As I’ve gotten more and more interested in birds, I’ve spent more time reading about them. I must admit though that I’ve never been able to get too excited about the nesting and parenting section of a bird’s entry in the typical bird identification guide. They so often seem to be about numbers: x amount of time to build a nest, x number of eggs, x number of weeks sitting on the nest, x number of days or weeks of fledging the young, etc. My eyes would glaze over and it just wouldn’t stick in my mind. But I’m currently reading a book about just this topic and I’m completely fascinated. If you enjoy watching birds, I highly recommend that you check it out.
The book is called, “Into the Nest; Intimate Views of Courting, Parenting and Family Lives of Familiar Birds.” Authors Laura Erickson and Marie Read have fleshed out the topic beyond the usual string of facts to create a series of stories of the family lives of over forty North American birds. It is written in a light, easy to read style. Part one provides an overview for birds in general, including courting, reproduction, nest making and caring for the young. Part two is made up of twenty-five short chapters, each focused on one species (or several related or similar species), telling their story in an approachable and interesting way.
There are thousands of birds in the world and this book does not cover them all. Instead, the authors have picked birds common to the United States that have interesting stories. Most are birds that I see daily in my backyard like Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Chickadees (as well as Black-Capped Chickadees), Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, etc. Others are birds that, while not typically found in my backyard, can be seen in local parks like Killdeer, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Herring Gulls. The fact that they aren’t exotic birds but instead are birds you are likely to see in many parts of the country, make their stories all the more fascinating.
Even if you watch birds a lot at your local bird feeders, what you are witnessing is just part of their story. It would be like only watching a group of humans eat dinner at a restaurant and thinking you now know all about them. This book gives you a peek at another big part of a bird’s life. And, while some of what is described goes on inside a nest or nesting cavity where you are less likely to witness it, the authors describe related behaviors that you may very well see if you pay attention. It’s very cool.
This particular book is available as a wide-format paperback and in digital form. I first saw the paperback version in a store and it looked very nice, with an attractive layout and beautiful pictures. I personally have gotten hooked on digital books, so I purchased the Kindle version. If you read a lot of digital non-fiction books, you know that your mileage can vary on how well they are laid out and their ease of use. I found this digital book to be laid out fairly well, with lots of links to move around within the book easily, although I do wish they had consistently put photo captions underneath the photos instead of before and sometimes after the photos. I think this would make matching up photo to caption easier when there are several photos in a row. This is my only quibble.
This is the kind of book that you probably won’t read straight through like a novel. Instead, you might read the first overview portion of the book and then pop in and out to read a story of one type of bird today and another on another day. You could be watching a nuthatch zipping down a nearby tree and decide to look up his story. Or you might notice two mourning doves snuggled up together and decide to read about them. Many birds are nesting now or soon will be, so this is a good time to be reading this book. I think you’ll enjoy it!
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