Book News

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

Life-size Birds: The Big Book of North American BirdsLife-size Birds: The Big Book of North American Birds
by Nancy J. Hajeski

From Thunder Bay Press:

John James Audubon would be proud to know that a life-size bird book is alive in the 21st century. You won’t need Sotheby’s auction house to buy this volume, though! Full-size images of beautiful feathered friends offer a detailed look at each North American species, while scaled photographs of larger birds allow you to see the entire animal. Fun facts pepper the pages, and a summary of general information accompanies each avian. Get an up-close, personal look at the world’s masters of flight!


This book is huge, visually striking, and has a great concept. Unfortunately, it also has a number of issues. Still, it has a wow-factor that may get readers, especially younger ones, interested in birds.


Life-size Birds: The Big Book of North American Birds
by Nancy J. Hajeski
Hardcover; 224 pages
Thunder Bay Press; November 10, 2015
ISBN: 9781626864399

Birds, Art and DesignBirds, Art & Design
by Larry Barth

From Stackpole Books:

Legendary bird carver Larry Barth has created a stunning retrospective of his life’s work, including sculptures from museum exhibits and rarely seen pieces from private collections. This is a must-have book for every bird lover, carver, and anyone who appreciates fine sculptural art.

  • 24 finely detailed sculptures in wood shown in up-close photographs
  • Includes his early work, the Ward world-class winners, and his most recent pieces
  • Barth shares insights on how he conceives, designs, and executes his blue-ribbon masterpieces


You will not believe the images in this book are of carved and painted wood! These sculptures are phenomenal. The artist also shares insight into their production and design. Anyone at all interested in birds and art will love this book.


Birds, Art & Design
by Larry Barth
Hardcover; 232 pages
Stackpole Books; December 1, 2015
ISBN: 9780811713597

Water Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland BirdsWater Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland Birds
by William Burt

From Countryman Press:

Never-before-seen photographs of baby birds of the marshlands from a noted birding photographer

Naturalist William Burt is known for seeking out wild places and elusive birds―and none fit the bill quite so well as the creatures featured in this book. This may well be his break out book, featuring the downy young of the wetlands, whose images are full of character and appeal. Most of these birds have never been captured on film until now. From the comic-monster herons to the fuzzy ducklings and stick-legged sandpipers, these tots have personality and spunk. In the wetlands, they come together, drawn by one essential need: for water. These babies then, are birds that get their feet wet; this book is one for bird lovers, naturalists, photographers, and animal lovers.


Baby ducks, grebes, shorebirds, and more – talk about an overload of cuteness! (Except for the baby herons, that is; cute isn’t the word for those “comic monsters”.) As with all of Burt’s previous books, the photos are amazing. But the short, anecdote-heavy accounts are equally great.


Water Babies: The Hidden Lives of Baby Wetland Birds
by William Burt
Hardcover; 208 pages
Countryman Press; October 26, 2015
ISBN: 9781581573053

Border Sanctuary: The Conservation Legacy of the Santa Ana Land GrantBorder Sanctuary: The Conservation Legacy of the Santa Ana Land Grant
by M.J. Morgan

From Texas A&M University Press:

The Santa Ana National Wildlife Refuge lies on the northern bank of the Rio Grande in South Texas, about seventy miles upriver from the Gulf of Mexico. In Border Sanctuary, M.J. Morgan uncovers how 2,000 acres of rare subtropical riparian forest came to be preserved in a region otherwise dramatically altered by human habitation.

The story she tells begins and ends with the efforts of the Rio Grande Valley Nature Club to protect one of the last remaining stopovers for birds migrating north from Central and South America. In between, she reconstructs a two hundred-year human and environmental history of the original “two square leagues” of the Santa Ana land grant and of the Mexican and Tejano families who lived on, worked, and ultimately helped preserve this forest on the river’s edge.

As border issues continue to present serious challenges for Texas and the nation, it is especially important to be reminded of the deep connection between the region’s human and natural history from the long perspective Morgan provides here.


Santa Ana NWR is a magical place. We birders, not to mention the birds, are fortunate to have it. I’m looking forward to reading about how it came to be.


Border Sanctuary: The Conservation Legacy of the Santa Ana Land Grant
by M. J. Morgan
Hardcover; 240 pages
Texas A&M University Press; August 10, 2015
ISBN: 9781623493202

The Lanner FalconThe Lanner Falcon
by Giovanni Leonardi

From Giovanni Leonardi Editore:

This book provides a worldwide review of the ecology, behavior, morphology and breeding biology of the Lanner falcon (Falco biarmicus). From historical sources to the most recent ornithological literature, a comprehensive approach reveals the uniqueness and adaptability of this falcon from Afrotropic to Palearctic ecozones.


I’ve never seen a Lanner and am not likely to anytime soon, unfortunately. But it’s clear that whether you’ve seen this bird or not, if you want to know more about it you should read this book.


The Lanner Falcon
by Giovanni Leonardi
Paperback; 331 pages
Giovanni Leonardi Editore; July, 2015

Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the CaribbeanPeterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean
by Scott Weidensaul

From Houghton Mifflin Harcourt:

This comprehensive work covering all the owls of North America, including Mexico and the Caribbean, is the newest addition to the trusted Peterson Reference Guide series.

Owls are perhaps the most intriguing of all birds — instantly recognizable and endlessly fascinating. Whether viewed as symbols of wisdom or bad omens, these unusual birds have had a hold on human imagination for millennia.

Heard more often than seen, many owls are best identified by vocalizations; this is the only owl guide to include access to a collection of recordings. It is also the only North American owl book to include the Caribbean, covering 39 species of owls, including many little-known tropical species.

With detailed information about identification, calls, habitat, nesting, and behavior, this Reference Guide has the most up-to-date information about natural history, biology, ecology, migration, and conservation status. It is heavily illustrated with hundreds of color photos, and includes the most accurate color range maps ever presented, showing breeding, wintering, and migration routes.

This is a definitive work, useful for serious birders and ornithologists but accessible for the non-expert.


Focusing on natural history, as opposed to identification, this guide includes all the owls found in North America (including – gasp! – Mexico) and the Caribbean. The geographical coverage alone makes it worthwhile to many birders, but really, how can you go wrong with lots of fantastic pictures, Scott Weidensaul, and owls?


Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean
by Scott Weidensaul
Hardcover; 352 pages
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; October 13, 2015
ISBN: 978-0547840031

The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to NatureThe Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature
by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Gerrit Vyn

From Mountaineers Books:

Foreword by Barbara Kingsolver
Over 250 images by renowned photographer Gerrit Vyn
Essays by Jared Diamond, John W. Fitzpatrick, Lyanda Lynn Haupt, and Scott Weidensaul

An intimate and stunning exploration of North American birds, The Living Bird celebrates our joyful and complex relationship with birds, through images by renowned wildlife photographer Gerrit Vyn and essays by some of the world’s leading naturalists and bird enthusiasts. In 2015 the Cornell Lab of Ornithology will celebrate its 100th anniversary as one of the world’s most prestigious and oldest institutions devoted to the study of birds. As a cornerstone of those celebrations, the Lab reveals the essence of its work in this visual and experiential journey through the fascinating and beautiful realm of birds. Connecting people with birds is often a first step in opening their eyes to the natural world around them.


Want to see some insanely good bird photographs? Just open this book to any page. It also has several essays celebrating birds from folks like Scott Weidensaul.


The Living Bird: 100 Years of Listening to Nature
by The Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Gerrit Vyn
Hardcover; 208 pages
Mountaineers Books; September 15, 2015
ISBN: 978-1594859656

Birds of South America PasserinesBirds of South America: Passerines (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)
by Ber van Perlo

From Princeton University Press:

This comprehensive field guide to the birds of South America covers all 1,952 passerine species to be found south of Panama, including offshore islands such as Trinidad, the Galapagos, and the Falklands, and the islands of the Scotia Arc leading to the Antarctic mainland. It features 197 stunning color plates and detailed species accounts that describe key identification features, habitat, songs, and calls. All plumages for each species are illustrated, including males, females, and juveniles. This easy-to-use guide is the essential travel companion for experienced birdwatchers and novice birders alike.

  • Combines a clear format with a wealth of detailed information
  • Features 197 color plates that aid identification
  • Covers key identification features with information on habitat, songs, and calls
  • Includes a distribution map for each species


This wouldn’t be a good choice as a primary field guide. For one, it only covers the passerines, which are about 60% of the continent’s birds (for the rest, there is a companion volume – Birds of South America: Non-Passerines). There’s also a similar book – Field Guide to the Songbirds of South America: The Passerines – that has, in my opinion, better illustrations and much more extensive text, which makes it a better reference. But it’s also much larger. So I would recommend this Illustrated Checklist to someone who wants a secondary guide while traveling, particularly to places underserved by other field guides.


Birds of South America: Passerines (Princeton Illustrated Checklists)
by Ber van Perlo
Paperback; 464 pages
Princeton University Press; September 1, 2015
ISBN: 978-0691167961

Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed BirdwatchersBehind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers
by Mark Avery and Keith Betton

From Pelagic Publishing:

How and why did our most acclaimed birdwatchers take up birding? What were their early experiences of nature? How have their professional birding careers developed? What motivates them and drives their passion for wildlife? How many birds have they seen?

Mark Avery and Keith Betton, passionate birdwatchers and conservationists, interview members of the birdwatching community to answer these and many other questions about the lives of famous birdwatchers. They take you behind the scenes, and behind the binoculars, of a diverse range of birding and wildlife personalities.

Behind the Binoculars includes interviews with: Chris Packham, Phil Hollom, Stuart Winter, Lee Evans, Steve Gantlett, Mark Cocker, Ian Wallace, Andy Clements, Mike Clarke, Debbie Pain, Keith Betton, Roger Riddington, Ian Newton, Steph Tyler, Mark Avery, Stephen Moss, Alan Davies and Ruth Miller, Rebecca Nason and Robert Gillmor.


Brief interviews/biographies of well-known birders is an interesting concept. North American readers should be aware that this book focuses on British birders. Well-read American birders will undoubtedly recognize a name or two from this list, but most will probably be unknown.


Behind the Binoculars: Interviews with Acclaimed Birdwatchers
by Mark Avery and Keith Betton
Hardcover; 250 pages
Pelagic Publishing; September 7, 2015
ISBN: 978-1784270506