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The Wind Masters: The Lives of North American Birds of Prey Hardcover – October 23, 1995


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 263 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin; First Edition edition (October 23, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0395652359
  • ISBN-13: 978-0395652350
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,618,371 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

What distinguishes birds of prey from other birds is that they exhibit so many modes of flight; they have mastered the wind in every conceivable manner, the author points out. Dunne introduces 34 species of diurnal raptors?kites, vultures, falcons, eagles, hawks, harriers and ospreys. He presents his material anecdotally in fictional settings that include all the significant factors of raptor life. This approach is effective for most subjects, but a wisecracking raven in his story of a lead-poisoned, dying golden eagle seems inappropriate. Generally, Dunne attempts to convey what it is like to be a bird of prey, especially when it is airborne. There are dramatic stories: a Peregrine falcon defending her nest from a wolverine, a rough-leffed hawk struggling offshore. Dunne's vivid descriptions are matched by Sibley's fine illustrations.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Through a combination of expository writing and fictional narrative, Dunne (The Feather Quest, LJ 1/92) offers basic data on the life cycles of the breeding eagles, hawks, falcons, and vultures of the United States and Canada. Each of the 33 species is given its own chapter in which a brief episode in the life of an individual bird, pair, or brood exemplifies the essence of the species. Other animals, including humans, often play a role, if only as prey. Dunne's natural history is sound and his writing style appealing, but his tendency to attribute human emotions to birds may put off some readers; the blend of fact and fiction doesn't always succeed. While this is not an essential purchase, it will find readers in public libraries.
Paul B. Cors, Univ. of Wyoming Lib., Laramie
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful By Matthew R. Mullenix on July 15, 2003
Format: Paperback
Dunne's unusual book hovers in a crosswind. Parts natural history and literate essay; parts short fiction and pure fable, The Wind Masters imagines a new way into the minds of North American raptors. Through a series of brief narratives, one for each native species, Dunne introduces the birds of prey as individuals - moreover, as beings of thought, emotion and opinion. For a falconer prone to think of some birds as persons, it is a familiar yet still startling flight of fancy.
To Dunne's eye, the Northern Goshawk fairly gloats atop her recent kill, a snowshoe hare. She feels a satisfaction any hunter might in the successful execution of her skill and power, and in the anticipation of a good meal; as the author notes, "Who can say this isn't so?" A hunter himself, and a long-time student of raptors in the wild, Dunne's gripping portrait of a master assassin bears truth.
Were each of his subjects equally or solely lauded for their hunting prowess, Dunne's work might comprise a long cliché or worse, a sort of book-length perpetuation of negative raptor stereotypes. But it does neither. What Dunne finds worth noting of each species reflects a careful sifting of scientific fact and personal observation; he tries to find the essence of each bird and how each uniquely suits its niche. He attempts, through the form of the short story, to capture a similar holistic image of our predatory birds that was the focus of his earlier, more utilitarian Hawks in Flight. This might be a hopeless conceit for a writer of lesser skill, but Dunne manages it well and often beautifully.
"The Gray Hawk remained until just before dark and then departed - a hungry gray shadow flying swiftly and directly to roost. It wasn't lack of skill that had defeated his efforts to feed.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By D. Bakken on August 18, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Wind Masters is a collection of 34 short stories (most only about 3-5 pages) that are meant to inform the reader about the habit and behavior of the North American birds of prey (Hawks, Eagles, Falcons, Vultures, etc..).

I was very pleasantly suprised to discover how well Dunne managed to include so much information while telling an entertaining vignette. It seems like this would be a very good book for beginning birders to learn about raptors before reading something more substantial. It offers very basic information (range, eating habits, simple ID characteristics) that you could get elsewhere but would not be able to absorb the information as well.

Highly Recommended.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Amber Kerr on February 17, 2007
Format: Paperback
Thirty-three birds of prey - one to a chapter - star in this book that is a blend of natural history, fast-paced adventure, and reflections on life and death. In "The Wind Masters," Pete Dunne introduces each of North America's diurnal raptors by telling a story in the life of an individual bird (from the author's imagination, of course, but biologically accurate). So vivid are these introductions that they will not soon be forgotten.

I was shocked by the gruesome, painful details described in some of the stories. Many do not have happy endings. A sharp-shinned hawk, pursuing a sparrow, slams into a glass window, and the chapter ends with her on the verge of succumbing to a brain haemorrhage. A young osprey sinks her talons into a huge fish that pulls her under the water to her death. A golden eagle slowly succumbs to lead poisoning, struggling to eat but finding her digestive system paralyzed, and choking as her stomach fills with rotten food.

But, the lives of raptors abound in exhilarating moments too, and it is these upon which Dunne focuses most of all. An arctic Gyrfalcon searches the moonlit landscape to find his mate who, he knows by instinct, has just returned from migration. A common black-hawk hunts in a stream by dangling her wing-tip in the water, attracting fish who think it is a struggling insect. A peregrine falcon successfully defends her nest from a marauding wolverine. And a group of broad-winged hawks ride thermals to travel over two hundred miles without a flapping a wing. Dunne highlights the adaptations of each raptor that make it perfectly suited to its life in the air, hence the title "The Wind Masters."

The woodcuts by David Allen Sibley are superb.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Janella Baduini on October 2, 2006
Format: Paperback
The Wind Masters, by Pete Dunne, is a delightfully charming little book. His central conceit is unique--he wants to blend storytelling with didacticism, conveying dry fact of hawk existence with emotional anecdote.

In this, he succeeds admirably.

In each of the short stories in The Wind Masters--one for each resident raptor species in the United States--Dunne manages to convey pertinent factual information about the story as a whole, while still telling tales of the trials and tribulations of individual birds. He marries science and fiction with admirable skill; I certainly feel as if I know more about the birds after reading these stories.

However, the quality of the stories as stand alone works of fiction suffers from this. Though there are innumerable moments of literary magic, Dunne's prose is at times clunky and heavy-handed, and sometimes his desire to include the information interrupts the otherwise smooth narrative flow of the story. The reader cannot forget that one of the primary purposes of this book is to inform, not just enchant. Taken out of the context of the book as a whole, these would seem much poorer for their scientific fact.

Of course, these stories aren't meant to be taken out of context, and considering their purpose, they are often truly are astounding. Dunne's anthropormorphization of these birds--the translation of their behavior into human thought, human motive--is interesting at the worst and truly breathtaking at the best. He shies away from no topic in the course of his book, and every aspect of raptor life is covered, from birth to death. In fact, death is not glossed over at all; Dunne is not afraid to remind the reader that yes, most young animals die, and yes, many raptor deaths are caused, in some way, by humans.
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