Sunday, December 13, 2015

Best Bird Books of 2015

The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2015:

 

BEST BOOK:

 

 

 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.

 

 

HONORABLE MENTIONS: 

 

 

1) Davies, Nick. Cuckoo: Cheating by Nature. 2015. Bloomsbury. Hardbound: 289 pages. Price: $27.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The familiar call of the common cuckoo, “cuck-oo,” has been a harbinger of spring ever since our ancestors walked out of Africa many thousands of years ago. However, for naturalist and scientist Nick Davies, the call is an invitation to solve an enduring puzzle: how does the cuckoo get away with laying its eggs in the nests of other birds and tricking them into raising young cuckoos rather than their own offspring?
     Early observers who noticed a little warbler feeding a monstrously large cuckoo chick concluded the cuckoo's lack of parental care was the result of faulty design by the Creator, and that the hosts chose to help the poor cuckoo. These quaint views of bad design and benevolence were banished after Charles Darwin proposed that the cuckoo tricks the hosts in an evolutionary battle, where hosts evolve better defenses against cuckoos and cuckoos, in turn, evolve better trickery to outwit the hosts.
     For the last three decades, Davies has employed observation and field experiments to unravel the details of this evolutionary “arms race” between cuckoos and their hosts. Like a detective, Davies and his colleagues studied adult cuckoo behavior, cuckoo egg markings, and cuckoo chick begging calls to discover exactly how cuckoos trick their hosts. For birding and evolution aficionados, Cuckoo is a lyrical and scientifically satisfying exploration of one of nature's most astonishing and beautiful adaptations.  

RECOMMENDATION: If you enjoyed the authors' Cuckoos, Cowbirds and Other Cheats, you should enjoy this book.

 

2) Robb, Magnus and the Sound Approach. Undiscovered Owls. 2015. The Sound Approach. Hardbound: 308 pages. Price: £39.95 ($59.50 U.S.).
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Explore the twilight world of owls that you can hear in your garden, the park or woods with this lyrical investigation into their sounds. Listen to previously unpublished digital stereo recordings of the owls of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East, illustrated with annotated sonagrams. Enjoy paintings and photographs, often of the individuals recorded. Learn how to research into evolution, behaviour and sounds invite us to recognise a dozen new owl species.

     Share the thrill of closing in on a huge fish owl found only a handful of times before, the rarest owl in our region. Travel to rugged desert mountains, where the authors chanced upon a previously undiscovered owl, the first new Arabian bird species for nearly 80 years. Learn to listen like an owl and maybe you could find the next one.
     Brought to you by the team of obsessives that produced Petrels night and day. 
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with a serious interest in Old World owls! The book is available here:  http://soundapproach.co.uk/product/undiscovered-owls/ and in North America here:  http://www.buteobooks.com/merchant.mvc?Screen=PROD&Store_Code=BBBAO&Product_Code=14512&Category_Code=NYP
 
 
 
3) Weidensaul, Scott. Peterson Reference Guide to Owls of North America and the Caribbean. 2015. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 333 pages. Price: $40.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: 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-exempt.
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for anyone with an interest in the owls of the region.
 
 
 
4) Winkler, David W., Shawn M. Billerman, and Irby J. Lovette. Bird Families of the World: An Invitation to the Spectacular Diversity of Birds. 2015. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 599 pages. Price: about $94.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Here in one volume is a synopsis of the diversity of all birds. Scheduled for publication in 2015, between the two volumes of the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World, this volume distills the voluminous detail of the 17-volume Handbook of Birds of the World into a single book. Based on the latest systematic research and summarizing what is known about the life history and biology of each group, this volume will be the best single-volume entry to avian diversity available. Whether you are a birder with an interest in global bird diversity, or a professional ornithologist wishing to update and fill-in your comprehensive knowledge of avian diversity, this volume will be a valuable addition to your library.
     An interest in birds is a life-enriching pursuit; the sheer diversity of birds means there are always stunning new species to see and novel facets of their lives to explore. Yet the grand diversity of birds is also a challenge, as it is easy to become disoriented amidst a group that contains more than 10,000 species that vary in nearly all of their most conspicuous attributes. Learning avian diversity requires a mental map to help us organize our experiences and observations. The scientific classification of birds provides exactly this framework, grouping together into Orders and Families birds that are most closely related to one another, and thereby linking species that share distinguishing traits. For those interested in learning about the tremendous diversity of birds world-wide, the best way to start is to learn the families, and this volume is a guide and invitation to do so.
     This book has been designed to serve both as a text for ornithology courses and as a resource for serious bird enthusiasts of all levels. Technical terminology is much reduced, and all scientific terms used are defined in a glossary. Introductory material describes the scope and concepts behind the classification used and gives suggestions about how best to use the book. The bulk of the volume is a family-by-family account of the birds of the world. For each family there is a distribution map with the breeding, non-breeding and year-round ranges of each family, a short text “teaser” to invite the reader to learn more, standardized descriptions of the appearance, relationships and similar species to each family’s members, their life history and conservation status. Each account includes a review of recent ideas about the relationships of the family to other families and relationships within it. The work is liberally illustrated by photographs from bird enthusiasts around the globe as well as paintings of one species from each of the genera in each family. It will be a beautiful and serviceable guide.
RECOMMENDATION: A well illustrated overview to bird families. Would be a useful companion volume to the HBW and BirdLife International Illustrated Checklist of the Birds of the World set.

 

 

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