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Birds of Tropical America: A Watcher's Introduction to Behavior, Breeding & Diversity Paperback – January 1, 1994

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Paperback, January 1, 1994
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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the fifth in Chapters' splendid Curious Naturalist series, Hilty, who has led birding expeditions to Central and South America and the Caribbean, supplies not a field guide to species identification but rather a natural history of tropical birds. He writes about tropical diversity, nesting habits, the structure of a rain forest bird community, biogeography, Andean genealogy, bird migration within the tropics, bird color and patterns, seed dispersal, foraging techniques, courtship rituals, and song patterns. This is a fascinating book for enthusiastic birders and stay-at-home naturalists alike. George Cohen --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


''Birds of Tropical America offers a comprehensive look into the lives of some of the most fascinating birds in the world. The book will entertain and educate the amateur birder and professional ornithologist alike and would be a valuable addition to libraries at home and university.'' --Condor

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Chapters Pub. (January 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0788192809
  • ISBN-13: 978-0788192807
  • Product Dimensions: 8.8 x 5.9 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (7 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,456,325 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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18 of 18 people found the following review helpful By P. Grannis on February 20, 2001
Format: Paperback
It is a shame that this book is out of print, because as more birders discover the wealth and happy confusion of birding in the tropics this book would find a ready audience. Birders who take their first trips to Central or South America step into an alien world, where the rules of the temperate zone do not apply.
Hilty's essays draw upon many years as a birding tour guide, kind of a "frequently asked questions" collection. He discusses answers to questions such as: Why do birds in the tropics migrate? Why are tropical birds often so colorful yet so hard to see? Why are tropical mixed flocks so large and varied (up to 50 or more species in a single foraging flock), and how can so many birds forage together? In the course of the essays, Hilty also provides a great deal of insight into tropical ecology. I would recommend this book to anyone with an interest in the tropics in general, and tropical birding in particular.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Christopher J. Sharpe on December 4, 2005
Format: Paperback
Steve Hilty does a wonderful job of translating the results of published scientific papers into the language of the curious layman without compromising the fidelity of the original research. With a strong academic background, coupled with many years of field experience and a formidable talent for communication, he successfully transmits the joy of the natural historian and the excitement of the pioneering ornithologist.

The book consists of twenty essays on the ecology, behavioural ecology, biogeography and evolution of Neotropical birds, each based on three or four seminal scientific papers. The topics covered include flocking behaviour, species diversity, intra-tropical migration, seasonality, song, hummingbird foraging ecology, seed dispersal and much more. Many of the topics arose as answers to the questions posed to the author by fellow travellers, so they address a host of the main questions the curious naturalist will ask. The examples and original research come from all parts of the New World tropics making this book of direct relevance to those travelling anywhere in Latin America. Specific sites mentioned range from La Selva in northeastern Costa Rica to Manu in Amazonian Peru, and from Panama's Barro Colorado Island to the Oilbird Cave in eastern Venezuela. Species like the Yellow-rumped Cacique and Oilbird and key Neotropical groups like the Vultures, Hummingbirds, Antbirds, Tyrant Flycatchers, Manakins and Cotingas are treated in detail.

In sum, a great introduction to the biology and natural history of American tropical birds for those who are new to the region and a fascinating companion for tropical veterans. Whether your interest is birding, natural history or simply enriching your tropical travels, this book should be on your shelves - or, better still, in your backpack.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tim F. Martin on April 15, 2007
Format: Paperback
One might guess by the title of Steven Hilty's book _Birds of Tropical America_ that he has written an informative though dry field guide, one that lists a number of birds of Central and South America but is not really a book to sit down and read. In fact, Hilty has written an engaging and extremely interesting natural history work covering many aspects of neotropical bird behavior, breeding, and evolution and is one of the finest popular science books I have read in a while.

The book is organized into twenty different chapters, several illustrated with black and white drawings by artist Mimi Hoppe Wolf, and includes an extensive bibliography. Roughly half of the chapters deal with aspects of neotropical avian behavior and physiology that are applicable to most if not all of the region's birds, while the remainder deals with specific types of birds, such as antbirds, hummingbirds, and vultures. The focus is largely on birds of rainforests but Hilty also discusses birds of mountains, grasslands, and in one interesting chapter, islands of the Amazon River.

The first few chapters tackle common questions asked about tropical American birds, questions Hilty has encountered over his years as not only a researcher but as a leader of birding tours in Central and South America. For instance, why are so many tropical rainforest birds so spottily distributed when there appears to be many hundreds of square miles of suitable habitat? Hitly wrote that distribution patchiness is a basic structural component of tropical rainforests; in an area that might contain up to 500 bird species, a particular acre or so of forest will only contain 100 to 200 species.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By J. Ycasas on May 8, 2009
Format: Paperback
Instead of a field guide (of which there are many the reader can purchase), this book is a wide-ranging, engaging look at the natural history of tropical American birds. Birdwatchers would do well to balance their technical knowledge, such as species identification and so on, with a deeper familiarity of what they are watching, such as this book provides. It will inspire you in your ornithological endeavors.
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