Book News

The New Neotropical CompanionThe New Neotropical Companion
by John Kricher

From Princeton University Press:

The New Neotropical Companion is the completely revised and expanded edition of a book that has helped thousands of people to understand the complex ecology and natural history of the most species-rich area on Earth, the American tropics. Featuring stunning color photos throughout, it is a sweeping and cutting-edge account of tropical ecology that includes not only tropical rain forests but also other ecosystems such as cloud forests, rivers, savannas, and mountains. This is the only guide to the American tropics that is all-inclusive, encompassing the entire region’s ecology and the amazing relationships among species rather than focusing just on species identification.

The New Neotropical Companion is a book unlike any other. Here, you will learn how to recognize distinctive ecological patterns of rain forests and other habitats and to interpret how these remarkable ecosystems function–everything is explained in clear and engaging prose free of jargon. You will also be introduced to the region’s astonishing plant and animal life.

Informative and entertaining, The New Neotropical Companion is a pleasurable escape for armchair naturalists, and visitors to the American tropics will want to refer to this book before, during, and after their trip.

  • Covers all of tropical America
  • Describes the species and habitats most likely to be observed by visitors
  • Includes every major ecosystem, from lowland rain forests to the high Andes
  • Features a wealth of color photos of habitats, plants, and animals


Pretty much anything you want to know about the ecology and natural history of the neotropics (tropical America) can be found in this book. Short, but information-packed, sections make it easy, and even fun, to browse. One of these is called Brightly Banded Snakes: Some of These Can Kill You, Some Are OK. How can you not read that? I couldn’t resist. And then I read more, and more again. If you’re planning on traveling to this wonderful region, reading this guide beforehand will add immensely to the experience.


The New Neotropical Companion
by John Kricher
Paperback; 448 pages
Princeton University Press; March 7, 2017
ISBN: 9780691115252

Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved BirdVulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird
by Katie Fallon

From ForeEdge (University Press of New England):

Turkey vultures, the most widely distributed and abundant scavenging birds of prey on the planet, are found from central Canada to the southern tip of Argentina, and nearly everywhere in between. In the United States we sometimes call them buzzards; in parts of Mexico the name is aura cabecirroja, in Uruguay jote cabeza colorada, and in Ecuador gallinazo aura. A huge bird, the turkey vulture is a familiar sight from culture to culture, in both hemispheres. But despite being ubiquitous and recognizable, the turkey vulture has never had a book of literary nonfiction devoted to it—until Vulture.

Floating on six-foot wings, turkey vultures use their keen senses of smell and sight to locate carrion. Unlike their cousin the black vulture, turkey vultures do not kill weak or dying animals; instead, they cleanse, purify, and renew the environment by clearing it of decaying carcasses, thus slowing the spread of such dangerous pathogens as anthrax, rabies, and botulism. The beauty, grace, and important role of these birds in the ecosystem notwithstanding, turkey vultures are maligned and underappreciated; they have been accused of spreading disease and killing livestock, neither of which has ever been substantiated. Although turkey vultures are protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, which makes harming them a federal offense, the birds still face persecution. They’ve been killed because of their looks, their odor, and their presence in proximity to humans. Even the federal government occasionally sanctions “roost dispersals,” which involve the harassment and sometimes the murder of communally roosting vultures during the cold winter months.

Vulture follows a year in the life of a typical North American turkey vulture. By incorporating information from scientific papers and articles, as well as interviews with world-renowned raptor and vulture experts, author Katie Fallon examines all aspects of the bird’s natural history: breeding, incubating eggs, raising chicks, migrating, and roosting. After reading this book you will never look at a vulture in the same way again.


I was especially looking forward to this because the author’s previous work, on Cerulean Warblers, was awesome. I’ve only read a little of this one, but so far it has not disappointed. Anyone who enjoys good writing about birds should give it a chance.


Vulture: The Private Life of an Unloved Bird
by Katie Fallon
Hardcover; 248 pages
ForeEdge; March 7, 2017
ISBN: 9781611689716

Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Vultures of North AmericaBirds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Vultures of North America
by Pete Dunne, with Kevin T Karlson

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Always a popular group of birds, raptors symbolize freedom and fierceness, and in Pete Dunne’s definitive guide, these traits are portrayed in hundreds of stunning color photographs showing raptors up close, in flight, and in action—fighting, hunting, and nesting.

These gorgeous photographs enhance the comprehensive, authoritative text, which goes far beyond identification to cover raptor ecology, behavior, conservation, and much more.

In returning to his forte and his first love, Pete Dunne has crafted a benchmark book on raptors: the first place to turn for any question about these highly popular birds, whether it’s what they eat, where they live, or how they behave.


This is not an identification guide, but rather a sort-of companion to raptor ID guides (such as Dunne’s own Hawks in Flight). It is a summary of raptor natural history, but with something extra: the author’s considerable experience with these birds and his sheer writing ability. These accounts are, simply put, fun to read. So even if you already have a shelf full of raptor books or access to online resources like BNA, this book is still worth having.


Birds of Prey: Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, and Vultures of North America
by Pete Dunne, with Kevin T Karlson
Hardcover; 320 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; April 25, 2017
ISBN: 9780544018440

Raptors of Mexico and Central AmericaRaptors of Mexico and Central America
by William S. Clark and N. John Schmitt

From Princeton University Press:

Raptors are among the most challenging birds to identify in the field due to their bewildering variability of plumage, flight silhouettes, and behavior. Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the first illustrated guide to the region’s 69 species of raptors, including vagrants. It features 32 stunning color plates and 213 color photos, and a distribution map for each regularly occurring species. Detailed species accounts describe key identification features, age-related plumages, status and distribution, subspecies, molt, habitats, behaviors, potential confusion species, and more.

Raptors of Mexico and Central America is the essential field guide to this difficult bird group and the ideal travel companion for anyone visiting this region of the world.

  • Covers all 69 species of raptors found in Mexico and Central America
  • Features 32 color plates and hundreds of color photos
  • Provides multiple illustrations of each species
  • Depicts and describes variations in plumage by individual, morph, age, and region
  • Describes behavior, food preferences, hunting strategies, vocalizations, and molt
  • Covers rare and extralimital species
  • Includes distribution maps and flight silhouettes


Tons of information, extensive plates, and lots of large, impressive photos. Its fairly large size means it is more suited for reference rather than field use. Visiting birders may even wish to leave it at home, where it will make an excellent reference to either study beforehand or sort out identifications afterward.


Raptors of Mexico and Central America
by William S. Clark and N. John Schmitt
Hardcover; 272 pages
Princeton University Press; March 28, 2017
ISBN: 9780691116495

Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic GuideBirds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic Guide
by Frédéric Jiguet and Aurélien Audevard

From Princeton University Press:

Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is the first comprehensive pocket-sized photographic field guide to every bird species in Europe–this includes winter visitors and common migrants but also all rarities to the region, even if they have been recorded only once. The guide also covers hypothetical species–those that have a good chance of being recorded due to such factors as range expansion and changing weather patterns.

The book’s 2,200 stunning color photographs mean that every species is pictured, making field identification quick and easy. Succinct text covers key identification features, voice, habitat, and distribution, and distribution maps are provided for regular breeding species. Particular attention and details are given to help differentiate similar-looking species.

Lavishly illustrated, up-to-date, and wide-ranging, Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East is an essential field guide for every naturalist and birder.

  • First comprehensive field guide to all species recorded in Europe: resident, winter visitor, common migrant, and rarity
  • 860 species covered using 2,200 photographs
  • Includes every species from North Africa and the Middle East to have occurred in Europe


This compact field guide looks like it would make a good companion to the Collins Bird Guide, or even serve as a primary guide if necessary.


Birds of Europe, North Africa, and the Middle East: A Photographic Guide
by Frédéric Jiguet and Aurélien Audevard
Paperback; 448 pages
Princeton University Press; March 21, 2017
ISBN: 9780691172439

What Birds Teach UsWhat Birds Teach Us: Life’s Lessons Learned from Our Feathered Friends
by Bonnie Louise Kuchler

From Willow Creek Press:

Nature has many lessons to offer, and some of her teachers wear feathers. The curiosities, cleverness, and cuteness of birds are showcased here in exceptional images handpicked from the portfolios of professional wildlife photographers. From breaking out of a shell to leaving the nest, from mate-finding to migrating, from surviving to thriving, our feathered friends share bird seeds of wisdom, dipped in the nectar of fun. With forty-eight images alongside insightful and humorous tips, What Birds Teach Us is a visual and inspiring treat for anyone who enjoys birds.


This small book has lots of pretty pictures accompanied by inspirational, thought-provoking sayings. It could make a nice gift for someone with a passing interest in birds, but it doesn’t have enough meat to it to satisfy more serious bird students.


What Birds Teach Us: Life’s Lessons Learned from Our Feathered Friends
by Bonnie Louise Kuchler
Hardcover; 96 pages
Willow Creek Press; February 1, 2017
ISBN: 9781682347331

Good Birders Still Don't Wear WhiteGood Birders Still Don’t Wear White
edited by Lisa A. White and Jeffrey A. Gordon

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

Avid North American birders share wit, wisdom, advice, and what fuels their passion for birds.

Birding gets you outside, helps you de-stress, exercises your body and mind, puts your day-to-day problems in perspective, and can be lots of fun. Birders know this, and in this collection of thirty-seven brief essays, birders from diverse backgrounds share their sense of wonder, joy, and purpose about their passion (and sometimes obsession).

From the Pacific Ocean to Central Park, from the rainforest in Panama to suburban backyards-no matter what their habitat, what good birders have in common is a curiosity about the natural world and a desire to share it with others. In these delightful essays, each accompanied by an endearing drawing, devoted birders reveal their passion to be fulfilling, joyful, exhilarating, and maybe even contagious.

Contributors include many well-known birders, such as Richard Crossley, Pete Dunne, Kenn Kaufman, Michael O’Brien, Bill Thompson, and Julie Zickefoose.

A portion of the proceeds goes to the American Birding Association, North America’s largest membership organization for active birders.


Like its predecessor, Good Birders Don’t Wear White, this book is filled with essays covering a gamut of birding-related topics. It has something for any birder – lots of tips, of course, but also encouragement to try something new, from pelagic trips to county listing to sharing your knowledge with new birders. This is a fun little book!


Good Birders Still Don’t Wear White
edited by Lisa A. White and Jeffrey A. Gordon
Paperback; 288 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; March 14, 2017
ISBN: 9780544876095

Lapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks: The How and Why of Bird NamesLapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks: The How and Why of Bird Names
by Ray Reedman

From Pelagic Publishing:

The Lapwing once had many regional names; the Loon has a British-American identity crisis and the respectable-sounding Apostlebird is often called a Lousy Jack. Why do bird names, both common and scientific, change over time and why do they vary so much between different parts of the English-speaking world? Wandering through the scientific and cultural history of ornithology takes us to the heart of understanding the long relationship between birds and people.

Lapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks uncovers the stories behind the incredible diversity of bird names, explains what many scientific names actually mean and takes a look at the history of the system by which we name birds. Ray Reedman explores the natural history and folklore behind bird names, in doing so unlocking the mystery of the name Scoter, the last unexplained common name of a British bird species.


This isn’t exactly a new book, but I just now started in on it and wanted to call attention to it. While the author presents the origins and meanings behind many bird names, this is not meant to be an encyclopedic reference. Rather, he takes us as his interest and experience leads. Since he’s British, that means most of the birds he discusses are European, although you will also find some from North America, Trinidad, and Australia – all places he has visited. As a consequence, the coverage is very uneven and perhaps of less interest to those in areas not well covered. But this approach is also more personal, more conversational, and as such much more interesting to read than a strict reference.


Lapwings, Loons and Lousy Jacks: The How and Why of Bird Names
by Ray Reedman
Hardcover; 304 pages
Pelagic Publishing; October 15, 2016
ISBN: 9781784270926

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

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

The first comprehensive guide to the sounds of eastern North American birds, featuring an innovative visual index that allows readers to quickly look up unfamiliar sounds in the field.​

Bird songs and calls are just as important as visual field marks in identifying birds. But until now, the only way to learn them was by memorization. With this groundbreaking book, it’s possible to visually distinguish bird sounds and identify birds using a field guide format.

At the core of this guide is the spectrogram, a visual graph of sound. With a brief introduction to five key aspects—speed, repetition, pauses, pitch pattern, and tone quality—readers can learn to visualize sounds, without any musical training or auditory memorization. Picturing sounds makes it possible to search this book visually for a bird song heard in the field.

The Sound Index groups similar songs together, narrowing the identification choices quickly to a brief list of birds that sound alike. Readers can then turn to the species account for more information and/or listen to the accompanying audio tracks available online, through Cornell’s Lab of Ornithology.

Identifying birds by sound is arguably the most challenging and important skill in birding. This book makes it vastly easier to master than ever before.


It’s amazing to me (in the good way) that we now have a field guide filled with pictures not of birds, but of their sounds! This guide presents a new way of listening to – and looking at – bird sounds. All of the sounds, over 5400 in all, are easily accessible on, courtesy of Cornell Lab of Ornithology’s Macaulay Library. Like The Warbler Guide before it, this guide has the potential to revolutionize bird identification by ear.


Peterson Field Guide to Bird Sounds of Eastern North America
by Nathan Pieplow
Flexicover; 608 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; March 7, 2017
ISBN: 9780547905587

Attracting Birds in the Texas Hill CountryAttracting Birds in the Texas Hill Country: A Guide to Land Stewardship
by W. Rufus Stephens and Jan Wrede

From Texas A&M University Press:

After years of working with landowners, land managers, naturalists, county officials, and others about wildlife management and land stewardship for birds in the Texas Hill Country, biologist Rufus Stephens and educator Jan Wrede teamed up to write a practical guidebook on how to improve habitat for birds on both small and large properties throughout the Hill Country.

Because each bird species has specific needs for cover, food, water, nesting, and rearing their young, the book is organized by Hill Country habitat types: wooded slopes and savannahs; grasslands; rivers and creeks; canyons, seeps, and springs; tanks and ponds; plus residential backyards. Each chapter contains an in-depth discussion of common problems and possible solutions for developing optimum habitat. The book showcases 107 species in their habitats with color photographs and a short descriptive account of how to know the bird and care for its habitat. Three additional chapters on predator control, deer management, and cedar management offer detailed information on these special issues that impact the presence of birds throughout the region.

As a comprehensive guide to habitat assessment, identification of birds and the habitats they use, plus stewardship practices that will benefit these birds, Attracting Birds in the Texas Hill Country offers landowners the ideal “how to manual” for writing an effective Wildlife Tax Valuation plan.

By helping readers recognize and evaluate habitat health and then use appropriate habitat enhancement practices, the authors hope to inspire and enable widespread and effective bird conservation in the Texas Hill Country. And as bird populations flourish, so do the populations of other wildlife.


This book’s subtitle – A Guide to Land Stewardship – should give you the indication that this is not your usual guide to attracting birds. Indeed, this guidebook is unlike any other I’ve seen. While it would still be useful for backyards, it’s main target is larger properties. Broken down by habitat type, it helps landowners and managers know how to improve the habitat for birds and to combat common problems. This book should be an immense help for anyone responsible for managing land in the Texas Hill Country, or similar habitats in the surrounding area, that cares about birds and other wildlife.


Attracting Birds in the Texas Hill Country: A Guide to Land Stewardship
by W. Rufus Stephens and Jan Wrede
Flexibound; 512 pages
Texas A&M University Press; February 3, 2017
ISBN: 9781623494407