By Jeanette Larson
It’s the gift giving season and I wanted to share some suggestions for books for birders. Some of these come from what the Ruffled Feathers Book Club has read, and some are from copies I’ve purchased or received for review. Books are great gifts for adults and kids and last far beyond the sweaters, candy, and toys. Check them out!
The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner is a bit technical at times but offers a fascinating look at Darwin’s finches on Daphne Minor (in the Galapagos). Through two researchers who spent 20 years tracking the finches, we learn a lot about evolution and natural selection.
Ruffled Feathers also read The Bird Way by Jennifer Ackerman and this was probably one of the best books of the year. The subtitle, A New Look at How Birds Talk, Work, Play, Parent, and Think, tells it all. In a very readable format Ackerman reviews the recent scientific research that is dramatically shifting our understanding of birds and shows that there is no single “bird way.”
It’s hard to go wrong with a book by David Allen Sibley and What It’s Like to be a Bird is no exception. While the book can serve as a sort of field guide—he takes a close-up look at about 200 species—the main purpose is to answer our questions about birds. What do birds see? Why do some species walk while others hop? It’s a book to browse and to share with young birders.
For kids I want to start with recommending I Love Birds by Jennifer Ward. I’m mentoring a 6-year-old birder and this is a book I’ll be giving him. Although it is not a field guide, Ward offers 52 activities for birders ages 4-8. Make a bird feast or build a bird house. Kids can think, wonder, wander, explore, create, and nurture wildlife, often without leaving their neighborhood. Arranged by season, there is something for every week.
In Texas we are fortunate to have a ton of species of birds and lots of birding hotspots. Waiting for a Warbler by Sneed B. Collard III follows two young children who watch their yard for birds. They see Cardinals, Red-bellied woodpeckers, White-eyed Vireos and more. But where are the warblers? Migrating across the Gulf of Mexico, the warblers have been flying for almost twenty-four hours when they land in Owen’s backyard. An author’s note explains that the story is based on the author’s trip to the Texas coast and includes tips for being a birder.
Although So You Want to Be an Owl by Jane Porter is a picture book, it is a good book for older readers (ages 6 to 10) because it has a lot of text. Professor Olaf Owl tells readers about everything owl—what they do, how they fly, what they hear, what they eat—all with cartoonish illustrations. We hear owls at night almost everywhere (although not all owls are night owls) so this is a delightful look at birds we rarely see.
Remember that books don’t require batteries, have no moving parts, and last for years. They can also be shared with other birders. Happy holidays!