University Press Week 2014 logoThis week (November 9-15, 2014) is University Press Week. You may not be very familiar with them, but birders ought to be thankful for university presses, for without them many of the bird books that we use and love would have never been published. I did a quick survey of the bird books published in 2014 alone and found that at least 18 of them are from university presses. And for North American birders, if you’ve ever birded anywhere else in the world, chances are very good that the field guide you used was published by a university press.

So, as a birder who loves his bird books, I say, “Long live university presses!”

Have you ever wondered what we’ve actually learned from all the decades of bird banding? Or how all the cool, new findings from satellite-tracked birds fit in? I certainly have, which is why I was excited to learn about The Migratory Connectivity Project. You can check out some initial work on the website, but there will also be a book – The Atlas of Migratory Connectivity for the Birds of North America – that will be published by Princeton University Press in 2016. The authors are currently looking for data. If you have anything that could be of use, they are collecting contributions through the end of 2014.

As you may have heard, the new second edition of The Sibley Guide was published recently. Want a free copy? It’s easy, you just have to guess how many birds I saw on a recent trip to Peru. Enter your guess as a comment on this post, and the closest guess wins.

If you’d like to make a more educated guess, these are the the tours that we went on with Kolibri Expeditions:

This contest ends at 11:59pm eastern on Sunday, April 6 Wednesday, April 9. (I’ll need at least that long to figure out how many birds I actually saw!). I’ll take care of shipping if the winner is in the US or Canada. Those elsewhere are still eligible, but I may ask that you chip in some for shipping (via Paypal).

I have extensively revamped/updated my iPhone Bird App Comparison. It now has full coverage for the five main North American apps – Audubon, iBird, National Geographic, Peterson, and Sibley.

Looking for something to get for the bird-lover in your life? You can never go wrong with a good bird book. Here are a few suggestions.

    The Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common BirdsThe Bluebird Effect: Uncommon Bonds with Common Birds
    by Julie Zickefoose

    One of the most beautiful books – both in terms of prose and art – that you’ll ever read. Actually, I think this is a book that would appeal to anyone, not just birdwatchers. (Full review)

  • Save the Last Dance: A Story of North American Grassland GrouseSave the Last Dance: A Story of North American Grassland Grouse
    by Noppadol Paothong and Joel Vance

    Easily one of the finest books of the year. The extraordinary photographs make it a pleasure to look through, and the fact that it’s a book that will actually help out the birds it features makes it a great gift for anyone who cares about birds (a portion of each purchase goes to grouse conservation). (Full review)

  • Birds of Paradise: Revealing the World's Most Extraordinary BirdsBirds of Paradise: Revealing the World’s Most Extraordinary Birds
    by Tim Laman and Edwin Scholes

    You probably know Birds of Paradise from the unbelievable footage of their courtship display from Planet Earth. The photographs here are just as impressive, and you get some great insight into these birds (and what it takes to document them).

  • National Geographic Bird-watcher's Bible: A Complete TreasuryNational Geographic Bird-watcher’s Bible: A Complete Treasury
    edited by Jonathan Alderfer

    This enjoyable introduction to the world of birds and how we relate to them would be a great gift for newer birdwatchers, or even those just somewhat interested in birds. (Full review)

  • Hawks in Flight: Second EditionHawks in Flight: Second Edition
    by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton

    The classic gets updated, expanded, and otherwise improved. New, color photographs + Sibley’s drawings + Dunne’s text = must have.

  • The Laws Guide to Drawing BirdsThe Laws Guide to Drawing Birds
    by John Muir Laws

    Anyone who’s ever picked up pen or brush to draw birds, or even thought about doing so, will appreciate this book.

  • The Unfeathered BirdThe Unfeathered Bird
    by Katrina van Grouw

    The perfect gift for the birder who has everything, because I guarantee they don’t have anything like this! This is a bird-art book like none other, as it shows birds as they look like without feathers and even as skeletons. Yes, it sounds a little weird, but it’s oddly beautiful. And educational too, as the author goes into bird anatomy and physiology in a very readable manner. (Note: this book may not be available until just after Christmas. But it’ll be worth the wait.)

And remember, you can’t go wrong with giving a birder a field guide or identification book. Even if we already have a guide for a particular place or group of birds, we always like more!

Steve N.G. Howell is posting a series on how to write a bird book. Lots here for anyone who loves bird books, not just prospective authors. I’m really looking forward to the rest of the series.

John Mazluff and Tony Angell, the authors of Gifts of the Crow: How Perception, Emotion, and Thought Allow Smart Birds to Behave Like Humans, will be holding a live video chat run through uStream on July 10, 12 PM PST. Tweet your questions with #chatSS before AND during the event.

To access the uStream – http://www.ustream.tv/simonandschuster

For a limited time, the Peterson Birds of North America iPhone app is only $4.99!

One of the great things about bird books is their propensity to inspire kids to take an interest in birds and nature. Nate, of The Drinking Bird Blog, takes a great look at one of the books that influenced him as a child.

I don’t remember the exact titles, but I loved looking through some books that my grandparents and first teacher had. They definitely helped nurture a love for nature in me. Were there any such books that influenced you as a child?

Looking for something to get for the bird-lover in your life? You can never go wrong with a good bird book. Here are a few suggestions.

Field Guides

Birdwatchers can never have enough field guides (to the delight of publishers everywhere). I’m not going too far out on a limb when I say that the only way either of these wouldn’t be a hit is if the recipient already has a copy.


For Children

  • For the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory PetersonFor the Birds: The Life of Roger Tory Peterson
    Peggy Thomas (Author) and Laura Jacques (Illustrator)

    This book is worth sharing just for the gorgeous illustrations. But it also tells the story of Roger Tory Peterson’s life, while encouraging children to pay attention to nature and the birds around them. That makes this the perfect gift for kids ages eight and up.

For more suggestions for kids, please see this list of Children’s Bird Books.


Other Books

  • Avian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and BuildAvian Architecture: How Birds Design, Engineer, and Build
    Peter Goodfellow

    One of my favorite books this year, Avian Architecture not only shows the various kinds of nests birds make, but how they make them. Just take a look at all the cool stuff it includes!

  • The Birds of AmericaThe Birds of America
    John James Audubon

    No birder’s library is complete without a copy of Audubon’s masterpiece. At the current price ($42.01 as I’m writing this), this is a bargain, and recommended for those who don’t have the room (on shelf or in the budget) for the larger, more expensive baby elephant folio edition.

  • The Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and ConservationThe Atlas of Birds: Diversity, Behavior, and Conservation
    Mike Unwin

    This attractive, well-designed book presents a LOT of information about all the kinds of birds, how and where they live, and their conservation. While any birder can learn from it, it is perfect for someone just getting into birds.

  • Arctic Autumn: A Journey to Season's EdgeArctic Autumn: A Journey to Season’s Edge
    Pete Dunne

    One of birding’s best authors takes us to the northern edge of the continent. Although not all (or even mostly) about birds, it’s still a very good read that any birdwatcher will likely enjoy.