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Book & Media Reviews

Book Reviews2022-01-08T15:19:03-05:00

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 Frank Izaguirre at [email protected]. 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 Frank’s Bird Book Bulletin, which appears in all regular issues of Birding magazine.

All Birding reviews before December 2019 are permanently archived at: http://blog.aba.org/category/bookreviews

Frank Izaguirre is the Books and Media Reviews Editor at Birding magazine and a PhD candidate in English at West Virginia University, where he is dissertating on how field guides have shaped environmental values in America. He lives in Pittsburgh, PA, with his wife, Adrienne.

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.

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.