The following are my picks for the best bird books of 2020:
1) del Hoyo, Josep (Editor). All the Birds of the World. 2020. Lynx Edicions. Hardbound: 967 pages. Price: about $95.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The easiest and most enjoyable way to browse through all the birds of the world and compare them.
For the first time ever, you can literally contemplate All the Birds of the World together in a single, easy-to-use, fully-illustrated volume. Created for a broad audience, from novice birders to expert ornithologists and anyone interested in the spectacular diversity of birds, this fascinating book has something for everyone to discover.
- Presents every taxon accepted as species by any of the four major world lists: 11,524 species in total.
- Checkboxes for personal record-keeping (the boxes are hard to spot though).
- 20,865 illustrations covering sexual dimorphism, morphs and many distinctive subspecies.
- 11,558 distribution maps with altitudinal ranges included.
- All 3313 one-country endemic species marked.
- IUCN/BirdLife International conservation status given.
- Taxonomic treatment by the four major world lists indicated and compared.
- Nomenclatural discrepancies explained.
- All English and scientific names from eBird included.
- QR codes for instant access to videos, photos and sound recordings species-by-species.
- All species known to have become extinct since the year 1500 presented separately in their own appendix.
- A 37-page world atlas of colour reference maps with all the details that interest birders and ornithologists.
- The easiest and most enjoyable way to browse through all the birds of the world and compare them.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for anyone with an interest in the World’s birds! The feature I like the most is the “ Taxonomic Circle” which compares the taxonomies of the four major World bird lists.
1) Norevik, Gabriel et al.. Ageing & Sexing of Migratory East Asian Passerines. 2020. Avium Förlag. Hardbound: 423 pages. Price: about $124.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: This generously illustrated handbook covers 62 East Asian passerine species, including many that appear as sought-after vagrants in both Europe and North America. It provides a comprehensive and detailed summary of current knowledge, based on data and photographs of birds in the hand, collected during three years of study in China, primarily at Beidaihe, Hebei province.
The texts are presented in a pedagogical manner and, together with an ample collection of over 1,400 photographs, guide the reader through the process of determining the age and sex of the bird in both autumn and spring. This guide is an essential introduction to the subject for bird ringers/banders in China, and it will also prove indispensable for any birdwatcher with an interest in the ageing and sexing of East Asian passerines. This book is bilingual in English and Chinese.
RECOMMENDATION: Birders with a serious interest in Chinese/East Asian birds will want this book! Also, hardcore birders and bird record committee members outside the region will want it as a reference for those species covered.
2) Gregory, Phil. Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds: An Identification Guide. 2020. Princeton University Press. Hardbound: 416 pages. Price: $45.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: Renowned for their dazzling plumages and elaborate courtship displays, birds of paradise and bowerbirds exhibit some of the most astonishing behaviors in the natural world. Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds is the ultimate identification guide to these marvelous birds. This beautiful book features stunning color plates that depict all 108 recognized taxa in these two groups along with more than 200 color photos that showcase a broad range of racial and age-related plumage varieties. The comprehensive text covers identification, taxonomy, and ecology, and is accompanied by detailed distribution maps. Birds of Paradise and Bowerbirds is the product of more than two decades of research and field observations, and is a must-have guide for birders, ornithologists, and anyone interested in these sensational birds.
- The ultimate identification guide to these marvelous birds of New Guinea and Australia
- Features stunningly illustrated color plates that depict all 108 recognized taxa
- Covers identification, taxonomy, and ecology
- Includes hundreds of color photos and detailed distribution maps
- Based on more than two decades of research and original field observations
RECOMMENDATION: A MUST have for those interested in these species and/or collect bird family monographs.
3) Sibley, David. What It’s Like to Be a Bird: From Flying to Nesting, Eating to Singing — What Birds Are Doing, and Why (Sibley Guides). 2020. Knopf. Hardbound: 203 pages. Price: $35.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: The bird book for birders and nonbirders alike that will excite and inspire by providing a new and deeper understanding of what common, mostly backyard, birds are doing — and why.
“Can birds smell?” “Is this the same cardinal that was at my feeder last year?” “Do robins ‘hear’ worms?” In What It’s Like to Be a Bird, David Sibley answers the most frequently asked questions about the birds we see most often. This special, large-format volume is geared as much to nonbirders as it is to the out-and-out obsessed, covering more than two hundred species and including more than 330 new illustrations by the author. While its focus is on familiar backyard birds — blue jays, nuthatches, chickadees — it also examines certain species that can be fairly easily observed, such as the seashore-dwelling Atlantic puffin. David Sibley’s exacting artwork and wide-ranging expertise bring observed behaviors vividly to life. (For most species, the primary illustration is reproduced life-sized.) And while the text is aimed at adults — including fascinating new scientific research on the myriad ways birds have adapted to environmental changes — it is nontechnical, making it the perfect occasion for parents and grandparents to share their love of birds with young children, who will delight in the big, full-color illustrations of birds in action. Unlike any other book he has written, What It’s Like to Be a Bird is poised to bring a whole new audience to David Sibley’s world of birds.
RECOMMENDATION: A must have for fans of Sibley’s works!
4) Slaght, Jonathan C.. Owls of the Eastern Ice: A Quest to Find and Save the World’s Largest Owl. 2020. Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Hardbound: 348 pages. Price: $28.00 U.S.
PUBLISHER’S SUMMARY: A field scientist and conservationist tracks the elusive Blakiston’s Fish Owl in the forbidding reaches of eastern Russia.
When he was just a fledgling birdwatcher, Jonathan C. Slaght had a chance encounter with one of the most mysterious birds on Earth. Bigger than any owl he knew, it looked like a small bear with decorative feathers. He snapped a quick photo and shared it with experts. Soon he was on a five-year journey, searching for this enormous, enigmatic creature in the lush, remote forests of eastern Russia. That first sighting set his calling as a scientist.
Despite a wingspan of six feet and a height of over two feet, the Blakiston’s fish owl is highly elusive. They are easiest to find in winter, when their tracks mark the snowy banks of the rivers where they feed. They are also endangered. And so, as Slaght and his devoted team set out to locate the owls, they aim to craft a conservation plan that helps ensure the species’ survival. This quest sends them on all-night monitoring missions in freezing tents, mad dashes across thawing rivers, and free-climbs up rotting trees to check nests for precious eggs. They use cutting-edge tracking technology and improvise ingenious traps. And all along, they must keep watch against a run-in with a bear or an Amur tiger. At the heart of Slaght’s story are the fish owls themselves: cunning hunters, devoted parents, singers of eerie duets, and survivors in a harsh and shrinking habitat.
Through this rare glimpse into the everyday life of a field scientist and conservationist, Owls of the Eastern Ice testifies to the determination and creativity essential to scientific advancement and serves as a powerful reminder of the beauty, strength, and vulnerability of the natural world.
RECOMMENDATION: A must read for those with an interest in owls.