No bird is common, if we use “common” to mean ordinary. But birds that are seen more commonly than others can seem less noteworthy than species that are rarely glimpsed. In this gathering of essays and illustrations celebrating fifty of the most common birds of the Upper Midwest, illustrator Dana Gardner and writer Nancy Overcott encourage us to take a closer look at these familiar birds with renewed appreciation for their not-so-ordinary beauty and lifeways.Beginning with the garishly colored male and the more gently colored female wood duck, whose tree cavity nest serves as a launching pad for ducklings in the summer months, and ending on a bright yellow note with the American goldfinch, whose cheerful presence enlivens the midwestern landscape all year long, Overcott combines field observations drawn from her twenty-plus years of living and birding in Minnesota's Big Woods with anecdotes and data from other ornithologists to portray each species' life cycle, its vocalizations and appearance, and its habitat, food, and foraging methods as well as migration patterns and distribution. Infused with a dedication to conserving natural resources, her succinct yet personable prose forms an ideal complement to Gardner's watercolors as this renowned illustrator of avian life worldwide revisits the birds of his childhood. Together art and text ensure that the wild turkey, great blue heron, sharp-shinned hawk, barred owl, pileated woodpecker, house wren, ovenbird, field sparrow, rose-breasted grosbeak, red-winged blackbird, and forty other species of the Upper Midwest are never seen as common again.
Although the many common birds of the Upper Midwest are lovely to hear and see, there is no doubt that the uncommon birds attract more attention. In this gorgeously illustrated companion to their Fifty Common Birds of the Upper Midwest, which provided a new appreciation of the not-so-ordinary beauty and life ways of familiar birds, illustrator Dana Gardner and writer Nancy Overcott celebrate the rarer birds of the Upper Midwest.
The authors selected species that are uncommon because of dwindling populations, species that may be common elsewhere but not in the Upper Midwest, species that may be abundant one year and absent the next, and species that are usually present but seldom seen. Beginning with the surf scoter with its multicolored bill and ending with the gregarious evening grosbeak, which resembles a giant goldfinch, they pair watercolors of each species with text that portrays its life cycle, its vocalizations and distribution. Throughout, Overcott's personable text is infused with the pleasures of her twenty-plus years of living and birding in Minnesota's Big Woods and her dedication to preserving natural resources, and Gardner's paintings-each a gorgeous reminder of the rare qualities of these uncommon birds from this renowned illustrator of bird life worldwide-emphasize her call for conservation efforts.
The annotated bibliography includes online information about national and international organizations that focus on birds or that affect birds through conservation, as well as information about a variety of books and journals for beginning to experienced birders.
In Helpers at Birds' Nests, renowned naturalist and ornithologist Alexander Skutch provides vivid, detailed accounts of a remarkable aspect of bird behavior—he aid that one bird gives another who is neither its mate nor its dependent young and who may even belong to a different species.
In graceful, clear prose, Skutch makes accessible to amateur bird-watchers examples of cooperation in species as far-flung as the little rifleman of New Zealand, the Laysan albatross in the mid Pacific, and the neotropical birds of Skutch's own Valley of El General in Costa Rica.
Skutch describes the cooperative behavior of more than fifty families of birds. Each family is introduced by a brief sketch of its distribution and outstanding features, followed by intimate, nontechnical accounts of the helpful behaviors that have been most carefully studied. Skutch considers the significance of helpful birds and discusses the theoretical aspects of cooperative breeding, its evolution, kin selection, altruism, and demography.
First discovered by the author more than half a century ago, cooperative breeding has become increasingly studied by professional ornithologists. In this expanded edition, noted behaviorist Stephen Emlen credits Skutch's passionate observations of birds with promoting scientific interest in avian behavior. Emlen offers readers a summary of the advances made in the field during the past ten years and places Skutch's work in the context of contemporary ornithological research.
In this reflective account of life in the tropics, Alexander Skutch offers readers both his observations and his interpretations of what he has experienced. In the many chapters about birds and their behavior, he describes a dove that defends its nest with rare courage, castlebuilders who create elaborate nests of interlaced twigs, oropendolas that cluster long woven pouches in high treetops, and an exceptionally graceful hummingbird who fails to pay for its nectar by pollinating the flowers that yield it. Skutch also describes curious plants and their flowers, including a birthwort that holds its pollinating flies captive and fern fronds that twine high up trunks in the rain forest.
With penetrating clarity, Skutch considers the significance of all this restless activity: he examines the origins of beauty and our ability to appreciate it, the foundations of tropical splendor, the factors that help us feel close to nature or alienated from it, and the possibility of consciousness and emotion in animals. He also addresses the quandary of the biologist contemplating painful experiments on animals rather than learning by direct observation, and he asserts that our capacity to care for the world around us is the truest criterion of our evolutionary advancement.
Skutch brings a thoughtful, unequaled voice to the description of the world he has grown to know and understand, a world considered forbidding by most northerners and still largely unexplored.
There are many field guides to birds of the United States. Refer to one if you want to know which colors go exactly where on these thirty-three precisely drawn illustrations. Or create your own fantastic ornithological kingdom by using the brightest shades and patterns you can imagine. It’s almost impossible to improve upon the natural colors of the abstract-art-themed wood duck or the well-named painted bunting, but there’s no reason not to give the American robin a makeover.
The birds are arranged in order of their evolutionary history so that you can see the relationships among species and families. Some of them, like the northern cardinal, are familiar backyard friends; some, like the mountain quail and American bittern, are wary denizens of brushlands and marshes; and some, like the great horned owl, are seldom seen in daylight. One, unfortunately, is extinct—the bright and raucous Carolina parakeet, which once ranged widely in huge noisy flocks. All are waiting for you to bring them to life with your own vibrant colors.
From blackbirds and orioles to meadowlarks, grackles, and cowbirds, the variety and variation shown by members of the family Icteridae is legend. The family exhibits great diversity in size and coloration, mating and nest building, and habits and habitats. This group of 94 New World species once known as the troupials is well represented in backyards across America; yet most icterids are tropical or semi-tropical species that remain largely unstudied.
The least known of these species are perhaps best known to Alexander Skutch, who has studied birds in a Costa Rican tropical valley for more than half a century. In this fascinating book the first devoted exclusively to the icterids—he combines his own observations with those of other naturalists to provide a comparative natural history and biology of this remarkable family of birds. Devoting a separate chapter to each major group or genus, he delineates the outstanding characteristics of each and includes observations of little-studied tropical species such as caciques and oropendolas.
Orioles, Blackbirds, and Their Kin is an eminently readable natural history in the classic style. Enhanced by 31 scratchboard illustrations, this book will delight nature enthusiasts everywhere with its fascinating exposition of avian diversity. Because so much of the published information on the icterids is widely scattered, Skutch's painstaking compilation has created a valuable reference work that will provide students and researchers with a wealth of new insights into the tropical members of this New World family.
This newest addition to Iowa's successful series of laminated guides is a welcome aid to identifying the many challenging raptors of the Great Plains, from northern Minnesota to northern Texas. Illustrator Dana Gardner has created fourteen panels showing twenty-six species perched and in flight with complete plumage variations---dark phases, light phases, and juvenile and adult male and female forms. The text also includes length and wingspan, common and scientific names, and status such as common resident or winter visitor.Raptors are notoriously hard to identify, and Gardner has worked hard to make this guide useful for beginning birders as well as those more experienced in the field. Keep Raptors in Your Pocket in your car or backpack---or pocket!---during spring and fall migration and summer nesting season for help in identifying such relatively common species as the light and dark forms of the red-tailed hawk, the male and female merlin and American kestrel, and the juvenile, intermediate, and adult forms of the Swainson's hawk as well as such uncommon visitors as white-tailed, swallow-tailed, and Mississippi kites.
Robins may be the official harbingers of spring, but the arrival of the wood-warbler signifies the real beginning of the season. These brightly colored songsters, most of whom have migrated extremely long distances to reach their summer nesting grounds, appear like animated jewels from treetops to shrubs to ground throughout the Midwest. Adult males in fresh spring plumage are particularly striking: the buttery yellow of the commonly seen yellow warbler; brilliant orange of the Blackburnian and bright gold of the prothonotary; rich chestnut of the Cape May, bay-breasted, and chestnut-sided; the blue of the northern parula, cerulean, and black-throated blue make these birds a joy to encounter.
This newest addition to Iowa’s popular series of laminated guides—the twenty-eighth in the series—illustrates the thirty-eight species of warblers that occur in the Upper Midwest states of Minnesota, Illinois, Nebraska, Kansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, and Wisconsin. For each species, artist Dana Gardner provides length, range, and habitat; he illustrates male, female, and immature birds where plumage varies; and he includes birds similar to warblers such as kinglets and vireos.
For all their brilliance, warblers can be hard to identify, particularly in the fall—the phrase “confusing fall warblers” was coined for a reason—and when they are in immature plumage. Quick-moving and often found in treetops, they can be challenging even in spring, and the drabber colors of the young birds of the season and of many fall adults can make identification difficult. The illustrations and descriptions in Warblers in Your Pocket will be a most welcome reference for bird watchers throughout the Midwest.
Waterfowl in Your Pocket is a welcome aid to identifying the many colorful and intriguing water birds of the midwestern states, from the Great Lakes west to the Dakotas, east to Ohio, and south to Kansas and Missouri. Illustrator Dana Gardner has created fourteen panels showing fifty-one species of ducks, geese, swans, grebes, pelicans, coots, cormorants, moorhens, and loons swimming and flying with complete plumage variations—dark phases, light phases, and juvenile and adult male and female forms in summer and winter. The text also includes length, common and scientific names, and frequency and distribution.
Whether flying high overhead in the fall or swimming in a nearby lake in the summer, waterfowl are notoriously difficult to identify, and Gardner has worked hard to make this guide useful for beginning birders as well as those more experienced in the field. Keep binoculars and Waterfowl in Your Pocket in your car or backpack—or pocket!—during spring and fall migration and summer nesting season for help in identifying such captivating water birds as greater white-fronted geese and tundra swans during spring and fall migration, male wood ducks and mallards in breeding plumage, immature and female red-breasted mergansers and snow geese, and uncommon winter visitors such as eiders and scoters.