Sunday, September 12, 2010

Book Review: Identifying and Feeding Birds

Identifying and Feeding Birds
By Bill Thompson III

About the Author:

Bill Thompson III is longtime editor of Bird Watcher's Digest. and a previous author of other Peterson Field Guides. This book being underneath the "Peterson Field Guide" name gives it considerable weight in the bird world as being reliable information.

Book Content:

The book is broken into two halves. The first half covers a wide range of topics about birding in your backyard. The second half is a listing of common backyard birds.

This is a handy book for the home birder to have. Bill Thompson III talks about everything from birds habits and needs, to types of feeders, to some of the bird myths he's come across over the years. Each topic is presented in a broader sense, so that anyone in the U.S. will be able to use the information in the book.

Backyard birders are encouraged to include in their bird feeding habits natural habitat, through the planting of native plants. The author describes the types of plants and gives suggestions of those which will attract birds and more specifically what species of birds. He then talks about the different styles of bird feeders, as well as the multitude of seed choices. Much attention is given to how the choice of seed and the style of feeder affects what birds you will attract. This information was particularly well thought out.

As well as feeding habits, the author also discusses the choices a home birder has to include water in the garden. He talks about the many types of bird baths and especially stresses the need for cleanliness. This is followed by a chapter on bird housing. Here information is given on the many choices of housing and what birds will use each.

I was most interested in the chapter of the book dealing with bird myths. Drawing from his considerable knowledge, Bill Thompson III answers a series of common questions he has heard over many years of birding. He effectively expels some of the rumors many birders have heard.

Most helpful in this book are the charts. There is a chart for birds' individual choice of seeds, for bird-friendly plants, for cavity-nesting birds and their proper housing, and also on what plants will attract hummingbirds. Each chart is laid out cleanly and is easy to read.

The second half of the book is a listing of common backyard birds, both those that feed in the yard and those you might see there. The author first takes the time to discuss the proper technique for identifying a bird without going too much into more specific terms. Each listing gives the common and Latin names of the bird, it's size (in inches), field marks (comparing some birds that look similar), a description of any sounds the bird makes, what its natural habitat would be, and lastly how you'd see it in your backyard. There is also a color-coded map of the United States showing the summer, winter, and annual range of each bird. This section of the book is very helpful to a backyard birder. It avoids giving too much detail, which would confuse those with less knowledge. Because it lists only birds typically seen in a back yard, it is very helpful as a quick reference to identification.

PROS:

This book is a great choice for a home birder, who just wants to draw in more birds, care for them properly, and know what they are looking at. It is presented in a general sense and is applicable to most anywhere in the United States.

The photography in the book is fantastic. Underneath each photograph is yet more tips and helpful information. The photographs come from a range of well-known birding enthusiasts, many of whom I have met on the web. The book is almost worth buying just for this reason alone.

CONS:

What is a pro for some might become a con for another. The book IS a general bird knowledge book. Someone who is deep into birding might become bored with its lack of specifics on individual species of birds. However, I would point out that this book is not meant as a field guide, so much as one for the beginning or intermediate user and is geared towards the home birder.

The book also does not give detailed information for each area of the country. That would have made the book unwieldy in my opinion. The home birder will have to find more resources to enable them to know what is most common to their area and what plants and habitat will best grow in their yard.

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Suzanne
Suzanne Williams Photography
Florida, USA

Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.

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