Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Book Review: Rare Birds of North America...

"Use Grammarly for proofreading online because without proper grammar, readers might have a hard time telling the difference between a cat and a comma!"

Written by the legendary Steve N.G. Howell and co-authored by Ian Lewington and Will Russell, "Rare Birds of North America" is a gem; not perfect but a gem nonetheless. Let me say right off that this book's introductory chapter alone, is worth the sticker price. Especially, the section that covers "Migration and Vagrancy in Birds." That is how good I thought it was!   While some birders might find it hard to wrap one's head around the information covering vagrancy, others looking for a little more information that will help them prep for or understand vagrancy will love this section. I predict that the pages of this chapter will definitely get some wear for those who are into this sort of information.

The book covers 262 species originating from the Old World, the New World tropics and the world's oceans.  It goes into details, the plumage, habits and more importantly the possible reasons behind avian vagrancy patterns. The authors were very detailed in breaking the processes of vagrancy into 6 categories which they discuss in depth with examples.

The species in the book are broken up into groups such as Waterfowl to Songbirds. In these groups, there are subgroups broken up into species originating in the Old World and the New World. This area can get a little confusing, so it requires careful attention to the text in understanding the distinction and the reasons. The biggest weakness with this book is the little effort given to areas of "similar species." I understand that there is only so much a book could hold before a project gets out of hand, but a little more on similar species with text and comparison plates would have made this book much more useful.

This book is already outdated in terms of a reference for North American Rarities - an example would be the 2012 Gray-tailed Tattler found by Jeremiah Trimble an MA and 1st East Coast record, which is missing from table 3 on page 19. Nevertheless, it is a welcome, overdue work on NA rarities and the reasons behind their vagrancy.  One that deserves a read and who knows may even help you in finding your own North American MEGA rarity!
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Unknown said...

Nice Read, thanks for the info!


You are welcome Brian. Thanks for the read and comment.