Audubon was not the father of American ornithology. That honorific belongs to Alexander Wilson, whose encyclopedic American Ornithology established a distinctive approach that emphasized the observation of live birds. In the first full-length study to reproduce all of Wilson’s unpublished drawings for the nine-volume Ornithology, Edward Burtt and William Davis illustrate Wilson’s pioneering and, today, underappreciated achievement as the first ornithologist to describe the birds of the North American wilderness.
Abandoning early ambitions to become a poet in the mold of his countryman Robert Burns, Wilson emigrated from Scotland to settle near Philadelphia, where the botanist William Bartram encouraged his proclivity for art and natural history. Wilson traveled 12,000 miles on foot, on horseback, in a rowboat, and by stage and ship, establishing a network of observers along the way. He wrote hundreds of accounts of indigenous birds, discovered many new species, and sketched the behavior and ecology of each species he encountered.
Drawing on their expertise in both science and art, Burtt and Davis show how Wilson defied eighteenth-century conventions of biological illustration by striving for realistic depiction of birds in their native habitats. He drew them in poses meant to facilitate identification, making his work the model for modern field guides and an inspiration for Audubon, Spencer Fullerton Baird, and other naturalists who followed. On the bicentennial of his death, this beautifully illustrated volume is a fitting tribute to Alexander Wilson and his unique contributions to ornithology, ecology, and the study of animal behavior.
Whether we live in cities, in the suburbs, or in the country, birds are ubiquitous features of daily life, so much so that we often take them for granted. But even the casual observer is aware that birds don’t fill our skies in the number they once did. That awareness has spawned conservation action that has led to notable successes, including the recovery of some of the nation’s most emblematic species, such as the Bald Eagle, Brown Pelican, Whooping Crane, and Peregrine Falcon. Despite this, a third of all American bird species are in trouble—in many cases, they’re in imminent danger of extinction. The most authoritative account ever published of the threats these species face, The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation will be the definitive book on the subject.
The Guide presents for the first time anywhere a classification system and threat analysis for bird habitats in the United States, the most thorough and scientifically credible assessment of threats to birds published to date, as well as a new list of birds of conservation concern. Filled with beautiful color illustrations and original range maps, the Guide is a timely, important, and inspiring reference for birders and anyone else interested in conserving North America’s avian fauna. But this book is far more than another shout of crisis. The Guide also lays out a concrete and achievable plan of long-term action to safeguard our country’s rich bird life. Ultimately, it is an argument for hope. Whether you spend your early weekend mornings crouched in silence with binoculars in hand, hoping to check another species off your list, or you’ve never given much thought to bird conservation, you’ll appreciate the visual power and intellectual scope of these pages.
The year he graduated from college, 22-year-old Noah Strycker was dropped by helicopter in a remote Antarctic field camp with two bird scientists and a three months’ supply of frozen food. His subjects: more than a quarter million penguins.
Compact, industrious, and approachable, the Adélie Penguins who call Antarctica home visit their breeding grounds each Antarctic summer to nest and rear their young before returning to sea. Because of long-term studies, scientists may know more about how these penguins will adjust to climate change than about any other creature in the world.
Bird scientists like Noah are less well known. Like the intrepid early explorers of Antarctica, modern scientists drawn to the frozen continent face an utterly inhospitable landscape, one that inspires, isolates, and punishes.
With wit, curiosity, and a deep knowledge of his subject, Strycker recounts the reality of life at the end of the Earth—thousand-year-old penguin mummies, hurricane-force blizzards, and day-to-day existence in below freezing temperatures—and delves deep into a world of science, obsession, and birds.
Among Penguins weaves a captivating tale of penguins and their researchers on the coldest, driest, highest, and windiest continent on Earth. Birders, lovers of the Antarctic, and fans of first-person adventure narratives will be fascinated by Strycker’s book.
From the tufted puffin in the Pacific Northwest to the hook-billed hermit in the Brazilian rainforest, birds suffer from the effects of climate change in every corner of the globe. Scientists have found declines of up to 90 percent in some troubled bird populations and unprecedented reproductive failure in others. The most recent studies suggest dire prospects: 1,227 avian species are threatened with extinction and an additional 838 near-threatened species are urgent priorities for conservation action.
As much an indispensable guide as a timely call to action, Bird Watch is an illustrated tour of these endangered birds and their habitats. Encyclopedic in scope, this book features all 1,227 species on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, thoroughly detailing the environmental pressures and conservation prescriptions that hold their futures in the balance. After introducing readers to the main threats to birds and regions at high risk, Bird Watch presents a visually stunning and scientifically accurate flight over the major bird habitats, including tropical forests; temperate and northern forests; deserts; mountains; grasslands; and Mediterranean, marine, freshwater, and oceanic islands. The volume concludes with an overview of bird species by region—categorized by family within each region, and a guide to the world’s best birding sites. Produced in cooperation with BirdLife International, Bird Watch is a celebration of the beauty and diversity of birds and their habitats—and a warning of the dangers they face around the world.
Two species come to mind when one thinks of the Galapagos Islands—the giant tortoises and Darwin’s fabled finches. While not as immediately captivating as the tortoises, these little brown songbirds and their beaks have become one of the most familiar and charismatic research systems in biology, providing generations of natural historians and scientists a lens through which to view the evolutionary process and its role in morphological differentiation.
In Darwin’s Finches, Kathleen Donohue excerpts and collects the most illuminating and scientifically significant writings on the finches of the Galapagos to teach the fundamental principles of evolutionary theory and to provide a historical record of scientific debate. Beginning with fragments of Darwin’s Galapagos field notes and subsequent correspondence, and moving through the writings of such famed field biologists as David Lack and Peter and Rosemary Grant, the collection demonstrates how scientific processes have changed over time, how different branches of biology relate to one another, and how they all relate to evolution. As Donohue notes, practicing science today is like entering a conversation that has been in progress for a long, long time. Her book provides the history of that conversation and an invitation to join in. Students of both evolutionary biology and history of science will appreciate this compilation of historical and contemporary readings and will especially value Donohue’s enlightening commentary.
This is the story of the survival, recovery, astonishing success, and controversial status of the double-crested cormorant. After surviving near extinction driven by DDT and other contaminants from the 1940s through the early 1970s, the cormorant has made an unprecedented comeback from mere dozens to a population in the millions, bringing the bird again into direct conflict with humans. Hated for its colonial nesting behavior; the changes it brings to landscapes; and especially its competition with commercial and sports fishers, fisheries, and fish farmers throughout the Great Lakes and Mississippi Delta regions, the cormorant continues to be persecuted by various means, including the shotgun.
In The Double-Crested Cormorant, Dennis Wild brings together the biological, social, legal, and international aspects of the cormorant's world to give a complete and balanced view of one of the Great Lakes' and perhaps North America's most misunderstood species. In addition to taking a detailed look at the complex natural history of the cormorant, the book explores the implications of congressional acts and international treaties, the workings and philosophies of state and federal wildlife agencies, the unrelenting efforts of aquaculture and fishing interests to "cull" cormorant numbers to "acceptable" levels, and the reactions and visions of conservation groups. Wild examines both popular preconceptions about cormorants (what kinds of fish they eat and how much) and the effectiveness of ongoing efforts to control the cormorant population. Finally, the book delves into the question of climate and terrain changes, their consequences for cormorants, the new territories to which the birds must adapt, and the conflicts this species is likely to face going forward.
With its colorful landscape and wonderful diversity of plant and animal communities, the southwestern borderlands have attracted naturalists for centuries. As Col. Thomas Henry noted in 1853, there “are to be found many curious birds, peculiar to the country.” This book identifies more than 100 early ornithologists and explorers who entered the Southwest from 1528 to 1900, all of whom have contributed in significant ways to our understanding of the region’s avian life.
Dan Fischer identifies those individuals who documented the natural history of the Southwest and summarizes their contributions to our knowledge about the region’s birds—particularly through discovering and naming them. He tells why the ornithologists came to the region, what they saw, who described and named the new discoveries, and who were the first to sketch or paint new birds.
Beginning with accounts of the earliest Spanish explorers such as Cabeza de Vaca and Coronado, Fischer considers all who visited the region through the end of the nineteenth century, including such renowned naturalists as William Gambel, John McCown, Adolphus Heermann, Elliott Coues, Charles Bendire, and Henry Henshaw. In between, he recalls English mining speculators, French traders, army explorers, railroad surveyors, and more—all of whom contributed to ornithological knowledge.
Although focusing on ornithologists, Fischer’s text reveals the wonderful variety of avian species in the region and their relationship with human history. Featuring a comprehensive bibliography, illustrations, and maps that portray the westward march of exploration, it is a major sourcebook for southwestern ornithology and an essential volume for anyone interested in birds.
Along with reproduction, balancing energy expenditure with the limits of resource acquisition is essential for both a species and a population to survive. But energy is a limited resource, as we know well, so birds and mammals—the most energy-intensive fauna on the planet—must reduce energy expenditures to maintain this balance, some taking small steps, and others extreme measures.
Here Brian K. McNab draws on his over sixty years in the field to provide a comprehensive account of the energetics of birds and mammals, one fully integrated with their natural history. McNab begins with an overview of thermal rates—much of our own energy is spent maintaining our 98.6?F temperature—and explains how the basal rate of metabolism drives energy use, especially in extreme environments. He then explores those variables that interact with the basal rate of metabolism, like body size and scale and environments, highlighting their influence on behavior, distribution, and even reproductive output. Successive chapters take up energy and population dynamics and evolution. A critical central theme that runs through the book is how the energetic needs of birds and mammals come up against rapid environmental change and how this is hastening the pace of extinction.
In the tradition of Annie Dillard, this book is a set of meditations on nature, in this case specifically on the way birds and birding are entangled with life, with work, family, and friends. While it delicately narrates loving engagement with birds, it is not a field guide. Its author is a birder, not a professional ornithologist. Although the book does in fact offer a surprising amount of detail about birds, it is primarily a consideration of the experience and human significance of seeing birds, rather than of the birds in themselves as objects of systematic study. It attempts to convey something of the extraordinary variety and excitement of birding, the complications and subtleties of bird identification, the implication of birding in the imagination and the world against which it is usually defined.
While one doesn’t have to be interested in birds to read it with pleasure, it attempts to seduce the reader into the birding experience through a series of autobiographical memoirs with birds at their center. It is not meant for experts, except as experts might be interested in how a journeyman experiences their more significantly constructed world. In the end the book is about a lot more than birds. It is about “lifebirds,” with all the many meanings that word might seem to imply.
The Missouri River Basin is home to thousands of bird species that migrate across the Great Plains of North America each year, marking the seasonal cycle and filling the air with their song. In time immemorial, Native inhabitants of this vast region established alliances with birds that helped them to connect with the gods, to learn the workings of nature, and to live well.
This book integrates published and archival sources covering archaeology, ethnohistory, historical ethnography, folklore, and interviews with elders from the Blackfoot, Assiniboine, Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara, and Crow communities to explore how relationships between people and birds are situated in contemporary practice, and what has fostered its cultural persistence. Native principles of ecological and cosmological knowledge are brought into focus to highlight specific beliefs, practices, and concerns associated with individual bird species, bird parts, bird objects, the natural and cultural landscapes that birds and people cohabit, and the future of this ancient alliance.
Detailed descriptions critical to ethnohistorians and ethnobiologists are accompanied by thirty-four color images. A unique contribution, The Winged expands our understanding of sets of interrelated dependencies or entanglements between bird and human agents, and it steps beyond traditional scientific and anthropological distinctions between humans and animals to reveal the intricate and eminently social character of these interactions.
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