1) Forshaw, Joseph and William Cooper. Pigeons and Doves in Australia. 2015. CSIRO Publishing. Hardbound: 332 pages. Price: $185.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Possibly the most successful urban birds, pigeons and doves in the Order Columbiformes are one of the most easily recognised groups. They are an ancient and very successful group with an almost worldwide distribution and are most strongly represented in tropical and subtropical regions, including Australia. In most species simple plumage patterns feature mainly grey and brown with black, white or dull reddish markings, but the highly colourful fruit-doves include some of the most beautiful of all birds.
From dense rainforests of north Queensland, where brilliantly plumaged Superb Fruit-Doves Ptilinopus superbus are heard more easily than seen, to cold, windswept heathlands of Tasmania, where Brush Bronzewings Phaps elegans are locally common, most regions of Australia are frequented by one or more species. For more than a century after arrival of the First Fleet, interest in these birds focused on the eating qualities of larger species. In addition to contributing to declines of local populations in some parts of Australia, excessive hunting brought about the extinction of two species on Lord Howe Island and another species on Norfolk Island.
In Pigeons and Doves in Australia, Joseph Forshaw and William Cooper have summarised our current knowledge of all species, including those occurring on Christmas, Norfolk and Lord Howe Islands, and with superb artwork have given readers a visual appreciation of the birds in their natural habitats. Historical accounts of extinct species are also included. Detailed information on management practices for all species is presented, ensuring that Pigeons and Doves in Australia will become the standard reference work on these birds for ornithologists and aviculturists.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone who's a fan of Cooper's artwork. Also for anyone that collects bird family monographs or has a serious interest in the birds of Australia.
2) Lish, James W.. Winter's Hawk: Red-tails on the Southern Plains. 2015. University of Oklahoma Press. Paperback: 166 pages. Price: $24.95 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Every autumn, thousands of migrating Red-tailed Hawks arrive on the southern Great Plains to spend the winter, and Oklahoma is one of the best places to observe this amazing phenomenon. Above the prairie, as Oscar Hammerstein wrote, they make “lazy circles in the sky,” but not for entertainment, theirs or ours. Author Jim Lish draws on more than forty years’ experience as a professional biologist and ornithologist to present almost two hundred color photographs of Red-tails and relate important lessons in southern Great Plains biodiversity, underscoring the place of the Red-tailed Hawk in Oklahoma’s tallgrass prairie ecology.
Winter’s Hawk introduces the reader to the hawk’s biology, social behavior, and useful role in limiting destructive rodent populations. In sharing many anecdotes from his long experience in the field, Lish describes the hunting techniques of Red-tails, their competition with other raptors, and their behavior in the presence of human observers. He describes the subtle differences in plumage, and other characteristics between the various subspecies of Red-tailed Hawks that winter here. His account of their behavior includes intergenerational warfare, in which young Red-tails are frequently the losers. Detailed and scientifically accurate, this informal, jargon-free account will appeal to birders, sportsmen, naturalists, and falconers as well as biologists.
Red-tails can see ultraviolet light, which enables them to easily locate trails left by rodents. Cotton rats are by far their most important winter food, but they also eat carrion, large snakes, medium-sized mammals, and smaller birds. The main motive for the birds’ behavior, Lish reminds us, is survival, and he includes birds’-eye views of the hazards Red-tails face: foot injuries, damage to feathers, starvation, electrocution, and illegal shooting.
A treasure trove of rich descriptive writing and astonishing photographs, Winter’s Hawk inspires readers to help preserve these magnificent birds of prey so that future generations may see a Red-tail standing sentinel over a field or circling above it.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated introduction to the winter ecology of this species.