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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

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

From National Geographic:

This fully revised edition of the best-selling North American bird field guide is the most up-to-date guide on the market. Perfect for beginning to advanced birders, it is the only book organized to match the latest American Ornithological Society taxonomy.

With more than 2.75 million copies in print, this perennial bestseller is the most frequently updated of all North American bird field guides. Filled with hand-painted illustrations from top nature artists (including the ever-popular hummingbird), this latest edition is poised to become an instant must-have for every serious birder in the United States and Canada. The 7th edition includes 37 new species for a total of 1,023 species; 16 new pages allow for 250 fresh illustrations; 80 new maps; and 350 map revisions. With taxonomy revised to reflect the radical new American Ornithological Society taxonomy established in 2016, the addition of standardized banding codes, and text completely vetted by birding experts, this new edition will top of the list of birding field guides for years to come.

 

Wow, has it really been six years since the 6th edition? Well, this venerable field guide is back with a new edition. More birds, new illustrations, new maps, and, of course, an ever-new taxonomy. I’ll be posting a detailed look at the changes soon.

 

National Geographic Field Guide to the Birds of North America, 7th Edition
by Jon L. Dunn and Jonathan Alderfer
Flexicover; 592 pages
National Geographic; September 12, 2017
ISBN: 9781426218354
$29.99

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

From Crossley Books:

The Crossley ID Guide: Eastern Birds, published in 2011, revolutionized birding and books by providing the first real-life approach to ID. The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl, the fourth of these user-friendly guides, is for both hunters and birders.

Unlike other guides, which provide isolated individual photographs or paint illustrations, this book features large, lifelike scenes that are ‘painted in pixels.’ Nearly 300 pages of waterfowl scenes – showing waterfowl in a wide range of views – near and far, from different angles, in various plumages and behaviors, including flight, and in the habitat in which they live. These beautiful compositions show how a bird’s appearance changes with distance, and give equal emphasis to characteristics experts use to identify birds: size, structure and shape, behavior, probability, and color. This is the first book to convey all of these features visually – in a single image – and to reinforce them with accurate text. Each scene provides a wealth of detailed visual information that invites and rewards careful study.

By making identification easier, more accurate, and more fun than ever before, The Crossley ID Guides redefine how readers look at nature. Essential for anyone interested in waterfowl, it also promises to make new birders of many people who have despaired of using traditional guides.

This waterfowl guide also carries a strong underlying conservation message. If all the readers of this book come together as one, we can better protect the things we love.

  • Covers all of North America’s ducks, geese, and swans
  • More than 5,000 photos in Crossley-style scenes – seen near and far, from different angles, and in various plumages and behaviors, including flight
  • Includes other wildlife, beautiful scenery, and wing cutouts. Good teachers are fun, create
  • reaction, and are interesting!
  • Lots of mystery photos to challenge you
  • Painting with pixels, rather than a paint brush, created apples to apples imagery
  • Friendly, interactive writing style, cutting-edge ID, conservation, fun facts… and everything between

 

I’m a big fan of the Crossley ID Guides (if you’re not familiar with them, see my reviews of his guides to Eastern NA and Raptors). They’re excellent “workbooks”, as the author calls them, designed to help you learn the bird before going into the field. This latest volume on the ducks, geese, and swans of North America is no exception. There are tons of images, including the mystery plates that I love so much, and a surprising amount of information.

 

The Crossley ID Guide: Waterfowl
by Richard Crossley, Paul Baicich, and Jessie Barry
Flexibound; 510 pages
Crossley Books; June 22, 2017
ISBN: 9780692900352
$39.95

The Birds of the Falkland Islands: An Annotated ChecklistThe Birds of the Falkland Islands: An Annotated Checklist
by Robin W. Woods

From British Ornithologists’ Club:

This new checklist of the birds of the Falkland Islands is the most comprehensive ever published. Meticulously researched and fully referenced, it represents the culmination of decades of fieldwork by the author and others. It brings together everything that is known about the status and distribution of birds in this fascinating archipelago.

A full introduction covers all the expected biogeographical and ecological ground, with strong emphasis on the history of human–avian interactions and the development of wildlife conservation – both among the author’s special interests. The systematic list covers all 205 species whose occurrence in the Falklands is well-evidenced, plus another 54 species that require further confirmation. Seven appendices and 32 pages of colour photographs complete the work. This definitive account of Falklands birds will be an essential reference for all those with an interest in the amazing wildlife of the South Atlantic.

 

This is not a field guide. There are 32 pages of nice color photographs, but if you are only interested in identifying the birds you see in the Falklands, this is not the book for you. If, however, you are at all interested in the birds of the Falklands, then this is most definitely a book that you want. The species accounts are highly detailed, focusing on the status and background of the bird in the Falklands. The introduction is detailed as well, covering the islands’ geography, habitats, human impacts, ornithological history, avifauna, and more.

 

The Birds of the Falkland Islands: An Annotated Checklist
by Robin W. Woods
Paperback; 288 pages
British Ornithologists’ Club; August, 2017
ISBN: 9780952288664
£29.99

Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and AmphibiansWildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians
by Andrés Vásquez Noboa, photography by Pablo Cervantes Daza

From Princeton University Press:

Mainland Ecuador’s spectacular wildlife makes it a magnet for nature tourists, but until now there hasn’t been a go-to, all-in-one guide geared to the general reader. With this handy and accessible guide, visitors now have everything they need to identify and enjoy the majority of birds and animals they are likely to see. Written and illustrated by two of Ecuador’s most experienced nature guides and photographers, this book covers more than 350 birds, mammals, amphibians, and reptiles. It features over 400 stunning color photographs and includes a range map for each species, as well as a brief account of the country’s natural history and biogeography. With its extensive coverage, attractive and easy-to-use layout, beautiful photographs, and nontechnical text, this is an essential guide for anyone who wants to explore the natural wonders of Ecuador.

  • An essential all-in-one guide to mainland Ecuador’s amazing wildlife
  • Unique and attractive layout with more than 400 stunning color photographs
  • Covers more than 350 of the most frequently seen birds, mammals, reptiles, and amphibians
  • Uses a habitat-based approach to aid identification
  • Accessible text provides key information on identification, behavior, biology, and conservation
  • Photos, maps, and text are presented together for ease of use

 

Any nature-loving visitor to Ecuador could make use of this relatively small guide to help identify the mammals, birds, reptiles, and amphibians most likely to be seen. Birders will still want a more complete, dedicated bird guide, but this one would still be worth having for other wildlife.

 

Wildlife of Ecuador: A Photographic Field Guide to Birds, Mammals, Reptiles, and Amphibians
by Andrés Vásquez Noboa
Flexicover; 288 pages
Princeton University Press; May 30, 20172
ISBN: 9780691161365
$29.95