All Posts

Birdlife of the Gulf of MexicoBirdlife of the Gulf of Mexico
by Joanna Burger

From Texas A&M University Press:

The Gulf of Mexico is one of the most important ecological regions in the world for birds. The mosaic of diverse habitats in the region provides numerous niches for birds. There are productive salt marshes, barrier islands, and sandy beaches for foraging and nesting; a direct pathway between North and Central and South America for migrating; and warm, tropical waters for wintering. Many species are residents all year around, some migrate through, and still others spend the winter along the shores. The Gulf Coast is home to a significant portion of the world’s population of Reddish Egret and Snowy Plover and a significant portion of the US breeding populations of certain birds, including the Sandwich Tern, Black Skimmer, and Laughing Gull. In total, there are more than 400 bird species that rely on the Gulf at some time during the year.

Drawing on decades of fieldwork and data research, renowned ornithologist and behavioral ecologist Joanna Burger provides detailed descriptions of birdlife in the Gulf of Mexico. Burger records trends in bird population, behavior, and major threats and stressors affecting birds in the region, including the effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010. While some of this data exists in journal articles, research papers, and government reports, this is the first volume to weave together a comprehensive overview of the birds and related natural resources found in the Gulf of Mexico.

Illustrated with over 900 color photographs, charts, and maps, this landmark reference volume will be immensely important for researchers, conservationists, land managers, birders, and wildlife lovers.

 

This mammoth book is a tour de force, covering the habitat, birds’ use of such habitat, threats, and status of selected indicator species for the entirety of the Gulf (not just the U.S. portion). I wholeheartedly agree with the statement above that this is an essential resource for researchers, conservationists, and land managers. For birders and wildlife lovers, I wouldn’t go as far as to say essential, but rather highly recommended if you are at all interested in learning more about this region and its birds.

 

Birdlife of the Gulf of Mexico
by Joanna Burger
Hardcover; 776 pages
Texas A&M University Press; January 2, 2018
ISBN: 9781623495466
$75.00

by Caren Loebel-Fried

Dance and soar with albatross in this stunning, inspirational, and educational book.

Read the full review »

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition National Geographic recently published a new edition of their popular bird field guide. As always, this new edition incorporates new species (1,023, up from 990) and the latest taxonomic updates (as of 2016), but also has a range of other changes and improvements. Most of these are new, replacement illustrations. In this case, new is improved – these are all definite improvements. The maps have also been extensively updated, with 50+ new range maps (vagrants, i.e. Smew), 16 new subspecies maps, and “hundreds” of updated maps. I’ll offer my thoughts on all of this in my full review. But in the meantime, here are all of the changes to the plates, as best I could tell, whether they be new species, new or replacement illustrations, or changes to the annotated notes.

  • Egyptian Goose – new (moved from Exotic Waterfowl to main section)
  • Tundra and Trumpeter Swams – bills of the juveniles are more pink, and Tundra has a new note that there is “extensive pink at base of bill on juvenile”
  • “Mexican Duck” – added note that female is similar to male and both lack dark saddle on bill. Nice addition since only the male is illustrated
  • American x Eurasian Wigeon hybrid – new
  • Harlequin Duck – new notes on female
  • Common Merganser – new illustration of the head of displaying “Goosander” adult male
  • Swan Goose – addition to Exotic Waterfowl
  • Graylag Goose – moved from Exotic Waterfowl to Accidentals section
  • Sooty Grouse – new illustrations of displaying male sitkensis and hooting male howardi
  • Rock Ptarmigan – new illustration of Attu evermanni summer male
  • American Flamingo – new illustrations of Lesser, Greater, and Chilean Flamingos
  • Jouanin’s Petrel – new
  • Providence Petrel – new
  • Zino’s Petrel – new
  • Flesh-footed Shearwater – replaced illustration; added illustrations of one taking off and one sitting on water (with comparison to Heermann’s Gull)
  • Manx Shearwater – in-flight top view illustration replaced; one of the in-flight bottom views removed
  • Audubon’s Shearwater – both in-flight illustrations replaced; added 2 illustrations of birds on the water
  • Barolo Shearwater – split from Little Shearwater. Previous illustrations of Little replaced; added bird on the water
  • Nazca Booby – new
  • Tricolored Heron – new illustration of in-flight breeding adult (very needed addition)
  • Little Blue Heron – new illustration of in-flight adult
  • Green Heron – replaced in-flight illustration
  • Osprey – new illustration of ridgwayi
  • Mississippi Kite – in-flight illustrations have been replaced and an in-flight 1st summer added
  • Swainson’s Hawk – in-flight illustrations have been replaced and an in-flight juvenile added
  • White-tailed Hawk – added in-flight 2nd year
  • Ferruginous Hawk – replaced in-flight adults and juvenile
  • Rough-legged Hawk – replaced in-flight adults, and totally new annotations
  • American Kestrel – added in-flight female
  • Prairie Falcon – replaced in-flight image
  • Peregrine Falcon – replaced in-flight adult, added in-flight juvenile
  • Gyrfalcon – replaced in-flight image
  • Limpkin – added in-flight
  • Yellow Rail – replaced in-flight image
  • Black Rail – replaced image
  • Sora – added in-flight juvenile
  • Corn Crake – added in-flight
  • Ridgway’s Rail – added Bay Area obsoletus
  • Clapper Rail – added worn adult
  • Common Gallinule – replaced the breeding and juvenile images, added inset of the head of Eurasian Moorhen adult breeding
  • Sandhill Crane – replaced in-flight image
  • Common Crane – replaced in-flight image
  • Little Gull – juvenile added
  • Bonaparte’s Gull – juvenile added
  • Franklin’s Gull – juvenile added
  • Heermann’s Gull – juvenile added
  • Yellow-legged Gull – added 2nd winter
  • Bridled / Sooty Terns – added detailed comparison of adult heads
  • Caspian Tern – juvenile added
  • Elegant Tern – juvenile added
  • Common Murre – winter replaced, juvenile removed
  • Pigeon Guillemot – in-flight winter adult replaced (mislabeled as breeding in 6th ed.); breeding adult in flight added
  • Cassin’s Auklet – both illustrations replaced
  • Ancient Murrelet – all illustrations replaced
  • Guadalupe / Scripps’s / Craveri’s Murrelets – all illustrations replaced and new ones, such as close-ups of heads, added
  • Atlantic Puffin – in-flight replaced
  • Band-tailed Pigeon – juvenile (head-only) added
  • Common Ground-dove – all illustrations replaced, with new ones added
  • Ruddy Ground-dove – all illustrations replaced, with new ones added
  • Ruddy Quail-dove – both images replaced
  • Greater Roadrunner – image replaced, in-flight illustration added
  • Long-eared Owl – added in-flight and Eurasian otus ssp
  • Short-eared Owl – added illustration of domingensis (Carribean ssp)
  • Northern Saw-whet Owl – added brooksi ssp
  • Common Pauraque – replaced both sitting and in-flight birds
  • Mexican Whip-poor-will – replaced image
  • Elegant Trogon – juvenile added
  • Hummingbirds – ALL replaced (except for Lucifer) and many new images and details added
  • American Three-toed Woodpecker – Rocky Mountain male replaced with a female
  • Northern Flicker – added image of intergrade male Red-shafted x Yellow-shafted
  • Pine Flycatcher – new species
  • Eastern Kingbird – adult and in-flight replaced, juvenile missing
  • Thick-billed Kingbird – both images replaced
  • Great Kiskadee – perched bird replaced
  • White-eyed Vireo – inset of an immature added
  • Blue-headed Vireo – replaced, added female
  • Cassin’s / Plumbeous / Gray Vireo – all replaced
  • Yellow-green Vireo – replaced, immature added
  • Black-whiskered Vireo – replaced, added altiloquus
  • Blue Jay – added in-flight
  • Florida Scrub-jay – image replaced
  • Yellow-billed Magpie – added juvenile
  • Purple Martin – all images replaced except for western female in flight
  • Northern Rough-winged Swallow – all illustrations replaced
  • Bank Swallow – all illustrations replaced
  • White-breasted Nuthatch – images replaced, added male aculeate
  • Rock Wren – replaced
  • Cactus Wren – added saniegensis
  • Winter Wren – illustration darkened
  • Sinaloa Wren – added (moved from Accidental section)
  • Blue-gray Gnatcatcher – added female obscura
  • Willow Warbler – added fall illustration
  • Artic Warbler – fall xanthodryas removed (7th ed. Informs us that ssp is now split as Japanese Leaf Warbler, which is unrecorded in N.A.)
  • Common Chiffchaff – added
  • Wood Warbler and Pallas’s Leaf Warbler – added (moved from Accidental section)
  • Bluebirds – all lightened up
  • Aztec Thrush – all replaced
  • Gray Catbird – lightened
  • Blue Mockingbird – lightened a bit
  • Brown / Long-billed Thrasher – both replaced
  • Common Myna – added in-flight
  • Eastern Yellow Wagtail – removed juvenile
  • White Wagtail – added breeding male alba
  • Bohemian Waxwing – adut replaced, added centralasiae and in-flight
  • Cedar Waxwing – added in-flight
  • Lonspurs – added wing tip detail for each species
  • Magnolia Warbler – all replaced
  • Black-throated Gray Warbler – added immature female
  • Cerulean Warbler – added fall immature male
  • Red-legged Honeycreeper – new
  • Rufous-crowned Sparrow – the interior and coastal adults have been replaced, southwestern scottii added, and juvenile image retained, but darkened a little
  • Field Sparrow – all illustrations replaced
  • Bell’s / Sagebrush Sparrows – added illustrations of outer tail feathers
  • Fox Sparrow – all replaced except for “Red” (which was new in 6th), “Sooty” townsendi added
  • Pine Bunting – new (moved from Accidentals and added female and breeding male)
  • Yellow-browed Bunting – new (moved from Accidentals and added spring male)
  • Yellow-throated Bunting – new (moved from Accidentals and added female)
  • Flame-colored x Western Tanager hybrid – new
  • Red-winged Blackbird – the 3 female images are replaced
  • Tricolored Blackbird – female replaced
  • Orchard Oriole – breeding male fuertesi added
  • Brown-capped Rosy-finch – male replaced
  • Pine Siskin – added green morph
  • Hawfinch – breeding male replaced, fall/winter female added
  • Northern Red Bishop – (renamed from Orange Bishop) female replaced
  • Pin-tailed Whydah – new
  • Bronze Mannikin – new
  • Tricolored Munia – new

The Birder's Guide to AfricaThe Birder’s Guide to Africa
by Michael Mills

From Go-Away-Birding:

The first comprehensive summary of bird watching in the African region, featuring:

  • An Introduction with an analytical overview of birding in the region, including heat maps to illustrate the birding potential of territories within the region.
  • Country Accounts for all 68 territories that comprise the region, detailing information on birds and birding (including lists of key species), travel and literature.
  • Family Accounts for all 142 bird families recorded from the region, with photographs.
  • Species Accounts for all 2,792 bird species, including information on where to best see them.

 

Are you planning to travel to Africa, or considering doing so? And if so, have you never been to Africa, or have only been to one or two times? If you ansered yes to both of these questions, then you absolutely need this book. It will help you determine where on the continent you should go, based on a number of criteria. And it will help familiarize you with the types of birds you will see there, which is nice because Africa has a multitude of unique families.

 

The Birder’s Guide to Africa
by Michael Mills
Paperback; 544 pages
Go-Away-Birding; August, 2017
ISBN: 9780620717250
$45.00

My impression of 2017, in regard to bird books, was that it was a good, but not great, year. But when I took time to think of the books that I wanted to highlight here, I found myself going “Oh yeah, I forgot about that one…” more than I would care to admit. In the end, 2017 did see the publication of some great and potentially highly influential books. Here are a few of them…

But first, I need to say that this is not really a true “best of” list. I haven’t seen, much less read, all the bird books of 2017. It’s more like my favorite books of the year, or those that I consider the most important or influential. If I didn’t include your favorite(s), I would love to hear about it in the comments.

Without further ado, here are my top 6 Bird Books of 2017, in roughly ascending order:

  • National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th EditionNational Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition
    by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer

    The National Geographic guide is, along with The Sibley Guide, one of the two best field guides to North American birds. One of the best things about it is that the publisher updates it much more frequently than any other guide. Now in its 7th edition, it follows the pattern of a continuous improvement in the guide. The improvement in this edition is more of a small step, not a giant leap. It includes more species, an updated taxonomy (through 2016), and updates to maps and illustrations. It is the best edition yet, which merits inclusion here. But it is not such a radical improvement that users of the 6th edition should feel compelled to upgrade.

  • The Crossley ID Guide: WaterfowlThe Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl
    by Richard Crossley, Paul Baicich, and Jessie Barry

    The Crossley ID Guides are, in my opinion, some of the best tools available to learn birds. And this new one, covering the ducks, geese, and swans of North America, is no exception. Crossley’s signature plates lend themselves well to this group, and this guide takes full advantage of that by including nearly 300 pages of them. And there’s plenty more here than “just” pictures, including a strong conservation message.

  • Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North AmericaPeterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America
    by Nathan Pieplow

    A field guide with pictures…of sounds. I’m still not sure about this guide’s usefulness in learning bird sounds, the way one can study a traditional field guide to learn what birds look like before going into the field. I still need to spend some more time with it. But I am fully convinced of its value as a reference to identify recorded sounds – and if you become proficient enough, vocalizations that you may have heard, but not recorded. Regardless, Pieplow’s innovative book is pushing the boundaries of field guides, and that is reason enough to include it on this list.

  • The Australian Bird GuideThe Australian Bird Guide
    by Peter Menkhorst, Danny Rogers, Rohan Clarke, Jeff Davies, Peter Marsack, and Kim Franklin

    This is a beautifully illustrated field guide, but that’s not why it’s here. I want to highlight this guide for three reasons:

    1. It’s size. This is a big book, in between the Sibley and Crossley Guides in size. It has no pretense of being usable in the field, so it can devote more space to more and larger illustrations and additional text.

    2. It’s style. The authors have confessed to looking at “the best field guides in the world” when designing their guide. The Collins Guide (aka Birds of Europe) is widely acknowledged as the world’s best field guide, and it appears The Australian Bird Guide authors are in agreement with that sentiment, as their guide bears more than a passing resemblance to Collins.

    3. It’s organization. It eschews the traditional taxonomic species sequence in favor of a more “pragmatic” one. Their system, which they describe in detail in the introduction, works better in a field guide, in my opinion. If you need help finding a bird, multiple types of indices are provided. A drawback of this scheme is that evolutionary relationships can be obscured, so the authors have thoughtfully included an entire section on the evolution and classification of Australian birds.

    For these, and many other, reasons, The Australian Bird Guide joins the ranks of the world’s best field guides.

  • Birding Without BordersBirding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World
    by Noah Strycker

    I love a good birding tale, and this is a really good birding tale. In 2015, Noah Strycker traveled around the world – to all seven continents, without any breaks – with a goal of seeing 5,000+ birds. While the story is great, the writing is even better. This is a fun read, and you may even learn a thing or two.

  • Sage Grouse: Icon of the WestSage Grouse: Icon of the West
    by Noppadol Paothong and Kathy Love

    This book has it all, making it an easy pick as my favorite book of the year: stunning photography; lively, informative text; and a strong, timely conservation message. Sage-grouse are awesome birds, as this book demonstrates. But, sadly, they are in trouble. I share with the authors the hope that those who see this book will be moved to do what they can to help this bird and the sagebrush country in which they live.

Sage Grouse: Icon of the WestSage Grouse: Icon of the West
by Noppadol Paothong and Kathy Love

From Laguna Wilderness Press:

With up-close and captivating images that have never been documented before, Sage Grouse: Icon of the West introduces this unique and remarkable species and the land they depend upon. It also hopes to deepen the discussion about conservation efforts for the sage-grouse so that our next generation, too, can marvel at their beauty and grace.

 

This book is large (11.25″ square) and filled with breathtaking photographs, making it a quintecential coffee-table book. But if you can take your eyes off the photos to read it, you will learn much about these birds and the great “sagebrush sea”. If you are at all interested in these birds, this region, conservation, or beautiful bird books, then I highly recommend this one to you.

 

Sage Grouse: Icon of the West
by Noppadol Paothong and Kathy Love
Hardcover; 180 pages
Laguna Wilderness Press; October, 2017
ISBN: 9780984000739
$45.00

App that will help you identify bird sounds.

Read the full review »

Birdmania: A Remarkable Passion for Birds, a new book from Bernd Brunner, introduces the reader to many individuals that have succumbed to ‘birdmania’. And here’s your chance to meet them.

Enter here for a chance to win a free copy:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks to Greystone Books for supplying the prize!

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 October 27, 2017, 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.
  • United States and Canada residents only.
  • There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.

Birdmania: A Remarkable Passion for BirdsBirdmania: A Remarkable Passion for Birds
by Bernd Brunner

From Greystone Books:

There is no denying that many people are crazy for birds. Packed with intriguing facts and exquisite and rare artwork, Birdmania showcases an eclectic and fascinating selection of bird devotees who would do anything for their feathered friends.

In addition to well-known enthusiasts such as Aristotle, Charles Darwin, and Helen Macdonald, Brunner introduces readers to Karl Russ, the pioneer of “bird rooms”, who had difficulty renting lodgings when landlords realized who he was; George Lupton, a wealthy Yorkshire lawyer, who commissioned the theft of uniquely patterned eggs every year for twenty years from the same unfortunate female guillemot who never had a chance to raise a chick; George Archibald, who performed mating dances for an endangered whooping crane called Tex to encourage her to lay; and Mervyn Shorthouse, who posed as a wheelchair-bound invalid to steal an estimated ten thousand eggs from the Natural History Museum in Tring.

As this book illustrates, people who love birds, whether they are amateurs or professionals, are as captivating and varied as the birds that give flight to their dreams.

 

A wide-ranging look at some fascinating people – from Aristotle to con-men to Kenn Kaufman – who have succumbed to birdmania.

 

Birdmania: A Remarkable Passion for Birds
by Bernd Brunner
Hardcover; 228 pages
Greystone Books; October 24, 2017
ISBN: 9781771642774
$29.95

Birding Without BordersBirding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World
by Noah Strycker

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Traveling to 41 countries in 2015 with a backpack and binoculars, Noah Strycker became the first person to see more than half the world’s 10,000 species of birds in one year.

In 2015, Noah Strycker set himself a lofty goal: to become the first person to see half the world’s birds in one year. For 365 days, with a backpack, binoculars, and a series of one-way tickets, he traveled across forty-one countries and all seven continents, eventually spotting 6,042 species—by far the biggest birding year on record.

This is no travelogue or glorified checklist. Noah ventures deep into a world of blood-sucking leeches, chronic sleep deprivation, airline snafus, breakdowns, mudslides, floods, war zones, ecologic devastation, conservation triumphs, common and iconic species, and scores of passionate bird lovers around the globe. By pursuing the freest creatures on the planet, Noah gains a unique perspective on the world they share with us—and offers a hopeful message that even as many birds face an uncertain future, more people than ever are working to protect them.

 

Over 5,000 birds in one year – sounds fun! And thankfully for us, Strycker’s story is also a fun read.

 

Birding Without Borders: An Obsession, a Quest, and the Biggest Year in the World
by Noah Strycker
Hardcover; 336 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; October 10, 2017
ISBN: 9780544558144
$27.00