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The Green Life: Book Roundup Wednesday: Birding

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April 06, 2011

Book Roundup Wednesday: Birding

Every Wednesday, we review a selection of new and upcoming books addressing a specific aspect of environmentalism. This week, we're recommending books about an ideal spring-time activity: birding. Green fiction

The Backyard Bird Lover’s Ultimate How-To Guide (by Sally Roth, $15, Rodale, July 2010) If the thought of a trek to the African rainforest just to clap eyes on a bird seems a little extreme, don’t worry: there's still plenty of great birding to do in your own backyard. Veteran backyard birder Roth shares tips on how to set up and stock feeders to attract the most diverse and beautiful birds in your area and keep them coming back for more. The pages are fairly text-heavy and don’t feature the gorgeous photography found in many bird books, but this is a volume to look things up in, not read cover-to-cover. One thing’s for sure: with this book in hand, consider the perennial battle with seed-stealing squirrels and deer won.

Birds of the World: 365 Days (by Philippe J. Dubois, $20, Abrams, March 2011) Throw away your bed-side calendar: this compact little volume lets you keep track of the days with a bird for every day of the year (today: Barrow’s goldeneye, a duck-like native of Iceland). The book travels the world over, and might inspire similar wanderings to those who get tired of the pictures and want to see these birds face-to-beak. Some of these — finches, etc. — we’ve seen before, but others, like the Eurasian spoonbill, will be new to most readers. This book might be the perfect way to count down the days before your next big birding adventure.

Nests: Fifty Nests and the Birds that Built Them (by Sharon Beals, $20, Chronicle Books, March 2011) Sometimes when you want to pay a visit, the birds just aren’t home. But an empty nest can still be a thing of great beauty, as Beals illustrates here. Each two-page spread of the book contains a couple paragraphs about a bird, accompanied by a large color photo of its nest (taken in a studio, not in the wild). The photos are clearly the dominant element: the nests, drawn from the collections of California science museums, tell you much more about each bird’s private lives than the text ever could. A large hardcover, this is no pocket guidebook, but it will have you hopefully glancing into tree branches nonetheless. Want a preview? Check out our slideshow of Nests.

Atlas of Rare Birds (by Dominic Couzens, $22, The MIT Press, October 2010) If you’re just starting out birding, don’t hold your breath to see the species in this book. From the sky-blue Kagu of New Caledonia to the demonic Northern Bald Ibis of Morocco, this is a primer on all the birds most of us will never see (except in this book’s photos, that is). A range map accompanies each bird, like a temptation to go out and try your luck. Sadly, many of these birds weren't always as rare as they currently are, and their demises were often human-caused. Again, this is no guidebook: think of this book as a source of inspiration for your lifelong birding career.

The Crossley ID Guide (by Richard Crossley, $21, Princeton University Press, February 2011) With an emphasis on the Eastern U.S., this is truly a birder's bird book. Very little information is given about the birds; the focus is on the color photographs that will help you ID birds in the field. Each portrait is photo-shopped — with greater or lesser realism — onto a pond, tree, marsh, or wherever you are most likely to spot the bird. Crossley is a well-known birder, and his guide reflects his experience: it is organized to be as practical and useful as possible, perhaps minus its gargantuan weight.

--Tim McDonnell

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