Book News

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
$13.95

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
$29.99

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 petersonbirdsounds.com, 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
$28.00

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
$39.95

Owls: A Guide to Every Species in the WorldOwls: A Guide to Every Species in the World
by Marianne Taylor

From Harper Design:

Discover the fascinating and mysterious world of owls with this stunning full-color, encyclopedic visual guide that explores all 225 known species, packed with maps, photographs, illustrations, informative scientific details, and a bonus 35½” x 12″ accordion poster illustrated with the true-to-size wing length of the largest owl, overlayed with the wing length of the smallest owl and several owls in-between.

Humans have long been fascinated by owls. From prehistoric cave paintings to popular modern children’s stories, these magnificent predators have been seen as harbingers of good fortune and impending disaster, as icons of fear and wisdom, and as the powerful sidekicks of magic-makers, including the beloved Harry Potter. Scientists have faced tremendous challenges trying to document the lives of these solitary, nocturnal, and highly elusive creatures. New species are still being discovered, as are new insights into the habits of even the most familiar varieties.

Visually spectacular and authoritative, Owls includes full descriptions and maps of key viewing locations for all 225 owl species in the world, and is illustrated with drawings and stunning full-color images from some of the leading wildlife photographers from around the world which capture these birds’ breathtaking beauty and power. The book also features a special section on the art of hiding—a highly honed skill set of the owl.

Throughout, Marianne Taylor provides a wealth of detail on each type of bird’s hunting and breeding behavior, habitat, and conservation. Inside, are dozens of fun facts, such as:

  • Only nineteen of the 225 known species of owls are found in North America;
  • Owls can be found on all continents except Antarctica;
  • Owls, like humans, have binocular vision;
  • Owls cannot turn their eyes, but are able to rotate their heads up to 270 degrees;
  • Owls are carnivorous and are known to eat rodents, small mammals, nocturnal insects, fish, and other birds.

Lavishly illustrated and educational, this breathtaking volume is essential for readers interested in natural science, devout birders, professional ornithologists, and all owl lovers.

 

When it comes to owls, there is any kind of book you could want. If you’re looking for a readable introduction to each of the world’s owls, along with some great photos – this is the book you want. Of the 225 owls covered, 205 of them get a one, sometimes two, page account, complete with range map and a single, large photo. The remaining 20 fit two to a page, since they don’t have a photo (to be fair, many of these are range restricted, one is extinct, and another likely so). Also included is a 15-page introduction covering the basics of owl biology.

 

Owls: A Guide to Every Species in the World
by Marianne Taylor
Hardcover; 256 pages
Harper Design; November 22, 2016
ISBN: 9780062413888
$50.00

Book of Texas BirdsBook of Texas Birds
by Gary Clark

From Texas A&M University Press:

Drawing on the knowledge and insight gained from a lifetime of watching, studying, and enjoying birds, this book is full of information about more than four hundred species of birds in Texas, most all of which author Gary Clark has seen first hand. Organized in the standard taxonomic order familiar to most birders, the book is written in a conversational tone that yields a wide-ranging discussion of each bird’s life history as well as an intimate look at some of its special characteristics and habits. Information regarding each species’ diet, voice, and nest is included as well as when and where it can be found in Texas. Magnificent photographs by Kathy Adams Clark accompany each bird’s entry.

For those just beginning to watch birds to those who can fully relate to the experiences and sentiments communicated here by a veteran birder, this book reveals the kind of personal connection to nature that careful attention to the birds around us can inspire.

 

This book has roughly the size, heft, and feel of The Sibley Guide, but it is not a field guide. Instead, it’s a bird-by-bird introduction to Texas’ avifauna. Informative and readable, it would be the ideal companion for any Texan interested in birds. Here’s the author’s thoughts on how to best use it:

Browse the book. Look for birds you want to know more about. Learn what you want to learn and keep the book on hand when you want to learn. The book is meant for you to enjoy as a complement to your enjoyment of birds.

 

Book of Texas Birds
by Gary Clark
Flexicover; 512 pages
Texas A&M University Press; December 28, 2016
ISBN: 9781623494315
$39.95

Look and Learn Birds PBS KidsLook and Learn Birds / Insects (PBS Kids)
by Sarah Parvis and PBS Kids

From Downtown Bookworks:

A simple, fun, fully-illustrated introduction to birds comes packaged with kid-friendly binoculars to encourage kids to explore the natural world around them.

The clear, easy-to-follow reference is designed for a young audience with large pictures and minimal text highlighting the most interesting things to notice about the most common birds in North America–ones that kids would easily spot in their own backyard or local park. The book also highlights features and behaviors children can look for when they observe birds up-close (with the binoculars that come in the kit). In addition, the guide suggests fun, educational activities such as making a hummingbird feeder, or homemade bird treats to attract feathered friends. A portable checklist is included to help children identify common birds when they’re out birding, and there is a colorful, interactive poster as well. An engaging resource for budding naturalists, this kit will also get kids exciting about experiencing nature up-close.

This delightful kit comes with:

  • 64-page book packed with bright, informative photos and simple tips for spotting and identifying common birds
  • a pair of easy-to-use binoculars
  • a portable laminated list of common North American birds
  • an activity poster that encourages observation and creativity

 

The insect kit includes a magnifier jar, in addition to a book and poster.

These kits are ideal for children (approximately 4-9 years old) who are interested in nature (or who you’d like to get interested in nature!). The books are not field guides so much as introductions to these groups, with lots of interesting facts and guidance as to what to look for. The binoculars included in the bird kit is more of a novelty item than useful tool, they’re the same as those you’d get at zoo gift shops. In other words, if the child is legitimately interested in birdwatching you’ll need to get actual binoculars. The jar, on the other hand, actually works pretty well.

Younger kids should love these kits. In fact, I would have posted about these much earlier, but my kids appropriated them as soon as they were opened!

 

Look and Learn Birds / Insects (PBS Kids)
by Sarah Parvis and PBS Kids
Paperback; 64 pages each
Downtown Bookworks; August 30, 2016
ISBN: Birds: 9781941367292; Insects: 9781935703853
$19.99 each

Animals of Kruger National ParkAnimals of Kruger National Park
by Keith Barnes

From Princeton University Press:

South Africa’s Kruger National Park is one of the largest and most diverse conservation areas in Africa, and a hugely popular visitor attraction. Animals of Kruger National Park is a compact and beautifully illustrated guide, and the essential companion for any safari to the region. With an eye-catching design, authoritative and accessible text and easy-to-use format, this detailed photographic guide provides information on identification, habitat, behaviour, biology and conservation for all the mammals, reptiles and frogs likely to be seen. Introductory sections provide background information on the park and its habitats, when to visit and where to go, and other practical considerations that will help to enhance your understanding, appreciation and enjoyment of the animals of this incredible region.

  • The essential all-in-one Kruger safari companion, ideal for all visitors
  • Unique and attractive layout, featuring 216 stunning colour photographs, 116 track (spoor) illustrations and two maps
  • Covers 57 mammals, 17 reptiles and eight frogs
  • Features the ‘Big 5’–elephants, leopards, lions, rhinoceroses and buffalos–as well as other iconic and charismatic animals
  • Provides key information on identification, behaviour, biology and conservation

 

This is another excellent entry in the Princeton WILDGuides series. It will not only help you identify the mammals, reptiles, and frogs you’re most likely to see, but it will also teach you about their natural history and the region as a whole. Highly recommended to anyone going to Kruger or the surrounding area.

 

Animals of Kruger National Park
by Keith Barnes
Paperback; 176 pages
Princeton University Press; September 6, 2016
ISBN: 9780691161785
$27.95

Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American OwlsOwl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls
by Paul Bannick

From Mountaineers Books:

In Owl, award-winning photographer Paul Bannick uses his intimate yet dramatic images to track four different nesting owl species, Northern Pygmy, Burrowing, Great Gray, and Snowy, throughout the course of one year and in four distinct habitats. Readers follow along at the nest as each stage in an owl’s life is chronicled: courtship, mating, and nesting in spring; fledging and feeding of young in summer; dispersal and learning independence in fall; and finally, winter’s migration.

 

This book is worth buying for the photos alone. Stunning! But it’s also a good introduction to the lives of owls, with emphasis placed on four species that showcase the diversity of owl behaviors and habitats. Bannick has spent many an hour in the field with these birds, and that clearly comes through in both his pictures and his words.

 

Owl: A Year in the Lives of North American Owls
by Paul Bannick
Hardcover; 224 pages
Mountaineers Books; October 1, 2016
ISBN: 9781594858000
$34.95

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central AmericaPeterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America
by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

A field guide to the birds of Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, abundantly illustrated and with comprehensive coverage of both endemic and migrant birds

Birding is one of the fastest-growing sectors of the tourism industry in northern Central America, and this is the newest and best bird field guide to this region—the first new bird guide in over ten years for the countries of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. This guide is far more complete than previous ones, with more than 800 species accounts, full-color range maps, and 1,000 beautiful illustrations and behavioral vignettes covering all species recorded in the region.

This guide is designed for birders to carry in the field, and it is a must-have for any birder who visits the area.

 

This is the new go-to field guide for Belize, Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras. It’s small enough to easily carry with you and has range maps and accounts opposite some very nice plates.

 

Peterson Field Guide to Birds of Northern Central America
by Jesse Fagan and Oliver Komar
Paperback; 448 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; November 1, 2016
ISBN: 9780544373266
$25.00