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The Birder's Handbook: A Field Guide to the Natural History of North American Birds Paperback – June 15, 1988
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Mercedes S. Foster Research Zoologist and Curator of Birds, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service The Birder's Handbook is a gold mine...that will greatly enhance the joys of watching birds.
David S. Wilcove Ecologist, The Wilderness Society Field guides will help you to recognize birds. This book will help you to understand them....This book should be required reading for all birders, naturalists, and conservationists.
Thomas E. Lovejoy Smithsonian Institution Anyone who owns a field guide to the identification of North American birds will want The Birder's Handbook as a companion volume.
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Top Customer Reviews
A number of unique choices set this one apart. At first I was somewhat irritated by the placing of broader essays on the right page next to the species descriptions on the left. Then, with long use, it became clear to me just how well that worked. It's the perfect browsing format - just right for when you go to learn more about the thing you just saw. Also, the essays are written above the individual species level, so you can start out reading about Cowbirds and end up understanding the issue of nest parasitism, and the human impact on birds that practice it, far more completely than you would if you'd read Kenn Kaufmann's individual species description. It works.
There are some formatting issues here that do puzzle me. I don't really see the virtue in ordering the birds to correspond with the order in the NGS guide. There are other guides, to begin with, and now that we're about to get a new NGS guide, even the page numbers are going to be wrong. In any case, I can't see how you'd easily flip from one book to the other unless you were reading them sequentially. Who does that?
But those are quibbles. This is a terrific book, quite useful as a complement to your field guide and very nice to just read through. It could use a face lift, but it's got a heart of gold.
The left-hand pages each detail feeding, mating, nesting, habitat, conservation concerns, & much more, for a single species. As well as being described in text, basic information appears in icons at the top of the page, so you tell at a glance such things as preferred habitat, feeding patterns, breeding behavior, egg and nest appearance.
The right-hand pages contain essays which apply to more than one species (for example, bill shapes or learned feeding behaviors) or which are not species-related (for example, biographical sketches on the great ornithologists). I would buy this book just for these essays alone.
The species descriptions are in the usual AOU order and are cross-referenced to the major field guides.
This book is a joy to use and an absolute bargain.
Probably the most valuable aspect of the book is the extensive bibiography found in the back of the book. Not only do Ehrlich, Dobkin, and Wheye give you the basic information, they point you to more detailed sources of information.
Since this book is now several years old, we can hope that a new edition--with an updated bibliography and less reliance on symbols--will soon be in the works.
This book is really two books. One is a book on details of specific birds, the other a collection of essays on a wide ranging set of subjects. Both are very interesting and usable, but the book is structured such that the bird details are always on the left page, the essay on the right. Sometimes the essays are a fit with the bird details, sometimes not. Sometimes the essay continues on for several pages...
Purchase of this books should really be combined with either the old three volume Audubon Master Guide, or older editions of Peterson (west and east), or a couple of other older field guides. You may have to hunt used books for a match. As indicated in the reviews below, the detail pages are loaded with cryptic little symbols that reference specific plates and pages in these other older guides.
There is quite a lot of detail here, it is not a thin book, so don't plan on carrying it in the field much past the interior of your car. The size raises another issue. Updating this thing is not going to be an easy task. I suspect this 1988 edition is going to be what you get for a looong time.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
This is amazing...it answers everything you want to know about birds.
Also each species has a little section about nesting, where they nest (diagram ) how many young, how long... Read more
While, I can't personally attest for this book, I bought it for my wife (a wildlife biologist) and she loves it!Published 6 months ago by Parceiro
A beautifully written compendium of facts and information about birds. It's a valuable reference source and a wonderful place to browse and learn for anyone interested in birds. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Raymond E. Bullock
Great book for learning about the habitat and migration of birds.Published 8 months ago by Terrie McClay