Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Book Review: Better Birding

I am behind on many things lately, to include reading the books sent to me for review by Princeton University Press. I finally took some time to look over the book, Better Birding: Tips, Tools and Concepts for the Field, by George L. Armistead and Brian L. Sullivan.

This is not a field guide. It doesn't have every bird you are likely to see. What the authors have done is to provide a few groups of birds that are very similar and use them as examples of the types of things that birders need to consider in the field other than the usual field marks that field guides emphasize. This is often referred to as "birding by impression."

Often, you see a bird in the field and you studiously look for the field marks noted in your field guide, but you still cannot make an identification. Birds don't always look like they do in the book...for many reasons. The light is different, the time of year may affect the plumage, plumage can be worn, etc.

Often, when I am birding with someone who hasn't been birding long, they will often ask, "Why did you decide the bird was a ???." Often the answer I give has nothing to do with field marks. It often has to do with where and when the bird was seen, how it stands, how it moves, etc. For example, during the Christmas Bird Count we were sorting through some ducks at a distance and I called out "ruddy duck," although field marks were not visible. The question was, "How do you know? They are far out there." The answer was, "They look like little cow patties on the water with a short, stubby tail sticking up." Someone broke out their spotting scope and sure enough, they were ruddy ducks. The Hints and Considerations portion of each group discussion discusses many considerations such as habitats, time of the year, immature and other types of plumage as well as hints on what to look/listen for to help distinguish between similar birds.

The book has 850 color photos, with many side-by-side comparisons of similar species which are very helpful.

This book is for reading and studying at home, not in the field, but in combination with practice in the field, can be very helpful in identifying birds when you are out.

This book was published in December 2015. It is available for $29.95 from Princeton University Press or slightly less on Amazon. Remember our local charities when shopping at Amazon by using, com to access your account.

You gave everyone else good presents last week--why not reward yourself with a little something, like this book?

Good birding!


Traveler Literary Gnome said...

Great review. Thanks!

Penny Miller said...

You're welcome, Elizabeth! Haven't seen you in a while--miss you.