Book and Media Reviews

Book Reviews2022-06-28T15:52:40-04:00

Birding reviews significant books, films, websites, and other publications of interest to our extremely varied readership.

Authors and publicists interested in having their book or other media reviewed should contact Rebecca Minardi at If the work is assigned for review, review copies should then be sent to the designated reviewer and editors (addresses will be provided). Do not send unsolicited review copies to the editors. Birding is not able to review each new bird book, but we gladly announce all new bird book publications in Rebecca’s Bird Book Bulletin, which appears in all regular issues of Birding magazine.

All Birding reviews before December 2019 are permanently archived at:

Rebecca Minardi is the Books and Media Reviews Editor at Birding magazine. She is Vice President of Detroit Audubon and has been a mentor for the ABA’s Young Birder of the Year Mentoring Program since 2020. She resides in Peoria, Illinois with her family where she enjoys birding with her two young children.

Tales of Adventure and Avian Intrigue from a British Soldier

February 2nd, 2023|

Birders love learning about the life histories of birds: fascinating migration routes, unique ecological adaptations, bizarre exceptions to standard bird biology—we can never get enough. In a similar way, ABA Area birders enjoy learning about the life histories of birders from outside the ABA Area, how the ways other birders...

The Inspiration of Birds Throughout History

January 23rd, 2023|

When I first hefted Bird: Exploring the Winged World, all 11 square inches and six pounds of it, I deemed it a coffee table book and braced myself for the kind of tome that is gorgeously illustrated but whose covers are rarely cracked. I was wrong. Bird is many things...

The Curious and Striking Belted Kingfisher

January 16th, 2023|

Like any great story, the scene is set early in the book. Marina Richie first spots the pair of Belted Kingfishers she grows to love while im-mersing the reader in her experience at Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, Montana. “To visualize the watershed,” she writes, “cup two hands together. Rattlesnake Creek...

The Many Values of Community Science

December 13th, 2022|

Have you ever had the experience of being absorbed in observing a bird and having a stranger ask, “What are you doing?” and “What do you see?” How to answer such questions? Famed Louisiana ornithologist Van Remsen counsels birders to treat birding as a “serious pursuit”; he suggests we describe...

A Modern Birdwatcher’s Guide to Everything

December 5th, 2022|

Compared to Christopher W. Leahy’s earlier encyclopedic tome of 917 pages, the Birdwatcher’s Companion to North American Birdlife (first published in 1982), Birdpedia is indeed a brief compendium. But don’t let its small size and number of pages fool you. This book packs an astonishing amount of information into 272...

The Excellent, Exceptional, Elegant Estrildids

November 29th, 2022|

The title of this book might not immediately grab the attention of those who don’t delve much into taxonomy, but the cover image will. Indeed, the photograph of a Zebra Waxbill represents the indisputable visual appeal that many members of the family of estrildid finches hold. It is that beauty...

Words, and Birds, In the Air

October 11th, 2022|

The first hint for many of us that something was going on was a throwaway line in Chandler S. Robbins’s Golden Guide, “Watch for them [migrating parulids] flying within 500 feet of the treetops in early morning.” Watching, I found, was easy—but actually identifying passerines in the air posed…

Arrival of the Long-awaited Argentina Field Guide

October 4th, 2022|

If field guides had gestation periods, then the long-awaited Birds of Argentina and the South–west Atlantic’s was elephantine. Since Mark Pearman and Juan Ignacio Areta started work on it almost two decades ago, rumors of the mythical guide circled like vultures on the now quiescent Birdforum. Yet it survived...

A Guide to Earth’s Ecosystems

September 26th, 2022|

I have often commented that we’re living in the golden age of field guides. Many titles have been published in the past 10 years, from guides exploring new countries or focusing on previously ignored bird families, to apps bringing instant information gratification. And then I wonder, “What’s next?” My money...

Close and Varied Encounters with Merlins

July 28th, 2022|

As someone who has spent most of my birding hours in Texas and Georgia, I think of Merlins as a species of the winter. They are wide ranging, fast moving, and inconspicuous. An encounter with one is always unpredictable and any day that has them on the list is a...

The Healing Power of Falconry

July 26th, 2022|

A conversation with the Bird Brother: That’s what it felt like I was having as I read the words on the pages. It was as if I was sitting right across from him, bonding over a glass of ice-cold sweet tea. Like relatives catching up at the family reunion,...

The Dazzling Science of the Evolution of Birds

July 25th, 2022|

In his new book, How Birds Evolve: What Science Reveals About Their Origins, Lives, and Diversity, Douglas J. Futuyma switches gears from writing textbooks to writing for the public, helping demystify the complexity of bird evolution. Futuyma is a renowned ecologist and evolutionary biologist, though, as he specifically mentions, he's...

Thorough Overview of a Conservation Conflict

July 10th, 2022|

The first time I heard about the California Gnatcatcher, it was 2015, and I had a part-time contract gig writing press releases to promote new ornithology research being published by the American Ornithological Society. That year, a series of dueling papers in one of their scientific journals debated whether or...

A History of Movement on Wings

July 9th, 2022|

Bird migration has always been a fascinating topic for birders of all stages. Watching the tides of birds ebbing and flowing with different seasons. But how do they know where to go and when? And how do they pick the places that they travel so tirelessly to? Flights of Passage...

Wingclaps for a Winning Pigeon Pocket Guide

July 8th, 2022|

Rosemary Mosco opens A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching: Getting to Know the World’s Most Misunderstood Bird with one of my longtime favorite pigeon quotes—when Charles Darwin exclaimed to Charles Lyell in 1851: “I will show you my pigeons! Which is the greatest treat, in my opinion, which can...

A Glimpse into the World of Researchers

April 21st, 2022|

What hobbyist birder has not imagined leaving a current job or career to pursue their passion for birds? Gretchen N. Newberry’s book The Nighthawk’s Evening: Notes of a Field Biologist provides an in-depth look at the experience that can await someone who does just that. An employee for the city...

New Atlas with Something for Everyone

April 20th, 2022|

My first impression of The Second Atlas of Breeding Birds in West Virginia was that this was a substantial tome with striking cover art by Julie Zickefoose. The Cerulean Warbler was a perfect choice for the cover, as was the artist. Editor Richard Bailey calls this blue avian gem the...

A Philosophical Exploration of How Birds Live

April 19th, 2022|

What is it like to be a bird? This is a question inevitably asked by those who watch, study, and/or love birds for long enough. It is a query that Tim Birkhead explicitly explored in his book Bird Sense: What It’s Like to Be a Bird, and which many other...

A Thorough Resource on Bird Names

March 16th, 2022|

Birders love discussing bird names: whether they’re accurate, whether they’re useful, what an unusual word means, who did the naming, whom the names honor, and if they should honor anyone at all. Bird name buffs of all types will enjoy and benefit from Gary H. Meiter’s Bird is the Word...

An Exciting Field Guide for the Range of Light

March 15th, 2022|

Growing up in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, the majestic Sierra Nevada Mountains stood to the east, beckoning me toward them with dramatic snow-capped peaks on clear winter and early spring mornings. Just as enticingly, early autumn evenings hosted ominous congregations of colossal thunderheads looming above the highest...

The Solace of Birds

January 23rd, 2022|

When the world shut down in March of 2020, many of us were no longer able to do the things we enjoyed and took for granted. Squirreled away in our homes (unless we were those brave essential workers), people everywhere pondered what it was we could do to fill our...

Pacific Northwest Birds for Kids

January 22nd, 2022|

If you’re a kid interested in birds, you’re in luck. Birding has exploded as a pastime in the U.S. and Canada for both adults and children, and authors are responding to the interest with books for practically every age level and birding region. Karen DeWitz’s new book, Look at That...

Two New Titles for East Africa

January 10th, 2022|

Broadly speaking, coffee table books are not a highly regarded genre by literary scholars or even birders: When was the last time you heard someone cite a coffee table book as their favorite book? But, I confess, I love them. The photos have to be really, really good to justify...

A Trio of Colombian Field Guides

January 9th, 2022|

Almost a decade ago, I wrote a book review for Birding that included a field guide from Colombia and another that covered the Cerrado of Brazil. I started the review by noting that there was a revolution in South America, and it was a good one. Birding in the “Bird...

Ode to an Unsung Ornithological Hero

January 8th, 2022|

The last thing birders and nonbirders alike expect from James Bond is that Ian Fleming named the most famous spy in popular culture after teponymous ornithologist. The real, earthly James Bond (1900-89) went by the name of Jim rather than 007 and made history (ornithologically speaking) with his groundbreaking...

Two Mighty Reference Books for Birders

December 27th, 2021|

We’ve just about all had the thought: Every bird in the world. Pretty much impossible in one birder’s lifetime, but Lynx has found a way to do it, at least in book form. All the Birds of the World is the first book to feature illustrations of all the world’s...

A Global Account of Bird Migration

December 26th, 2021|

It is difficult to imagine any birder who doesn’t get excited by migration. But many may primarily appreciate it for the pulses of birds that pass by each spring and fall. While A World on the Wing celebrates these spectacles, it also delves deeper into their underlying biology. Author Scott...

A Powerful Memoir on Florida Shorebirds

December 25th, 2021|

Susan Cerulean’s I Have Been Assigned the Single Bird opens with a description of the view from the window of her father’s room in a Florida nursing home. Kudzu, she notes, is slowly strangling the pines outside the facility. “I saw that those smothering lianas were like the tangles and...

North to South with the Hummingbirds

November 10th, 2021|

Representatives in Washington are no doubt accustomed to unusual mail from their constituents, but I am hard pressed to think of anything that might rival one peculiar delivery made to the Capitol in the autumn of 1912. Every single one of the ninety-six United States senators received a slightly bulging...

Learning from Animals in Nonfiction

November 9th, 2021|

At first glance, there may not appear to be much commonality between a collection of deeply personal short essays about Helen Macdonald’s lifelong experiences with wildlife and Carl Safina’s scientific deep-dive into how wildlife acquires critical survival skills. In fact, the common denominator of these two engaging books by award-winning...

A Compelling Case for the Caracara

November 8th, 2021|

If one appealed to our sense of fairness, a mindful and generous bird lover would acknowledge that all birds are intrinsically interesting. However, some honest introspection might inevitably reveal a preference or inclination for one species or a particular group. In the title of his debut book, A Most Remarkable...

A Message of Hope in an Age of Loss

October 13th, 2021|

We are living in an age of loss. In 2019, news headlines lamented the loss of 3 billion birds in North America in less than 50 years. Europe lost an estimated 421 million birds between 1980 and 2009. And we are seeing similar trends in other plant and animal groups.

The Russian Far East Comes Alive

October 12th, 2021|

As a person who reads often but tends to reach for a novel or self-help book, I found Owls of the Eastern Ice a fresh taste of how exciting a work of narrative nonfiction can be. My broad interest in birds, along with an intangible personal connection to owls, is...

Monograph for the Mysterious Ring Ouzel

October 12th, 2021|

For most British birders, the Ring Ouzel is a creature of mystery. We may glimpse it on spring or autumn migration, perched on a thorn bush or feeding on ripe berries. Otherwise, we must venture into the hills and mountains where it breeds—mostly in northern England and Scotland...

A Unique U. K. Guide on Raptor Leftovers

October 11th, 2021|

Ed Drewitt’s Raptor Prey Remains: A Guide to Identifying What’s Been Eaten by a Bird of Prey begs to be judged by its cover, where the intense yellow eyes of a Eurasian Sparrowhawk gaze into the throat of a European Starling pinned down and agape. Underneath, a grid of uncompromising...

Owls, Eats, and Art

July 29th, 2021|

Mountaineer Books, a Seattle-based book publisher specializing in outdoor and conservation titles, has recently produced a slew of exciting bird books, including Paul Bannick's Snowy Owl and Great Gray Owl, Kim Long's What Birds Eat, and Molly Hashimoto's Birds of the West.

Two New England Birding Memoirs Delight and Deliver

June 25th, 2021|

Two new nonfiction titles join the ranks of the already formidable canon of New England bird and nature writing: John R. Nelson’s Flight Calls: Exploring Massachusetts through Birds and Robert Tougias’s Birder on Berry Lane: Three Acres, Twelve Months, Thousands of Birds.

A Gold Mine of Information for the Bird Enthusiast

June 23rd, 2021|

Kricher’s book is a gold mine of information for the curious bird enthusiast. There is little that birders won’t find in this wide-ranging volume; in particular, there is plenty to keep the interested reader abreast of the diversity of knowledge and research about birds.

A Grand Voyage to the “Grandest Island”

January 17th, 2021|

Reading New Guinea: Nature and Culture of Earth's Grandest Island during the quasi-lockdown phase of a global pandemic may make this distant location feel even more unattainable, but if it's the best one can do for now, it is an impressive second best.

A Brilliant Synthesis of Bird Behavior Research

January 14th, 2021|

This book is a testament to recognizing and saluting avian diversity in all of its forms. And above all, Ackerman relishes the pursuit of knowledge and the possibilities it uncovers: The more you learn about birds, the more they promise to astonish you.

The Great, Global Quest for Penguins

December 4th, 2020|

Here is a highly anecdotal, engaging story of the quest by Bergman and his wife to see the world’s 18 penguin species. Intensely personal, his quest is full of adventure, challenges, serious medical issues, danger, and descriptions of some of the most remote areas anywhere.

A Worldwide Look at How Birds Respond to Winter

December 3rd, 2020|

This book drives home from multiple angles just how pervasively winter influences almost all parts of the life cycle. Birders of all backgrounds are likely to find that Birds in Winter greatly expands their appreciation of the season's influence, and will no doubt enjoy learning more about the lives of both familiar species and those they may have never heard of before.

A Textbook with Opportunities for Birderly Learning

March 12th, 2020|

The 21 chapters of text encompass all of ornithology and address the obvious topics, covering the evolution of birds, anatomy and flight, physiology, brain structure, social behavior, genetics, the annual cycle, migration, courtship, vocalizations, nesting, population and community dynamics, and speciation.

A Must-Have Resource for Global Seabirding

March 10th, 2020|

Howell and Zufelt have undertaken a monumental task. Not only have they compiled a worthwhile collection of striking photographs of our global assortment of seabirds, they have also taken the time to wade through the most vexing taxonomy and put it all into a sensible, useful format.

Embracing Birds of the Pacific Northwest

March 8th, 2020|

Birds of the Pacific Northwest is a comprehensive field guide that all users can enjoy, from casual birders and backyard birders to hardcore enthusiasts. The details specific to the region make it a valuable resource to study at home, toss in a backpack, or keep in the car while on a birding trip.

The Impulse to Sing: Birders and Music

March 6th, 2020|

Birdsong is one of the most enchanting aspects of avian behavior, and birders especially love the times of year when birds can’t help but sing from dawn until dusk and even through the night. The impulse to sing seems just as strong in two passionate birders who are also talented and prolific musicians.

Excellent Essays and Fantastic Photos Reveal Threats to Western Hemisphere Birds

January 21st, 2020|

Beyond its well-crafted essays and lovely photographs, a beauty of Bringing Back the Birds: Exploring Migration and Preserving BirdScapes throughout the Americas is its compositional richness and diversity. One can either pick it up off the bookshelf for a good educational read or lift it from the coffee table for the avian eye candy.

The Comeback Bird

November 20th, 2019|

When it comes to us and Ospreys, it’s deep and personal. Around 1970, a neighbor took an adolescent Carl to a secret fishing spot on an eastern Long Island pond. He saw a huge stick nest, and from what he’d been reading he knew some things: it was an Osprey nest, abandoned, and Ospreys were nearly extinct.


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