A Seemingly Forgotten Book Every Serious Birder Will Be Absolutely Delighted To Own

On a cold night this past January here in Wisconsin, I was browsing the books at a local Goodwill store when I happened upon a book I did not recognize entitled BIRDS OF THE WORLD. I opened the cover and checked the copyright date: 1961...This format, 1983. I thought that seems a bit out of date but I began leafing through the book out of curiosity. I was immediately enamored of the book because of the all the really beautiful illustrations (by Arthur Singer)! I am one who is always in the market to learn, and birds are one of the great loves of my life, so a book about birds of the world held great appeal. I decided to purchase it and have never looked back. What a great decision! Already it has provided me with a lot of wonderful times reading and enjoying the beautiful drawings. It is reminiscent of my childhood when I used to peruse the SONG AND GARDEN BIRDS OF NORTH AMERICA (National Geographic, 1964) in a state of rapture over the beautiful photographs of birds (e.g. Red-faced Warbler, which I was subsequently thrilled to finally see in 1988). I will not be able to come close to doing justice to these drawings with these smartphone photos, but let me attempt to give you a feel for this terrific bird book.


Cover


Title page
A potpourri of colorful interesting birds on facing pages!

Hummingbirds!
Hummingbird distribution map
Toucans
Trogons!
It is fun to just randomly browse through the text as you will learn things right and left. On occassion the bird names are out of date e.g. North American Brown Creeper is called Tree Creeper, but don't let this detract from an extraordinary book!

I want to insert several reviews that I found - they are helpful in conveying how cool this book really is:

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful.
Inspirational, invaluable, still great today
By goosefish
Twenty years ago, when I was a young boy, I refused to leave a bookstore until this book was bought for me. To this day, I still enjoy referring to it. In the intervening years, I've traveled the world watching birds. I've studied them at the highest levels. And yet I continue to find intriguing facts in this book which are new to me. I continue to be awed by the beauty of birds I've not yet seen, and may never see.

The illustrations by Singer can quickly transport the reader emotionally. In contrast with his illustrations for the Golden Field Guide to Birds of North America, these paintings are far more artistic. In most cases, the species chosen to represent families are just right: exemplary, yet extraordinary. There are only a few families missing the ideal illustration, e.g. the herons have no Goliath Heron, the cuckoos have no Chestnut Malkoha. One look at the toucans, the hummingbirds, the birds of paradise... and you wonder how anyone could dare harm a feather on these birds.

Austin's text is remarkably current, despite being 20+ years old. His ornithology is first rate. Sources cited are exhaustive, and include Mayr, Lorenz, and Charles Sibley, whose later works include the landmark "Phylogeny" and "Taxonomy" tomes. The chart of species diversity through time... who would have thought that there were once as many species of Gruiformes as there are now of Passeriformes? What drove the Diatryma group to extinction 30 million years ago? -or the section on hummingbirds... it's amazing to think that some species are known to science thanks only to the 19th century millenary trade, which preserved now-extinct hummingbirds as brooches. -Little morphological facts like the Touraco's water-soluble copper-based pigment, turacin... they can stimulate a thousand more questions. When most bird colors are due to refraction, why does this group rely on real pigments?

I glanced at the dust cover's list price. Back in 1984, $26.95 was a significant sum. In today's dollars, that would be about $53 according to Fed Reserve CPI stats. I'd say the book is worth even more. If only all children grew up with a book like this at home, the world would have no trouble conserving nature; everyone would be on the same page.

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful.
5Excellent book with lots of beautiful drawings.
By twopurringcats
This book is loaded with color pictures of numerous birds from around the world..I found pictures of birds in this book that I couldn't find in my other bird books (I have many). Though it's an older book,it's a useful addition to my bird reference library. Definitely worth buying if you like pictorial bird books.

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful.
5AUSTIN: BIRDS OF THE WOLD
By Dr. Larry W. REED
THIS VOLUME STILL STANDS AS ONE OF THE GREAT DEFINITIVE WORKS ON BIRDS. EVEN THOUGH OUT OF PRINT FOR MANY YEARS, I WAS HAPPY TO FIND THE BOOK ON AMAZON. I HAPPENED TO BE A FRIEND OF DR AUSTIN AND AM GLAD NOW TO ADD HIS WORK TO MY COLLECTION.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Strikingly Beautiful Birds - Falcons

Book Review - BETTER BIRDING: Tips, Tools, & Concepts for the Field

"Coming home to a place he'd never been before"