Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Review: Good Birders Don't Wear White

Good Birders Don't Wear White is a collection of fifty short essays with birding advice by multiple authors, advertised as "North America's Top Birders." Most names were familiar to me, but some were not. One sign of the growth of bird blogging is that at least nine of the fifty authors have birding blogs. The multi-author format sets it apart from other books of birding advice such as works by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Jack Connor.

Bird identification is not a major subject in this book. Instead the essays cover a variety of ancillary subjects like how to choose good optics, where and when to go birding (including field trips), and good field practices. Later chapters encourage the reader to go beyond basic bird watching to learn about bird songs, behavior, migration, and distribution patterns. Above all, the authors stress taking the time to enjoy birds.

This book will be most useful for people who are starting out and who have not read other introductions to birding. Intermediate birders may be interested in some of the essays as well. I still would recommend David Sibley's Birding Basics over anything else, since he introduces a method for looking at birds that goes beyond basic field marks. (In some ways, Birding Basics is not very basic at all.) Good Birders Don't Wear White makes a helpful complement by introducing the reader to topics that are not covered by Sibley.

I enjoyed reading it even though most topics were familiar to me already. Several chapters had tips that I had not heard before, and each chapter is highly engaging. This book would make a great addition to a birder's summer reading list.

Full citation:

Lisa White, ed., Good Birders Don't Wear White: 50 Tips From North America's Top Birders. Foreword by Pete Dunne. Boston and New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2007. Pp. xx, 268; illustrations. $8.95 paper. ISBN: 0618756426.