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Hummingbirds: A Life-size Guide to Every Species Hardcover – April 15, 2014
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About the Author
Marianne Taylor is a freelance writer, illustrator, photographer, and editor. Her interest in natural history began at an extremely early age, as she became passionately interested in first butterflies and then birds. The daughter of two librarians, one of whom later became a secondhand bookseller, Marianne was as bookish as she was bird-obsessed. She worked for seven years in natural history publishing, first for bird book publisher Christopher Helm, and later for Birdwatch magazine. Her particular interest in owls and other birds of prey was fueled by a brief but unforgettable adventure in 2005, when she joined bird ringers studying Ural, Tengmalm’s, and Eagle owls in the forests of Sweden. She began a new career as a writer in 2007, and since then has written more than a dozen books for adults and children on a range of natural history subjects. Her previous work includes RSPB British Birds of Prey, Beautiful Owls, and Owls.
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Some of the in-flight photos by Mr Fogden using flash photography have over-illuminated the HB resulting in colors never seen in settings with natural light. Such photos show very little resemblance to the actual species as observed in the wild or the descriptions in the text (eg- Napo Sabrewing, Buff-winged Starfrontlet, Tyrian Metaltail, ...) Other photos are marred by color casts which could have been corrected in post-processing (eg - White-vented Plumeleteer, White-sided Hillstar, ...). Given the general availability of high-quality HB photographs amongst the birding community, the publishers could have produced a far better final product.
The book itself consists of a 20 page introduction briefly covering evolution and taxonomy, color and iridescence, flight, feeding, courtship&nesting, and migration of HB's. For each species there is a narrative including a map and notes on distribution, habitat description with altitude range, size (length and weight) and conservation status. Although inconsistent in the depth of coverage, the material is correct. Subspecies are listed within the distribution notes, but no references are provided as to which subspecies is shown in the photo. The descriptions provided for each species lack sufficient detail to make the book an important reference text for anyone seriously interested in HB's.
As a field guide, the book has serious omissions. The scale of the maps makes them of very limited use. Photos for both male and female are only provided for about 30 species (mostly for SW USA, Costa Rica, and NW Ecuador). Many of the views do little to help aid identification of the individual species. There is very limited if any discussion of important field markings or differences between similar species. Bill length, color and curvature which are missing for each species, would have been far more useful than species weight. Vocalizations have been totally ignored. Given its weight, the book is best left at home on a coffee table.
Despite its shortcomings, the colorful book may still be popular with many backyard HB enthusiasts given its misleading title, the reputation of the senior authors, and its modest price under $20. Buyer beware!!