to send you spam, or anything else.

Fine print:

  • Contest ends December 12, 11:59pm eastern
  • Winner will be chosen at random. The winner will be notified after the contest ends. They will then have to provide a mailing address within 3 days of notification, or another winner may be chosen.
  • Anyone is eligible to enter. Winners in the United States will have the prizes shipped to them for free. Winners outside the US may be asked to cover some shipping costs.
  • There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.

Looking for something to get for the bird-lover in your life? You can never go wrong with a good bird book. Here are a few suggestions.

  • Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American OwlsOwl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls
    by Paul Bannick

    One look inside this book will tell you why anyone would appreciate it – the photos are stunning. Overall, the best owl pictures I’ve ever seen. And it’s a good read, too!

  • Hummingbirds: Volume 1Hummingbirds: Volume 1
    by John C. Arvin

    Huge, with amazing (roughly life-sized) paintings of every hummingbird to grace North America, Central America, and the Carribean.

  • The Sibley Birds Coloring Field JournalThe Sibley Birds Coloring Field Journal

    Everyone seems to like coloring these days. This book will allow you to color images from one of the best bird artists around, all the while teaching the user about the birds they’re coloring.

  • Baby Birds: An Artist Looks into the NestBaby Birds: An Artist Looks into the Nest
    by Julie Zickefoose

    This book is just a delight – the art, words, design, everything about it.

  •  

    For avid readers:

    The Genius of Birds
    Listening to a Continent Sing: Birdsong by Bicycle from the Atlantic to the Pacific
    Lost Among the Birds: Accidentally Finding Myself in One Very Big Year

     

    And for the world-traveling birders in your life:

    Birds of the Indonesian Archipelago: Greater Sundas and Wallacea
    Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America