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Saturday, September 18, 2010

Book Review; Birder's Conservation Handbook

Coming in at 452 pages, the Birder's Conservation Handbook, 100 North American Birds at Risk (by Jeffrey V. Wells,) is a weighty tome of valuable information. The large-format paperback is built to last, with a sturdy binding. I was provided this book by Princeton University Press, but this doesn't influence my review of this comprehensive and enlightening book.
It begins with a forward by John W. Fitzpatrick (Executive Director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and Past President of the American Ornithologist's Union,) and acknowledgements. After that are some short chapters on various subjects;
~ The scope and purpose of the book.
~ Birds as Indicators," which I found very informative. This portion also included a number of "citizen science" projects such as eBird (which I'm a member of, myself.)
~ The State of N. American Bird Populations explains a bit about the various endangered bird lists in existence and throws a bright spotlight on the extreme plight of Hawaiian birds, among other things.
~ Issues affecting N. American birds, from environmental concerns to incidental mortality.
~ "The State of Bird Conservation in North America and Beyond" goes into some history of bird problems and public reaction to them (i.e.; the rise of birding clubs, etc.) True to the section's name, information is also provided on Mexico, Canada, Latin America and the Carribean.
~ "What You Can Do" offers numerous ways for you to help the cause.
After that come the bird listings, themselves. Each listing contains the bird's name, an illustration of the bird, a map of their complete range, status and distribution information, ecology (i.e.; nesting habits, etc.,) threats, conservation action, conservation needs and references (which are found throughout the book actually, for those who want more information.)
There are 4 appendices after the listings, dealing with;
1. Birds on various endangered species lists,
2. Endangered and extinct Hawaiian species,
3. The Mexican gov't list of endangered species, and
4. Bird conservation agencies and organizations.
There's an index at the back of the book, for easy reference on various subjects.

Written in an easily-understood and straightforward style, even if you "know your stuff," I'm sure you'll learn plenty from this book (as I did.) Much of the information contained within may be hard to take, but it needs to be conveyed, nonetheless. It is both an extreme warning and a call to action that should be shouted from every mountaintop, across the swamps and grasslands and through the forests, towns, and cities. It would have been nice to have full color photos of the birds listed, but that probably would've made the price too prohibitive. Fortunately, in the Age of the Internet, full-color images are just a few clicks away. This book would make a great gift for birders and non-birders, alike. In a similar vein, if your local library doesn't have it, you may want to suggest that they order it for their collection.


Charles Gramlich said...

Great review. Sounds like an indespensible reference work.

Travis Cody said...

Birds as indicators...I don't really know that much about birds, but this sounds intriguing.

Erik Donald France said...

It will be interesting to see if city and other spaces become more eco-friendly in nooks and crannies. We can surely redesign vast mall parking lots to fit in more life. People tend to gravitate toward the trees wherever they are, regardless of stuff droping on their vehicles, from what I've seen -- especially in hot weather.

Erik Donald France said...

Oops, first part of my comment got lost in space -- excellent review!

Also, something about birds as indicators of displaced or ruined habitats . . .

eric1313 said...

Very cool. Just watched a special about Audubon on PBS this morning before I went out on the job hunt. Very interesting life and journeys for that man. And what a legacy he has left all of us here on this continent.

Lana Gramlich said...

Charles & Travis C.; It's a pretty amazing book.

Erik; Thanks and agreed!

eric1313; Yes, Audubon was a pretty amazing person. :)

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