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Book Review: How to Know the Birds

how to know the birds


Book Review: How to Know the Birds

I had no idea how much personality could be packed into such tiny creatures.

Book Review Date: March 26th, 2019

Cover Copy

In this elegant narrative, celebrated naturalist Ted Floyd guides you through a year of becoming a better birder. Choosing 200 top avian species to teach key lessons, Floyd introduces a new, holistic approach to bird-watching and shows how to use the tools of the 21st century to appreciate the natural world we inhabit together, whether city, country, or suburbs.

He begins be lovingly characterizing birders, citing classics of bird-watching literature to reveal how the avocation has evolved from field guides and opera glasses to smartphones and citizen science data. Then, in short chapters on familiar North American birds, he coaches readers through a year of experiences sure to sharpen their observation skills and deepen their understanding. Each bird represents a new idea, from scientific nomenclature to how plumage changes with age, from hatchling habits to continental migration patterns. Endearing pencil sketches by acclaimed bird illustrator N. John Schmitt accompany Floyd’s quirky, lyrical prose.

Short, sweet, witty, and wise, this appealing book brings a fresh approach to the age-old love of birds and bird-watching.

how to know the birds


I’m a bird lover. Back in college, my husband (then boyfriend) brought home a little chubby grey cockatiel we named Petie, and ever since then, birds have been my favorite. I had no idea how much personality could be packed into such tiny creatures. With each subsequent bird we adopted (we have four), the truth of their myriad personalities was even easier to see. Since then, I have always been curious about birds, and interested by books like this one. However, I could never understand the obsession that bird-watchers seem to have. It’s like a lifetime pursuit and people get so into it. I love birds. But I feel this disconnect when I think about bird-watching. It wasn’t until this book that I figured out why.

When I think about bird-watching, I think about someone with notebooks full of bird notes with lots of scientific names scrawled inside, lots of khaki and weird birding hats, little binoculars, and trips planned exclusively to tramping through forests to maybe spot a bird someone located. I think this is due to whatever portrayals I saw of bird-watchers in movies or TV. But having read this book, I’m starting to not only understand that that isn’t so much the case, I also have a much better sense of what bird-watching actually entails, and just how one might go from being a simple bird-lover like me, to a, pardon the pun, fully-fledged bird-watcher.

This book contained some really interesting facts, and was a relatively short and easy read, which was surprising, considering the fact that it covers 200 different types of birds. I have learned some really cool things from this as well as gained a better understanding of bird-watching, and a new mental picture of what bird-watching actually is. This was definitely worth the read. I also can’t go without saying how gorgeous this book cover is. I love a good interplay or image and text. Combine that with a bird on the cover (we all know by now how much I love that) and the gorgeous colors, and you have one fantastic looking book!

First Line

It had been a long day, and I needed to get out of the house.

Favorite Lines

  • We were drawn to birds in the first place by their beauty. We were sustained by the majesty and pageantry of their dawn choruses and hemispheric migrations. And we were buoyed—we still are, we evermore shall be—by their promise to delight and surprise and amaze us
  • The internet, far from killing nature study, has rehabilitated it.
  • An encounter with a bird is often just that: the observer and the thing observed—no more, no less.
  • …the Common Raven is the Humvee of the genus Corvus.

Last Word

  • birds

Reader, Author, Bookstagrammer, and Mom; Alexis runs Nerdy Post, a fandom artwork box as well as serves as chief editor and writer on Drop and Give me Nerdy.

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