Quick reviews of six good new books about birds

5/8/2014 | 0

We were happy to recommend 18 new books about birds in our June 2014 issue, on newsstands now. The six titles below — about homing, hummingbirds, birdhouses, Washington, D.C., and eggs — were among them. Each has won a spot on our bookshelf and deserves a spot on yours.

 

Book of Eggs_165x240LIFE-SIZE EGGS: This big book is the equivalent of a guided tour through the Bird Division of Chicago’s Field Museum. It presents the eggs of 600 species in color and at actual size and includes surprises, such as the immense egg of the long-­gone Great Elephantbird, the tallest and heaviest bird ever to walk the planet, and the eggs of Great Auk, Passenger Pigeon, and Bachman’s Warbler, while an excellent introduction explains egg anatomy, physiology, size, shape, coloring, nests, and breeding strategies.

The Book of Eggs: A Lifesize Guide to the Eggs of Six Hundred of the World’s Bird Species by Mark E. Hauber, edited by John Bates and Barbara Becker, University of Chicago Press, 2014, 656 pages, $55, hardcover, $33, ebook.

 

Washington DC Guide_165x259NATURE IN WASHINGTON: This guide describes only 38 of the 331 bird species that have been recorded in the Maryland/District of Columbia area, but visiting birders would do well to carry it, since it also presents commonly found spiders, insects, turtles, mammals, wildflowers, trees, shrubs, and mushrooms, and it contains useful maps, natural and human histories, habitat information, and trail descriptions for Rock Creek Park, the C&O Canal, Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens, and 10 other leafy parks, the best birding locations in town.

Field Guide to the Natural World of Washington, D.C., by Howard Youth, illustrated by Mark A. Klingler, photographs by Robert E. Mumford, Jr., Johns Hopkins University Press, 2014, 400 pages, $24.95, paperback.

 

Birdhouses-of-the-World_165x190BIRDHOUSES: In the world of birdhouses, there are units that safely and effectively shelter birds and their families, and then there are structures created to spark conversation, introduce a bit of color or whimsy, or just show off. Few of the 40 or so birdhouses in this picture book are functional. Rather, writes author Anne Schmauss, they are “works of art and creativity that stopped me in my tracks.” They stopped us, too. We just hope the owners keep them indoors.

Birdhouses of the World by Anne Schmauss, Stewart Tabori & Chang, 2014, 144 pages, $22.50, hardcover.

 

Hummingbirds_165x218LIFE-SIZE HUMMINGBIRDS: This attractive guide describes the distribu­tion, habitat, measurements, and status of each of the world’s 338 hummingbird species, but what distinguishes it are the photos, which are dazzling. As promised by the title, each is life-­size. Tiny Bee Hummingbird perches in the corner of one page, Black­-tailed Trainbearer fills another from top to bottom, while Giant Hummingbird, the world’s largest, stretches across two. But every species is not pictured. Readers will have to make do with text only for 76.

Hummingbirds: A Life-size Guide to Every Species by Michael Fogden, Marianne Taylor, and Sheri L. Williamson, Harper Design, 2014, 400 pages, $29.99, hardcover, $16.99, ebook.

 

Homing_165x248HOMING: Bernd Heinrich’s books make biology accessible. Here he explores the concept of home, the task of home­ making, and the miracle of homing in sea turtles, bees, salmon, monarch butterflies, and other creatures, but our favorites are the birds: Sandhill Cranes in Alaska, a Manx Shearwater that, after being hijacked to Boston, flew straight back to its burrow in Scotland, the godwit that flies for days over the open ocean from Alaska to New Zealand.

The Homing Instinct: Meaning and Mystery in Animal Migration by Bernd Heinrich, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 368 pages, $27, hardcover, $14.85-$14.99, ebook.

 

New Birders Guide_165x266NEW BIRDERS: When this beginner-friendly guide first appeared in 2012 as The Young Birder’s Guide, grownups liked it so much they asked for a version just for them. So Bird Watcher’s Digest editor Bill Thompson III rewrote the introductory material, adding information on birding gear, tips for improving birding skills, and why so much common knowledge about birds isn’t actually true, but he kept the 300 species accounts, illustrated by Julie Zickefoose and Michael DiGiorgio, essentially the same.

The New Birder’s Guide to Birds of North America (Peterson Field Guides series) by Bill Thompson III, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2014, 368 pages, $16.95, paperback.

 

Versions of these reviews appeared in June 2014 issue. Subscribe.

See all the new books about birds recommended in our June 2014 issue.

Publishers and authors:

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