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Bird Families of the WorldBird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds
by David W. Winkler, Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette

From Lynx Edicions and Cornell Lab of Ornithology:

Here in one volume is a synopsis of the diversity of all birds. Published between the two volumes of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, Bird Families of the World distills the voluminous detail of the 17-volume Handbook of Birds of the World into a single book. Based on the latest systematic research and summarizing what is known about the life history and biology of each group, this volume will be the best single-volume entry to avian diversity available. Whether you are a birder with an interest in global bird diversity, or a professional ornithologist wishing to update and fill-in your comprehensive knowledge of avian diversity, this volume will be a valuable addition to your library.

An interest in birds is a life-enriching pursuit; the sheer diversity of birds means there are always stunning new species to see and novel facets of their lives to explore. Yet the grand diversity of birds is also a challenge, as it is easy to become disoriented amidst a group that contains more than 10,000 species that vary in nearly all of their most conspicuous attributes. Learning avian diversity requires a mental map to help us organize our experiences and observations. The scientific classification of birds provides exactly this framework, grouping together into Orders and Families birds that are most closely related to one another, and thereby linking species that share distinguishing traits. For those interested in learning about the tremendous diversity of birds world-wide, the best way to start is to learn the families, and Bird Families of the World is a guide and invitation to do so.

This book has been designed to serve both as a text for ornithology courses and as a resource for serious bird enthusiasts of all levels. Technical terminology is much reduced, and all scientific terms used are defined in a glossary. Introductory material describes the scope and concepts behind the classification used and gives suggestions about how best to use the book. The bulk of Bird Families of the World is a family-by-family account of the birds of the world. Each family is represented by at least a two-page spread, including a distributional map with the breeding, non-breeding and year-round ranges of each family, a short text “teaser” to invite the reader to learn more, standardized descriptions of the appearance, relationships and similar species to each family’s members, their life history and conservation status. Each account includes a review of recent ideas about the relationships of the family to other families and relationships within it. The work is liberally illustrated by photographs from bird enthusiasts around the globe as well as paintings of one species from each of the genera in each family. It will be a beautiful and serviceable guide.

 

This (large) book’s subtitle reveals its purpose: to introduce the reader to the amazing diversity found within birds. It treats the family as the basic unit of this diversity. The authors present a brief account of each family, focusing on relationships. While this book is lavishly illustrated and useful to anyone interested in birds, if you’re looking for a general purpose overview of birds you’d be better off with something like The World of Birds. But if you have any interest at all in taxonomy (basically, how birds are related to each other), then this is the book for you. I, for one, have found it full of fascinating revelations.

 

Bird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds
by David W. Winkler, Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette
Hardcover; 600 pages
Lynx Edicions and Cornell Lab of Ornithology; December, 2015
ISBN: 9788494189203
$99.95

The new novel Fee, by Kelly John, seeks “to introduce the substantial body of non-birders to the exhilarating, crazy mixed-up world of birding”. Well, it’s not quite that simple. See, the novel isn’t published yet. And that’s not the author’s actual name. I could try to explain more fully, but it’s better that you just visit the book’s website. As an added incentive, the majority of the book will be posted on the site for free. Three chapters will be put up every week. I’ve read the first three, and I’m eager for more. I’m also very curious who the author is. But whoever it is, they need help from the birding community to make publishing the novel a reality. And based on what I’ve seen so far, they deserve it.

Parrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating BirdsParrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds
by Catherine A. Toft and Timothy F. Wright

From University of California Press:

Parrots of the Wild explores recent scientific discoveries and what they reveal about the lives of wild parrots, which are among the most intelligent and rarest of birds. Catherine A. Toft and Tim Wright discuss the evolutionary history of parrots and how this history affects perceptual and cognitive abilities, diet and foraging patterns, and mating and social behavior. The authors also discuss conservation status and the various ways different populations are adapting to a world that is rapidly changing. The book focuses on general patterns across the 350-odd species of parrots, as well as what can be learned from interesting exceptions to these generalities.

A synthetic account of the diversity and ecology of wild parrots, this book distills knowledge from the authors’ own research and from their review of more than 2,400 published scientific studies. The book is enhanced by an array of illustrations, including nearly ninety color photos of wild parrots represented in their natural habitats. Parrots of the Wild melds scientific exploration with features directed at the parrot enthusiast to inform and delight a broad audience.

 

Parrots are beautiful, intelligent, fascinating, and, in just about every way, awesome. And this book is pretty good, too! It’s the place you should go if you want to learn all about these birds.

 

Parrots of the Wild: A Natural History of the World’s Most Captivating Birds
by Catherine A. Toft and Timothy F. Wright
Hardcover; 346 pages
University of California Press; November 16, 2015
ISBN: 9780520239258
$39.95

Stories for Birders and Other ObserversStories for Birders and Other Observers
by Andrea Vojtko

From WingSpan Press:

Birders are among the keenest observers and five of the eleven short stories in this collection are inspired by imagination while birding or connecting with nature. Ida Pilcher is inexplicably followed wherever she goes by a dozen turkey vultures; Garland Duckett sees God in the golden eye of a Great Blue Heron; Nelson Mayfield, driven by an Internet report, searches frantically for life on Mars before his anticipated early demise; Nathanael Early’s dioramas of Civil War battlefields have taken over his basement; he barely has space for Vicksburg; Brian Feeney observes his neighbor, an Iraq war veteran, refurbishing a corroded four-foot bronze cross on his deck but why. Andrea Vojtko believes that even so-called normal people are eccentric in their own way, if you observe them long enough. In I Stop for Falcons, Thomas scoffs at a group of birders who hold up traffic while they scope out a falcon, labeling them weird. But his dialogue is itself eccentric. A woman searching for her mother’s lost year in Beverly Hills encounters her mother’s strange acquaintances and gets more than she bargained for. Five of these stories were published previously in literary journals with one, Jubilant Voices, nominated for a 2003 Pushcart prize.

 

This collection of 11 short stories would be great to have with you while you’re waiting for that stakeout bird to show!

 

Stories for Birders and Other Observers
by Andrea Vojtko
Paperback; 162 pages
WingSpan Press; November 12, 2015
ISBN: 9781595945747
$13.95

One of my favorite things to do is to look ahead at the bird books set to be published soon (I lead such an exciting life!). 2016 is shaping up to be a great year for them. Check out April 12, in particular (in addition to the three highlighted titles, two others – The Genius of Birds and Feathers: Displays of Brilliant Plumage – are also set to be published that day). Has there ever been a single date with that many fantastic-looking books set to be published?

Prolonging Revenge Through Reincarnation: The Paintings of The Mincing Mockingbird Volume IIIProlonging Revenge Through Reincarnation: The Paintings of The Mincing Mockingbird Volume III
by Matt Adrian (aka The Mincing Mockingbird)

From The Mincing Mockingbird:

Birds. They’re ubiquitous. Colorful. Expressive. As human beings, we tend to project our own characteristics upon these creatures. Artist Matt Adrian has taken this anthropomorphic tendency and exaggerated and expanded it, adorning his lush, minimalist avian portraits with non sequitur titles laced with humor, melancholy and a wicked touch of the absurd. This 160 page collection of Adrian’s artwork features vivid color reproductions of over one hundred bird paintings completed between 2013 and 2015, with subjects ranging from the smallest hummingbirds to the mighty dinosaur-like cassowary. In this beautiful book you will find that Adrian’s refreshingly original combination of art and language is haunting, gorgeous, literate, weird and very, very funny.

 

If you like The Mincing Mockingbird’s Guide to Troubled Birds (that is, if you like fantastic bird portraits coupled with a depraved sense of humor), you’ll love this collection.

 

Prolonging Revenge Through Reincarnation: The Paintings of The Mincing Mockingbird Volume III
by Matt Adrian (aka The Mincing Mockingbird)
Hardcover; 160 pages
The Mincing Mockingbird, Inc.; November 12, 2015
ISBN: 9780692503508
$39.99

Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the FieldBetter Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field
by George L. Armistead and Brian L. Sullivan

From Princeton University Press:

Better Birding reveals the techniques expert birders use to identify a wide array of bird species in the field–quickly and easily. Featuring hundreds of stunning photos and composite plates throughout, this book simplifies identification by organizing the birds you see into groupings and offering strategies specifically tailored to each group. Skill building focuses not just on traditional elements such as plumage, but also on creating a context around each bird, including habitat, behavior, and taxonomy–parts so integral to every bird’s identity but often glossed over by typical field guides. Critical background information is provided for each group, enabling you to approach bird identification with a wide-angle view, using your eyes, brain, and binoculars more strategically, resulting in a more organized approach to learning birds.

Better Birding puts the thrill of expert bird identification within your reach.

  • Reveals the techniques used by expert birders for quick and easy identification
  • Simplifies identification with strategies tailored to different groupings of birds
  • Features hundreds of photos and composite plates that illustrate the different techniques
  • Fosters a wide-angle approach to field birding
  • Provides a foundation for building stronger birding skills

 

The book focuses on 24 groups of birds (loons, tropical terns, accipiters, marsh sparrows, etc), helping birders with some tricky identifications. But this isn’t just about identifying a few species. Throughout, the authors provide a framework for looking at birds that should be of use regardless of when or where you’re birding.

 

Better Birding: Tips, Tools, and Concepts for the Field
by George L. Armistead and Brian L. Sullivan
Paperback; 360 pages
Princeton University Press; December 8, 2015
ISBN: 9780691129662
$29.95

Booming from the Mists of Nowhere: The Story of the Greater Prairie-ChickenBooming from the Mists of Nowhere: The Story of the Greater Prairie-Chicken
by Greg Hoch

From University Of Iowa Press:

For ten months of the year, the prairie-chicken’s drab colors allow it to disappear into the landscape. However, in April and May this grouse is one of the most outrageously flamboyant birds in North America. Competing with each other for the attention of females, males gather before dawn in an explosion of sights and sounds—“booming from the mists of nowhere,” as Aldo Leopold wrote decades ago. There’s nothing else like it, and it is perilously close to being lost. In this book, ecologist Greg Hoch shows that we can ensure that this iconic bird flourishes once again.

Skillfully interweaving lyrical accounts from early settlers, hunters, and pioneer naturalists with recent scientific research on the grouse and its favored grasslands, Hoch reveals that the prairie-chicken played a key role in the American settlement of the Midwest. Many hungry pioneers regularly shot and ate the bird, as well as trapping hundreds of thousands, shipping them eastward by the trainload for coastal suppers. As a result of both hunting and habitat loss, the bird’s numbers plummeted to extinction across 90 percent of its original habitat. Iowa, whose tallgrass prairies formed the very center of the greater prairie-chicken’s range, no longer supports a native population of the bird most symbolic of prairie habitat.

The steep decline in the prairie-chicken population is one of the great tragedies of twentieth-century wildlife management and agricultural practices. However, Hoch gives us reason for optimism. These birds can thrive in agriculturally productive grasslands. Careful grazing, reduced use of pesticides, well-placed wildlife corridors, planned burning, higher plant, animal, and insect diversity: these are the keys. If enough blocks of healthy grasslands are scattered over the midwestern landscape, there will be prairie-chickens—and many of their fellow creatures of the tall grasses. Farmers, ranchers, conservationists, and citizens can reverse the decline of grassland birds and insure that future generations will hear the booming of the prairie-chicken.

 

This is a small book, but a must-read for anyone interested in this bird and its future.

 

Booming from the Mists of Nowhere: The Story of the Greater Prairie-Chicken
by Greg Hoch
Paperback; 158 pages
University Of Iowa Press; December 1, 2015
ISBN: 9781609383879
$19.95

Birds of BotswanaBirds of Botswana
by Peter Hancock and Ingrid Weiersbye

From Princeton University Press:

Here is the ultimate field guide to Botswana’s stunningly diverse birdlife. Covering all 597 species recorded to date, Birds of Botswana features more than 1,200 superb color illustrations, detailed species accounts, seasonality and breeding bars, and a color distribution map for each species. Drawing on the latest regional and national data, the book highlights the best birding areas in Botswana, provides helpful tips on where and when to see key species, and depicts special races and morphs specific to Botswana. This is the first birding guide written by a Botswana-based ornithologist and the only one dedicated specifically to Botswana.

Portable and easy to use, Birds of Botswana is the essential travel companion for anyone visiting this remarkable country.

  • Covers all 597 species of birds found in Botswana, including subspecies and color variants specific to Botswana
  • Features more than 1,200 color illustrations–with more than one illustration for species where the sexes and ages differ
  • Includes detailed species accounts, seasonality and breeding bars, and color distribution maps
  • Draws on the latest bird data and the expertise of leading birders in Botswana

 

I wish I had this when I was in Botswana!

 

Birds of Botswana
by Peter Hancock and Ingrid Weiersbye
Paperback; 398 pages
Princeton University Press; November 24, 2015
ISBN: 9780691157177
$29.95

North American Hummingbirds: An Identification GuideNorth American Hummingbirds: An Identification Guide
by George C. West

From University of New Mexico Press:

Designed to help birders and banders identify, age, and sex all seventeen species of hummingbirds found in North America, this is the only identification guide devoted entirely to hummingbirds that includes up-close, easy-to-use illustrations. It also provides information on the eight species that have been reported but rarely seen in North America.

On first viewing hummingbirds are often a blur of fast-moving color. However, when they perch and hover they can be observed, and the size, shape, and color; the proportions of the body, bill, throat, and tail; the wing feather pattern; and the birds’ behavior are crucial to accurate identification. The author’s concise descriptions and illustrations pinpoint all these features in clear, jargon-free language. Anyone who loves hummingbirds will welcome the information he provides.

 

This guide is small, like the birds it covers, but it’s filled with information, photos, and other illustrations. It should prove to be very handy, especially in locations where multiple hummingbird species are possible.

 

North American Hummingbirds: An Identification Guide
by George C. West
Paperback; 256 pages
University of New Mexico Press; November 15, 2015
ISBN: 9780826337672
$24.95