Thursday, March 28, 2019

Book Review - How to Know the Birds by Ted Floyd - National Geographic

Book Synopsis
Become a better birder with brief portraits of 200 top North American birds. This friendly, relatable book is a celebration of the art, science, and delights of bird-watching. 

How to Know the Birds introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching, by noting how behaviors, settings, and seasonal cycles connect with shape, song, color, gender, age distinctions, and other features traditionally used to identify species. With short essays on 200 observable species, expert author Ted Floyd guides us through a year of becoming a better birder, each species representing another useful lesson: from explaining scientific nomenclature to noting how plumage changes with age, from chronicling migration patterns to noting hatchling habits. Dozens of endearing pencil sketches accompany Floyd’s charming prose, making this book a unique blend of narrative and field guide. A pleasure for birders of all ages, this witty book promises solid lessons for the beginner and smiles of recognition for the seasoned nature lover.


Purchase Links

National Geographic | Amazon | Barnes & Noble


My Review

How to Know the Birds is a unique book about bird watching.  It is comprised of 200 short essays about birds.  The essays focus on different birds and teach unique lessons about bird watching.


The book is divided into sections by months:


Spark Bird! January - February

After the Spark  March - May

Now What?  June - July

Inflection Point  August - September

What We Know  October - November

What We Don't Know   December


This would be an interesting book to read and use over the year to really get to know birds better.


I was interested in reading this book because I have always loved birds.  I watch for wild birds as I am out walking my dog in wooded areas near my home.  I know most of the more common birds but there are still plenty I cannot identify.


There are some beautiful black and white illustrations by N. John Schmitt in the book.  However, the illustrations do not cover all the birds discussed in the book.  That is the one and only thing that I wished for when reading this lovely book -- bird illustrations for each essay, featuring each bird that was discussed.


The writing by Ted Floyd is lively and accessible.  For instance, he discusses the American robin:


"Robins are common across much of North America, but don't let that fool you.  The robin is one of the truly marvelous birds of our continent.  . . . The species is at once ordinary and extraordinary.   Chances are, you're within 1000 feet of a robin right now.  That's the ordinary part.  The migrations of robins are stirring;  their adaptability to different habitats is staggering;  their easily observed family life is endlessly fascinating and, with no apologies for the sentimentalism, heartwarming" (p. 30).


I loved that this book was not a standard field guide.   It delves deeper into bird behavior and anecdotes about birds.  I found it much warmer and much more readable than a traditional nature guide.


The little essays focus on themes as well as birds.  For instance, you have essay 65 - "How Do Noctural Migrants Know Where to Go?" about the Indigo Bunting, and essay 150 - "Let Me Google That For You" that discusses how to Google for information about the Barn Swallow.


I found How to Know the Birds a delightful book, and recommend it highly for anyone who loves birds, who wants to know more about birds, or who just loves nature in general.   It would make an especially nice gift book.


trish said...

I wish I knew more about birds; I love watching them when I'm out and about, too! This seems like a great place to start.

Thanks for being on the tour!

DoingDewey said...

"I loved that this book was not a standard field guide. It delves deeper into bird behavior and anecdotes about birds. I found it much warmer and much more readable than a traditional nature guide." <- I agree with this so much! As a newbie birder, I found this so helpful and accessible. I'd have loved an illustration for every chapter too :)