All Posts

Birds of New Guinea 2nd EditionBirds of New Guinea: Second Edition
by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler

From Princeton University Press:

This is the completely revised edition of the essential field guide to the birds of New Guinea. The world’s largest tropical island, New Guinea boasts a spectacular avifauna characterized by cassowaries, megapodes, pigeons, parrots, cuckoos, kingfishers, and owlet-nightjars, as well as an exceptionally diverse assemblage of songbirds such as the iconic birds of paradise and bowerbirds. Birds of New Guinea is the only guide to cover all 780 bird species reported in the area, including 366 endemics. Expanding its coverage with 111 vibrant color plates–twice as many as the first edition–and the addition of 635 range maps, the book also contains updated species accounts with new information about identification, voice, habits, and range. A must-have for everyone from ecotourists to field researchers, Birds of New Guinea remains an indispensable guide to the diverse birds of this remarkable region.

  • 780 bird species, including 366 found nowhere else
  • 111 stunning color plates, twice the number of the first edition
  • Expanded and updated species accounts provide details on identification, voice, habits, and range
  • 635 range maps
  • Revised classification of birds reflects the latest research

 

The first edition of this guide was published almost 30 years ago and, long out-of-print, was commanding big bucks. Needless to say, this new edition has been much anticipated. If you’re lucky enough to go birding in New Guinea, you’ll want this field guide.

 

Birds of New Guinea: Second Edition
by Thane K. Pratt and Bruce M. Beehler
Paperback; 528 pages
Princeton University Press; October 1, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691095639
$49.50

Birds of Western Africa 2nd EditionBirds of Western Africa: Second Edition
by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey

From Princeton University Press:

This revised and expanded edition of Birds of Western Africa is now the most up-to-date field guide available to the 1,285 species of birds found in the region–from Senegal and southern Mauritania east to Chad and the Central African Republic and south to Congo. It now features all maps and text opposite the plates for quick and easy reference. The comprehensive species accounts have been fully updated and expanded, and the color distribution maps have been completely revised. This premier guide also includes more than 3,000 illustrations on 266 stunning color plates.

Compact and lightweight, this new edition of Birds of Western Africa is the must-have field guide to one of the most exciting birding regions in the world.

  • The premier field guide to West African birds–now completely revised and expanded
  • Covers all 1,285 species found in the region
  • Features fully updated maps and text opposite the plates for easy reference

 

The timing of this new edition could be better – I doubt many birders are going to this region right now. Hopefully, this horrible Ebola outbreak will be over soon. And when it is, this looks like a good field guide to have for the region.

 

Birds of Western Africa: Second Edition
by Nik Borrow and Ron Demey
Paperback; 592 pages
Princeton University Press; October 26, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691159201
$45.00

by Ronald Orenstein; Photography by Michael and Patricia Fogden

A celebration of hummingbirds’ uniqueness, both in words and images.

Read the full review »

The Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North AmericaThe Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America
by Donald and Lillian Stokes

From Little, Brown and Company:

A new landmark in nature guides: the most authoritative, beautiful, and useful national pocket guide to birds.

Pocket-size, brilliantly colorful, and easy to use, THE STOKES ESSENTIAL POCKET GUIDE TO THE BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA contains everything you need to identify and enjoy birds in your backyard and beyond. Whether you’re age 9 or 90, whether you’re a novice or advanced birder, this book will help you identify birds quickly and accurately. It offers more than 580 stunning color photographs, coverage of more than 250 species, key identification clues, descriptions of songs and calls, notes on feeding and nesting behavior, advice on selecting bird feeders and binoculars, important behavioral information and key habitat preferences, and up-to-date range maps.

The culmination of many years of research, observation, and study, this book is factually, visually, and organizationally superior to any other beginner’s guide on the market.

 

Large, stunning photographs highlight this new compact field guide, but it also has lots of useful information for new and budding birders.

 

The Stokes Essential Pocket Guide to the Birds of North America
by Donald and Lillian Stokes
Paperback; 288 pages
Little, Brown and Company; October 14, 2014
ISBN: 978-0316010511
$15.00

by Cathryn Sill and John Sill

A kids’ book about parrots that is both informative and beautiful.

Read the full review »

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North AmericaDucks, Geese, and Swans of North America
by Guy Baldassarre

From Johns Hopkins University Press:

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America has been hailed as a classic since the first edition was published in 1942. A must-have for professional biologists, birders, waterfowl hunters, decoy collectors, and wildlife managers, this fully revised and updated edition provides definitive information on the continent’s forty-six species. Maps of both winter and breeding ranges are presented with stunning images by top waterfowl photographers and the acclaimed original artwork of Robert W. Bob) Hines. Originally authored by F. H. Kortright and later revised by Frank Bellrose, this latest edition, which has been meticulously updated by renowned waterfowl biologist Guy Baldassarre, continues the legacy of esteemed authors. Each species account contains in-depth sections on: • identification• distribution• migration behavior• habitat• population status• breeding biology• rearing of young• recruitment and survival• food habits and feeding ecology • molts and plumages• conservation and management To facilitate identification, the species accounts also include detailed illustrations of wings. An appendix contains comparative illustrations of ducklings, goslings, and cygnets. This edition of Ducks, Geese, and Swans consists of two volumes, printed in full color, and packaged in a slipcase, along with a CD containing references and additional maps.

 

Wow, this thing is huge! This is a two-volume set, housed in a slipcase. Each of the hardcover books is large and looks great. Its focus isn’t identification (although it does cover that and has lots of photos and some great artwork), but does have just about anything you would want to know about this group of birds.

Preview an excerpt of Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America

 

Ducks, Geese, and Swans of North America
by Guy Baldassarre
Hardcover; 1088 pages
Johns Hopkins University Press; September 24, 2014
ISBN: 978-1421407517
$69.95

The World of BirdsThe World of Birds
by Jonathan Elphick

From Firefly Books:

The ultimate illustrated, authoritative reference to the avian world.

Written by a highly regarded ornithologist and natural history expert and sumptuously illustrated throughout with photographs and illustrations, The World of Birds is a comprehensive and authoritative guide to every aspect of bird life and a concise survey of the world’s orders and families.

Jonathan Elphick begins by defining the distinguishing features of birds before going on to describe their evolution since the age of the dinosaurs. With the aid of fact boxes and clear photographs, he then explores in greater detail each of the significant elements of bird life.

Topics include:

  • bird biology including anatomy, walking and swimming, plumage, calls and songs
  • flight techniques and styles
  • food and feeding
  • bird lifestyles and social relationships
  • breeding, growth and development
  • bird geography and habitats
  • the mysteries of migration

He also considers human attitudes towards birds through the ages.

The book contains a comprehensive survey of the world’s birds (including extinct species), detailing every one of the 29 orders and each of the approximately 200 families. Reflecting the latest classification changes to the Howard and Moore Complete Checklist of the Birds of the World, it explains how birds are classified and provides an outline of the system of classification.

With special photography from award-winning wildlife photographer David Tipling, this book is a unique insight into the world of birds and essential reading for all ornithologists, bird watchers and natural history enthusiasts.

 

Wow, this book contains a LOT of information. The first part is a mini-course in ornithology, while the second provides an overview of the world’s birds at the order and family level.

 

The World of Birds
by Jonathan Elphick
Hardcover; 608 pages
Firefly Books; September 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-1770853041
$75.00

A nice mixture of new and older books were reviewed this past month.

HummingbirdsHummingbirds
by Ronald I. Orenstein, with photographs by Michael and Patricia Fogden

From Firefly Books:

A comprehensive natural history of nature’s smallest bird species.

The tiny hummingbird has long been a source of fascination for birdwatchers and naturalists alike. They number 300 species and Ronald Orenstein has a passion for all of them.

Hummingbirds are the smallest birds in the world. A hummingbird egg is the size of a pea, barely, and the chick that emerges will be smaller than a penny, if that. But these tiny birds pack a powerful engine: a hummingbird’s heart beats more than 1,200 times per minute.

Nicknamed the “avian helicopter”, a hummingbird’s wings beat from 70 times per second in direct flight, to more than 200 times per second when diving. Not surprisingly, that whirlwind of wing power creates a humming sound. To fuel such energy, hummingbirds must eat as much as eight times their body weight on a daily basis, which means visiting an average of 1,000 flowers — every day — to get enough nectar.

Hummingbirds are found in North and South America, with the greatest number in Ecuador, although some species breed as far north as Canada. Most species migrate from Mexico to Alaska, a distance of more than 5,000 miles.

In this book Orenstein covers all aspects of hummingbird natural history, their relationship with the plants on which they feed, the miracle of their flight, their elaborate social life and nesting behavior, and their renowned feats of migration.

More than 170 color photographs of these magnificent creatures, taken in the wild, adorn the pages of Hummingbirds. Birders and natural history readers alike will gain new insight into the tiny bird and revel in the stunning images.

 

In the first third of this book, Orenstein focuses his text on what makes hummingbirds unique, with emphasis on recent discoveries. The remainder of the book is a portfolio of photos by the Fogdens, probably the world’s preeminent hummingbird photographers. There are 200 photos of 70 hummingbird species, and they are amazing. The book isn’t perfect (I wish there had been more variety in the photographed species), but this is easily the most spectacular collection of hummingbird pictures that I’ve seen.

 

Hummingbirds
by Ronald I. Orenstein
Hardcover; 256 pages
Firefly Books; September 11, 2014
ISBN: 978-1770854000
$35.00

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America 2nd Edition

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition

edited by Jonathan Alderfer

Back in 2005, National Geographic published the National Geographic Complete Guide to the Birds of North America as a “companion to” their field guide. It was basically an expanded version of the field guide (the fourth edition at the time), with family introductions, additional text in the species accounts, and sidebars that tackled more difficult identifications. It was a good intermediate reference – something you could turn to first if you needed more information than is normally found in field guides.

But things have changed since 2005. The North American bird list certainly has, with new species being found or created via taxonomic updates. The National Geographic field guide has also changed, with two extensive updates in the interim (here are the details of the changes from the 4th to 5th editions and 5th to 6th editions). It was time for a second edition, which is based on the sixth and latest edition of the NatGeo field guide. Here’s a quick look at it.

This second edition looks very much like its predecessor, with the same layout and formatting. But it’s bigger (72 additional pages, but only two onces heavier) and, if you look closely, you’ll find many updates. The illustrations look better, with many having been replaced since the previous edition. The range maps are all new, having been revised and updated to include migratory range and subspecies ranges where appropriate (the wonderful subspecies maps from the back of the 6th edition field guide are all included here). This new volume even incorporates some updates over the field guide on which it’s based, including over 70 revised range maps and a handful of new species (including the Sage Sparrow split and recent vagrants like Rufous-necked Wood-Rail).

Sample from National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition

A spread of buntings from the 2nd edition, with new features noted.

Sample from National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 1st Edition

Some of the same birds from the 1st edition.

Two of the main features of Complete Birds are supplementary large, detailed maps for some species or groups of species and sidebars that present additional identification information. These are still present in this second edition, with some changes. Eight of the large maps present in the first edition are no longer included. However, that is less of a loss than it appears, because the extra detail those large maps provided – for the most part, migration routes – are now included on the standard range maps.

As for the sidebars, five of them have not been carried over. However, most of their information is now contained in the species accounts or displayed graphically by the new range maps. But in at least one case – the comparison of Ruby-crowned Kinglet and Hutton’s Vireo – the information that had been present in the sidebar is no longer included in the guide. On the plus side, there are two new sidebars: Identification of White Egrets and Parts of a Gull.

The only entirely new features are the additions of the banding and ABA abundance codes to the header of each species account, which is a nice touch.

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition most definitely improves on the previous edition. However, I don’t see a compelling reason to upgrade if you have the first edition AND the sixth edition of the NatGeo field guide. But if that’s not the case, then I would recommend it. And if you don’t have any guides from National Geographic, I would highly recommend this new edition of Complete Birds of North America.

If that got a little confusing, here’s a flow chart that may help.

Flow chart to see if you should get National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition