Thursday, December 5, 2019

Best Bird Books of 2019

The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2019:


1) Howell, Steve N. G. and Kirk Zufelt. Oceanic Birds of the World: A Photo Guide. 2019. Princeton University Press. Paperback: 360 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S. 
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: A state-of-the-art photographic field guide to the world's oceanic birds.
     Oceanic birds are among the most remarkable but least known of all birds, living at sea, far from the sight of most people. They offer unusual identification challenges―many species look similar and it can be difficult to get good views of fast-flying birds from a moving boat. The first field guide to the world's oceanic birds in more than two decades, this exciting and authoritative book draws on decades of firsthand experience on the open seas. It features clear text filled with original insights and new information and more than 2,200 carefully chosen color images that bring the ocean and its remarkable winged inhabitants to life. Never before have oceanic birds been presented in such an accessible and comprehensive way.
     The introduction discusses the many recent developments in seabird taxonomy, which are incorporated into the species accounts, and these accounts are arranged into groups that aid field identification. Each group and species complex has an introductory overview of its identification challenges, illustrated with clear comparative photos. The text describes flight manner, plumage variation related to age and molt, seasonal occurrence patterns, migration routes, and many other features.
     The result is an indispensable guide for exploring birding's last great frontier.

  • A comprehensive, authoritative, and accessible guide to oceanic birds
  • Covers more than 270 species
  • Includes more than 2,200 color photos with concise captions noting key features
  • Features careful species comparisons, overviews of the latest taxonomy, tips on how to observe and ID birds at sea, and much more
 RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for all pelagic birders!


1) Wright, Rick. Peterson Reference Guide to Sparrows of North America. 2019. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. Hardbound: 434 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Sparrows are as complicated as they are common. This is an essential guide to identifying 76 kinds, along with a fascinating history of human interactions with them.
      What exactly is a sparrow? All birders, and many non-birders, have essentially the same mental image of a pelican, a duck, or a flamingo, and a guide dedicated to waxwings or kingfishers would need nothing more than a sketch and a single sentence to satisfactorily identify its subject. Sparrows are harder to pin down. This book covers the birds of the family Passerellidae, which includes towhees, juncos, and dozens of other not necessarily small and not necessarily brown birds.
      Birds have a human history, too, beginning with their significance to native cultures and continuing through their discovery by science, their taxonomic fortunes and misfortunes, and their prospects for survival in a world with ever less space for wild creatures. This book includes not just facts and measurements, but stories of the birds' entanglement with human history. 

RECOMMENDATION: A must have for those with a serious interest in North American sparrows.

2) Dee, Tim. Landfill: Notes on Gull Watching and Trash Picking in the Anthropocene. 2019. Chelsea Green. Hardbound: 238 pages. Price: $25.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: Over the past hundred years, gulls have been brought ashore by modernity. They now live not only on the coasts but in our slipstream following trawlers, barges, and garbage trucks. They are more our contemporaries than most birds, living their wild lives among us in towns and cities. In many ways they live as we do, walking the built-up world and grabbing a bite where they can. Yet this disturbs us. We’ve started fearing gulls for getting good at being among us. We see them as scavengers, not entrepreneurs; ocean-going aliens, not refugees. They are too big for the world they have entered. Their story is our story too.
     Landfill is the original and compelling story of how in the Anthropocene we have learned about the natural world, named and catalogued it, and then colonized it, planted it, or filled it with our junk. While most other birds have gone in the opposite direction, hiding away from us, some vanishing forever, gulls continue to tell us how the wild can share our world. For these reasons Landfill is the nature book for our times, groundbreaking and genre-bending. Without nostalgia or eulogy, it kicks beneath the littered surface of the things to discover stranger truths.
RECOMMENDATION: An interesting take on gull and Human interactions.

3) Bond, Alan B. and Judy Diamond. Thinking Like a Parrot: Perspectives from the Wild. 2019. The University of Chicago Press. Hardbound: 267 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: People form enduring emotional bonds with other animal species, such as dogs, cats, and horses. For the most part, these are domesticated animals, with one notable exception: many people form close and supportive relationships with parrots, even though these amusing and curious birds remain thoroughly wild creatures. What enables this unique group of animals to form social bonds with people, and what does this mean for their survival?
     In Thinking like a Parrot, Alan B. Bond and Judy Diamond look beyond much of the standard work on captive parrots to the mischievous, inquisitive, and astonishingly vocal parrots of the wild. Focusing on the psychology and ecology of wild parrots, Bond and Diamond document their distinctive social behavior, sophisticated cognition, and extraordinary vocal abilities. Also included are short vignettes—field notes on the natural history and behavior of both rare and widely distributed species, from the neotropical crimson-fronted parakeet to New Zealand’s flightless, ground-dwelling kākāpō. This composite approach makes clear that the behavior of captive parrots is grounded in the birds’ wild ecology and evolution, revealing that parrots’ ability to bond with people is an evolutionary accident, a by-product of the intense sociality and flexible behavior that characterize their lives.
     Despite their adaptability and intelligence, however, nearly all large parrot species are rare, threatened, or endangered. To successfully manage and restore these wild populations, Bond and Diamond argue, we must develop a fuller understanding of their biology and the complex set of ecological and behavioral traits that has led to their vulnerability. Spanning the global distribution of parrot species, Thinking like a Parrot is rich with surprising insights into parrot intelligence, flexibility, and—even in the face of threats—resilience.
RECOMMENDATION: For those with a keen interest in parrot biology.

4) Perini, Maurizio. Australian Birds, Pardalotes: Taxonomic and Natural History. 2019. theOLIVA. Hardbound: 167 pages. Price: $174.52 U.S.
PUBLISHER'S SUMMARY: The first monograph about the birds belonging to the genus Pardalotus. The four species, endemic to the Australian continent, are extensively treated in 167 pages and the book is illustrated with hundred original artworks.
RECOMMENDATION: The artwork by Luca Milione highlights this book! This book is a must have for those with a serious interest in these birds.

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