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The Secret Lives of PuffinsThe Secret Lives of Puffins
by Dominic Couzens and Mark Sisson

From Bloomsbury:

Puffins are among the most instantly recognisable, iconic and well loved of birds. For many they are a highlight of the UK’s summer coastline and their colourful appearance, comedy antics and approachability just add to their popularity. Several ‘hotspot’ are attracting high levels of interest in visits to their colonies. In spite of the high level of interest in, and appeal of, these birds there has been a surprising lack of books focused on Puffins as a species.

Award-winning wildlife photographer Mark Sisson has spent several years photographing Puffins and this new book combines images that beautifully encapsulate their charm and visual appeal with an accessible text written by leading wildlife writer Dominic Couzens. The book covers the birds’ life cycle, behaviour, habitats and the current and future challenges that they face, along with many surprising facts and anecdotes.


This book was published in the UK earlier this year, but just recently in the US. Some great pictures here. A couple of things to note: this is exclusively about Atlantic Puffins, specifically those in Europe. Obviously, the natural history info is location independent, but just don’t expect anything specifically about North American puffins or where to see them.


The Secret Lives of Puffins
by Dominic Couzens and Mark Sisson
Hardcover; 176 pages
Bloomsbury; January 28, 2014
ISBN: 978-1408186671

by Carl Safina

A look at the nature of the author’s home and the world, and how mankind is altering it.

Read the full review »

National Geographic Complete Birds of North America 2nd EditionNational Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition
by Jonathan Alderfer

From National Geographic:

Essential, comprehensive, and easy to use, the revised edition of National Geographic Complete Birds of North America is an astonishing resource that covers every bird species found in North America as well as all the seasonal visitors. Entries are organized by family group, the taxonomic organization newly updated to match current American Ornithologists’ Union guidelines. Within a family, each separate bird entry has dozens of tips and illustrations on species’ gender, age group, behavior, habitat, nesting and feeding habits, and migration routes. Providing full information on more than 1,000 species, this book features hundreds of range and migration maps, cutting-edge information on identification, and more than 4000 annotated illustrations by expert bird artists.


You can think of National Geographic Complete Birds of North America as a greatly expanded NatGeo field guide with additional text and photographs. It’s a great reference for when you need a more detailed description of a bird or help with a difficult identification.


National Geographic Complete Birds of North America, 2nd Edition
by Jonathan Alderfer
Hardcover; 744 pages
National Geographic; October 7, 2014
ISBN: 1426213735

The Passenger PigeonThe Passenger Pigeon
by Errol Fuller

From Princeton University Press:

At the start of the nineteenth century, Passenger Pigeons were perhaps the most abundant birds on the planet, numbering literally in the billions. The flocks were so large and so dense that they blackened the skies, even blotting out the sun for days at a stretch. Yet by the end of the century, the most common bird in North America had vanished from the wild. In 1914, the last known representative of her species, Martha, died in a cage at the Cincinnati Zoo.

This stunningly illustrated book tells the astonishing story of North America’s Passenger Pigeon, a bird species that–like the Tyrannosaur, the Mammoth, and the Dodo–has become one of the great icons of extinction. Errol Fuller describes how these fast, agile, and handsomely plumaged birds were immortalized by the ornithologist and painter John James Audubon, and captured the imagination of writers such as James Fenimore Cooper, Henry David Thoreau, and Mark Twain. He shows how widespread deforestation, the demand for cheap and plentiful pigeon meat, and the indiscriminate killing of Passenger Pigeons for sport led to their catastrophic decline. Fuller provides an evocative memorial to a bird species that was once so important to the ecology of North America, and reminds us of just how fragile the natural world can be.

Published in the centennial year of Martha’s death, The Passenger Pigeon features rare archival images as well as haunting photos of live birds.


A good introduction to Passenger Pigeons and their unfortunate fate. It’s filled with some great art (both old and new) and even photos of live birds.


The Passenger Pigeon
by Errol Fuller
Hardcover; 184 pages
Princeton University Press; September 15, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691162959

The Warbler Guide appPrinceton University Press just announced an app based on The Warbler Guide will be available for iOS devices in December. Among the list of features, one in particular caught my eye:

  • 3D models of birds in all plumages, rotatable and pinch-zoomable to match field experience of a bird

That could be AWESOME! That’s one way that apps could really improve upon printed field guides.

Here are the other features:

  • Intuitive, visual, and interactive finders with filters for possible species based on audio and visual criteria chosen by the user
  • Rapid and confident two-step ID process using visual finders and comparison species
  • The first complete treatment of warbler songs, using a new objective vocabulary
  • An intuitive visual finder that includes side, 45 degree, and undertail views
  • Many additional photos to show behavior and reinforce key ID points
  • Color Impression Icons for narrowing down ID of warblers from the briefest glimpses
  • Playback of all songs and vocalizations with sonograms makes study of vocalizations easy and intuitive
  • iPhone® and iPad® versions let you take these useful tools into the field
  • Selectable finder sortings grouped by color, alphabetical order, song type, and taxonomic order
  • Interactive song finder using objective vocabulary for fast ID of unknown songs
  • Comparison species with selectable side, 45 degree, and undertail views

Penguins: The Ultimate GuidePenguins: The Ultimate Guide
by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite

From Princeton University Press:

Penguins are perhaps the most beloved birds. On land, their behavior appears so humorous and expressive that we can be excused for attributing to them moods and foibles similar to our own. Few realize how complex and mysterious their private lives truly are, as most of their existence takes place far from our prying eyes, hidden beneath the ocean waves. This stunningly illustrated book provides a unique look at these extraordinary creatures and the cutting-edge science that is helping us to better understand them. Featuring more than 400 breathtaking photos, this is the ultimate guide to all 18 species of penguins, including those with retiring personalities or nocturnal habits that tend to be overlooked and rarely photographed.

A book that no bird enthusiast or armchair naturalist should do without, Penguins includes discussions of penguin conservation, informative species profiles, fascinating penguin facts, and tips on where to see penguins in the wild.

  • Covers all 18 species of the world’s penguins
  • Features more than 400 photos
  • Explores the latest science on penguins and their conservation
  • Includes informative species profiles and fascinating penguin facts


This book is very similar to the previous Tui De Roy and Mark Jones collaboration, Albatross: Their World, Their Ways (probably my favorite bird-family book ever). That means it is big, filled with gorgeous photographs, and packed with great information.


Penguins: The Ultimate Guide
by Tui De Roy, Mark Jones, and Julie Cornthwaite
Hardcover; 240 pages
Princeton University Press; August 24, 2014
ISBN: 978-0691162997

Not many reviews this month. Hopefully I didn’t overlook many…

On 1 September 1914, between midday and 1 pm, in the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, Cincinnati, Ohio, a pigeon breathed her last, and with her died her species.
– Mark Avery, A Message from Martha

And thus, the Passenger Pigeon became extinct 100 years ago. You’re probably already aware of this, as much has been made of this centenary (it was even in the New York Times!). But this is one thing that we should make a big deal about, and things such as Project Passenger Pigeon are doing just that. But I want to focus on (what else?) some books. To mark this anniversary, no fewer than three books about the Passenger Pigeon will be published this year. I would strongly urge everyone to read one or more of these books. The story of the pigeon’s extinction is not only interesting in and of itself, but it holds many lessons that we dare not forget.

  • A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon's Flight to ExtinctionA Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction
    by Joel Greenberg

    Greenberg traces the history of the pigeon through those that encountered this amazing bird. Intriguingly, he also looks into their ecological role and postulates how the landscape of eastern North America would be different today if the pigeon had survived.
    For a more detailed look at this book, check out Rick Wright’s review for the American Birding Association.

  • A Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance TodayA Message from Martha: The Extinction of the Passenger Pigeon and Its Relevance Today
    by Mark Avery

    Avery frames the pigeon’s story around a trip he made to visit the bird’s former haunts. “With an element of travelogue as well as historical detective work”, he weaves in a broader view of what was happening in America at the time. But even more importantly, he doesn’t dwell exclusively in the past, but uses the pigeon to show how we can have a more sustainable future.
    Here’s a review of this book at The Well-read Naturalist.

  • The Passenger PigeonThe Passenger Pigeon
    by Errol Fuller

    Not intended to be a detailed monograph of the pigeon, Fuller’s book is instead both a celebration and memorial of this important bird. Unlike the previous two books, this one is richly illustrated with many artists’ renderings of the Passenger Pigeon and photos of live birds.

Update: And here are a few more: Pilgrims of the Air, One Came Home (a young-adult novel), and The Lost Bird Project. Thanks, Ted, for bringing attention to these.

by Richard Weeks

The pictures, paintings, and story of the author’s attempt to photograph all the regularly breeding warblers in the United States.

Read the full review »

52 Small Birds52 Small Birds
by Richard Weeks

From Richard Weeks:

Wood warblers are among the most sought-after of the spring migrants. The small, colorful birds provide motivation for thousands of birders from throughout the world to travel to locations both popular and obscure. 52 Small Birds describes the eight year quest of a bird artist to photograph and paint the 52 breeding warblers of the United States. Comfortably retired and enjoying his passion as an artist, the author was in his 60s when he discovered the joys and challenges of birding. His desire—perhaps more rightly described as a fixation—to document warblers led to 11 trips to eight different states, which are described in narration, journal sketches, photographs, and paintings. This narrative relates how the process of searching for, photographing, and painting birds both enhanced and deepened the author’s connection to the natural world.


Not a new book, but I just discovered it this week and am really enjoying it so far. The art and photography are nice, but the narrative is also very good. And, of course, it’s about warblers!


52 Small Birds
by Richard Weeks
Paperback; 140 pages
Luminare Press; February 28, 2014
ISBN: 978-1937303228