A 2001 reading list

This is a snapshot compilation of the books members of Project FeederWatch recommended over a couple of years while I was active on their email list. I updated the list every time someone made a new recommendation, so at any given time there may have been more or fewer titles. The same is true of the reviews. I haven’t checked to see if these titles are still in print.

Books about birds

  • All the Birds of North America: American Bird Conservancy’s field guide / concept and design by Jack L. Griggs. New York : Harper Perennial, 1997.
  • Another Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America / by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill, and John Sill. Atlanta/Memphis : Peachtree Publishing, 1988 / 1990.
  • The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Birds / New York : Alfred A. Knopf, Inc., 14th edition, 1988.
  • The Backyard Birdwatcher / by George H. Harrison. Fireside books, 1979.
  • The Beak of the Finch : A Story of Evolution in Our Time / by Jonathan Weiner. Vintage Books, 1995.
  • Beyond Birdwatching: More Than There Is To Know About Birding / by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill, and John Sill. Atlanta / Memphis : Peachtree Publishing, 1988 / 1990.
  • Bird Behavior / by Robert Burton. New York : A. Knopf, 1985.
  • Bird Brains : The Intelligence of Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and Jays / by Candace Savage. San Francisco : Sierra Club Books, 1997.
  • The Bird Feeder Book: An Easy Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Understanding Your Feeder Birds / by Donald Stokes, et al. Little, Brown & Co. 1987.
  • The Bird Garden / by Stephen W. Kress; foreword by Roger Tory Peterson. London; New York : Dorling Kindersley; Boston: Distributed by Houghton Mifflin, 1995.
  • Bird Watching for Dummies / by Bill Thompson III. IDG Books, 1997.
  • Birder’s Guide to Texas / by Edward A. Kutac; illustrated by Judy Teague. Gulf Publishing, 2nd edition, 1998.
  • The Birder’s Handbook / by Paul R. Ehrlich et al. Fireside Books, 1988.
  • The Birder’s Life List and Diary, Revised Edition / Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology Staff
  • The Birder’s Miscellany: A Fascinating Collection of Facts, Figures and Folklore from the World of Birds / by Scott Weidensaul. Fireside Books, 1991.
  • Birds at Your Feeder: A Guide to Feeding Habits, Behavior, Distribution, and Abundance / by Erica H. Dunn and Diane L. Tessaglia-Hymes; illustrations by Peter Burke; abundance maps by Jeffrey Price; sponsored by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology…[et al.]. New York : Norton, 1999.
  • Bird’s Nests / by Hal H. Harrison. Peterson Field Guides.
  • Birds of North America: A Guide to Field Identification / by Chandler S. Robbins, Bertel Bruun and Herbert S. Zim. New York : Golden Books Publishing Company, 1983.
  • Birdscaping Your Garden: A Practical Guide to Backyard Birds and the Plants that Attract Them / by George Adams. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press; [New York] : Distributed in the book trade by St. Martin’s Press, 1994.
  • Birdwalk Through the Bible / by Virginia C. Holmgren. Dover Publications, 1972.
  • The Bluebird Book : The Complete Guide to Attracting Bluebirds (A Stokes Backyard Nature Book) / by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little Brown & Co., 1991.
  • The Complete Birdhouse Book: The Easy Guide to Attracting Nesting Birds / by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. / Little, Brown & Co. 1990.
  • Diary of a Left-handed Birdwatcher / by Leonard Nathan. St. Paul, Minnesota : Graywolf Press, 1996.
  • Down and Dirty Birding / by Joey Slinger. Fireside Press, 1996.
  • The Feather Quest : A North American Birder’s Year / by Pete Dunne; introduction by Roger Tory Peterson. Mariner, 1999.
  • A Field Guide to Little Known and Seldom Seen Birds of North America / by Ben Sill, Cathryn Sill, and John Sill. Atlanta / Memphis : Peachtree Publishing, 1988 / 1990.
  • Field Guide to the Birds of North America / written and published by the National Geographic Society, 1987.
  • The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitat, Eastern US / by Jeanine M. Benyus. Fireside Books, 1989.
  • The Field Guide to Wildlife Habitat, Western US / by Jeanine M. Benyus. Fireside Books, 1989.
  • A Garden of Birds / by Andre Dion.
  • A Guide to Bird Behavior / by Donald W. Stokes and Lillian Q. Stokes ; illustrated by John Sill, Deborah Prince, and Donald Stokes. 3 volumes. Boston : Little, Brown & Co. 1983-1989.
  • A Guide to the Identification and Natural History of The Sparrows of The United States and Canada / edited by James D. Rising; illustrated by David D. Beadle. Academic Press, 1996.
  • The Habitat Guide to Birding / by Thomas P. McElroy. New York : Nick Lyons Books, 1987.
  • Hawks in Flight: The Flight Identification of North American Migrant Raptors / by Pete Dunne, David Sibley, and Clay Sutton. New York : Houghton Mifflin, 1988.
  • How to Spot an Owl / by Patricia Sutton and Clay Sutton. Chapters Publishing, 1994.
  • The Human Nature of Birds : A Scientific Discovery With Startling Implications / by Theodore Xenophon Barber. Penguin, 1994.
  • The Hummingbird Book : A Complete Guide to Attracting, Identifying, and Enjoying / by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown & Co., 1989.
  • Hummingbird Gardens: Attracting Nature’s Jewels to Your Backyard / by Nancy L. Newfield and Barbara Nielsen. Shelburne, Vt. : Chapters; Boston : Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • A Hummingbird in My House : The Story of Squeak / by Arnette Heidcamp. Crown Publishing, 1991.
  • Kingbird Highway: The Story of a Natural Obsession that Got a Little Out of Hand / by Ken Kaufman. New York : Houghton Mifflin, 1997.
  • Landscaping for Wildlife / by Carol L. Henderson. St. Paul, MN : Non-game Wildlife Program, Section of Wildlife, Minnesota Department of natural Resources, 1987.
  • The Life of Birds / by David Attenborough. Princeton University, 1998.
  • The Life of Birds / by Joel Carl Welty and Luis Baptista. Saunders College Publishing, 4th edition, 1988.
  • Lives of North American Birds / by Ken Kaufman. New York : Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Living on the Wind: Across the Hemisphere with Migratory Birds / by Scott Weidensaul. New York: North Point Press, 1999.
  • Mind of the Raven / by Bernd Heinrich. Sliff Street Books, 2000.
  • The National Wildlife Federation’s Guide to Gardening for Wildlife: how to create a beautiful backyard habitat for birds, butterflies, and other wildlife / by Craig Tufts and Peter Loewer. Emmaus, PA: Rodale Press ; [New York] : Distributed to the book trade by St. Martin’s Press, 1995.
  • The Oriole Book / by Don Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown & Co., 2000.
  • Ornithology / by Frank B. Gill. W H Freeman & Co., 1994.
  • Purple Martin Book / By Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown & Company, 1997.
  • Ravens in Winter / by Bern Deinrich. Vintage Books, 1991.
  • Refuge: An unnatural history of family and place / by Terry Tempest Williams. Vintage Books, 1992.
  • Stokes Bird Gardening Book: The Complete Guide to Creating a Bird-Friendly Habitat in Your Backyard / by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown & Co. 1998.
  • Stokes Field Guide to Birds. Eastern Region and Stokes Field Guide to Birds. Western Region / by Donald and Lillian Stokes. Boston : Little, Brown, 1996.
  • Stokes Field Guide to Bird Songs: Eastern Region and Western Region/ by Donald Stokes and Lillian Stokes. Little, Brown & Co. 1998.
  • Tales of a Low-rent Birder / by Pete Dunne and David Sibley; foreword by Roger Tory Peterson. Austin : University of Texas Press, 1986.
  • Tenth Legion / by Tom Kelly. New York : The Lyons Press, 1973, 1998.
  • Thoreau on Birds / by Henry David Thoreau; introduction by John Hay; illustrated by Louis Agassiz Fuertes. Beacon Press, 1998.
  • Wild About Birds / by Carrol L. Henderson. St. Paul, Mn. : Minnesota DNR.
  • Wild America : The Record of a 30,000 Mile Journey Around the Continent by a Distinguished Naturalist and His British Colleague / by Roger Tory Peterson and James Fisher; illustrated by Roger Tory Peterson; foreword by Patrick O’Brian. Boston : Houghton Mifflin Co., c1997.
  • Woodpeckers of Eastern North America / by Laurence Kiham. Dover Publications, 1983.
  • Woodworking for Wildlife / by Carrol L. Henderson. St. Paul, Mn. : Minnesota DNR.

Books about nature and wilderness

  • American Nature Writing 1995 (1996, 1997, 1998): An Annual Collection of New and Distinguished Voices in Contemporary Nature Writing / selected by John A. Murray. San Francisco: Sierra Club Books, 1995 (1996, 1997, 1998).
  • American Nature Writing 1999: An Annual Collection of New and Distinguished Voices in Contemporary Nature Writing / selected by John A. Murray. Corvalis: Oregon State University Press, 1999.
  • Attracting Backyard Wildlife: A guide for nature lovers / by Bill Meriless. Voyageur Press, 1989.
  • Before the Echo: Essays on Nature / by Pete Dunne; illustrated by Diana Marlinski. University of Texas Press, 1995.
  • Beyond the Aspen Grove / by Anne Zwinger. New York: Random House, 1970.
  • The Book of Yaak / by Rick Bass. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 1996.
  • Desert Solitaire / by Edward Abbey. Ballantine Books, 1991.
  • Go Tell It on the Mountain: A Collection of Essays, Stories, and Journal Writings by Fire Lookouts / compiled and edited by Jackie Johnson Maughan. Mechanicsburg, PA: Stackpole Books, 1996.
  • The Natural History Essays / Henry David Thoreau; introduction by Robert Sattlemeyer. Peregrine Smith Books, 1989.
  • Northern Farm: A Glorious Year on a Small Maine Farm / by Henry Beston; illustrated by Thoreau MacDonald. Owlet, 1994.
  • Outermost House: A Year in the Life of Cape Cod / by Henry Beston. Henry Holt, 1992.
  • Outwitting Squirrels / by Bill Adler, Jr. Chicago Review Press, 2nd edition, 1988.
  • Pilgrim at Tinker Creek / by Annie Dillard. New York: Harper’s Magazine Press in association with Harper & Row, Publishers, 1974.
  • The Practice of the Wild: Essays / by Gary Snyder. New York: North Point Press / Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1990.
  • A Sand County Almanac / by Aldo Leopold. New York, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1949.
  • Seasons at Eagle Pond / by Donald Hall. Ticknor & Fields, 1987.
  • Secret Islands / by Franklin Russell. 1965.
  • The Singing Wilderness / by Sigurd F. Olson. Knopf, 1956 and University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  • A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail / by Bill Bryson. Bantam, 1998.
  • Watchers of the Pond / by Franklin Russell. David R. Godine, 2000.
  • Wild Heritage / by Sally Carrighar
  • Wilderness and the American Mind / by Roderick Nash. New Haven, and London: Yale University Press, 1967.
  • Words from the Land / edited by Stephen Trimble. Reno and Las Vegas: University of Nevada Press, 1988.

Book Reviews

I just finished a book I wanted to recommend here. Check out Hummingbird Gardens by Nancy Newfield and Barbara Nielsen. The photography is gorgeous enough to rate this as a coffee table book, but the text is equally worth mentioning. I found it to be balanced geographically, with sections on all of the various regions you find hummingbirds in North America, with plant recommendations and sample gardens for each region. In the Pacific Northwest region, which covers where I live, I know and highly respect each of the birders who were quoted, so I expect the same would be true of each of the other regions. I’ve read a lot of birding books, and this is one of the finest I’ve seen in a long time. Since this is the height of hummingbird season, I thought I’d pass that on to the rest of you.

I’ll add my personal recommendation for Kenn Kauffman’s Kingbird Highway, his story about how (at age 16, no less) he decided to try to break the American “Big Year” record and try to identify a record number of birds in one year. He hitchhiked across the country, ate cat food and diner coffee (lots of sugar) to survive, and occasionally worked as a temporary farm laborer to earn enough money to get to his next birding destination. He managed to cover Florida to Alaska, with some amazing adventures in the process. 

I’ll also recommend Wild America, co-authored by British naturalist James Fisher and America’s Roger Tory Peterson. This may be hard to find, since it is out of print, but check libraries and used book stores. They recount a trek together across America in 1953, trying to see as many birds as they could. The writing is amusing and insightful, and I found it particularly interesting to note things like how excited they were to see Cattle Egrets in Florida, since they were almost unheard of in North America at the time. I also was highly entertained by their descriptions and observations of each other as the journey progressed. 

— Terrie, Portland, Oregon

Birdscaping Your Garden by George Adams gives profiles of many backyard birds, and lists appropriate plants for both food and shelter for each species. In the Plant Directory, it focuses on native plants, detailing the birds each attracts, their native distribution, and their cultivation. Very nice photos. Covers most of the United States.

A Garden of Birds by Andre Dion This book is divided up by the seasons, with the plants grouped according to when they flower and/or provide fruit. This is a Canadian book, from Quebec.

Landscaping for Wildlife by Carrol Henderson, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. General landscaping information including benefits, principles, habitat components, and specifics for landscaping your yard, farmland, and woodlands for wildlife. Very much a “how-to” book, including a diagram of a brush pile! Lists of plants including grasses, trees, perennials, annuals, plants for butterflies/moths, for hummingbirds/orioles, and plants by season, are all contained in appendixes. This was an interesting book, for included in the lists were numbers of species using the plant – for example, 42 species of butterflies use the common milkweed, while 9 use peppermint. The book also includes information about mammals. All told, appendixes run from A-P

–Susan, West Bloomfield, Michigan

Birder’s Guide to TexasSecond Edition, by Edward A. Kutac is essential if you live in Texas or are planning a trip to Texas and will do any birding. The author breaks the state down not only into main regions, but continues to dissect the regions until he has given information on nearly 300 locations statewide. 606 species, detailed maps and directions to all locations, some of which are remote and difficult to find without the directions given in the book. There is information on how to obtain bird checklists for areas that he mentions.

Birder’s Life List and Diary, Revised Edition, by Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology includes 934 bird species with places for date, location, and remarks for each one. There is a place to keep a life list as well as an index which is designed in such a way as to facilitate keeping lists for your state, yard, city, year, or other lists.

-Brenda Muncrief, Huntsville, Texas

Seasons at Eagle Pond by Donald Hall is a celebration of new England and the seasons, the poet laureate of New Hampshire records his love of place. The place is a 180-year-old farmland, Eagle Pond, the home of Hall’s grandparents and now his home. “There is no reason to live here except for love,” write Hall as he describes the sight of huge Holsteins frolicking or when impatient for the arrival of spring, he suggests pushing winter “off to a condominium in the keys of Antarctica.” This collection of four essays by a close observer of the natural world is a blend of reminiscences, anecdotes, and vignettes that captures continuity of family and the quiet delights of rural life in each season.

-Margaret Brown, Chelmsford, Massachusetts

Living on the Wind by Scott Weidensaul is about bird migration. I learned about the book on my way home from work while listening to NPR. Weidensaul was on All Things Considered talking about his book and Bird Migration. It bogs down occasionally, but most of the time his stories are wonderful. I give it 4 stars.

The Human Nature of Birds by Theodore Barber contends that birds have been clearly, consistently, and scientifically shown to possess intelligence comparable to-and in some cases superior to-that of humans. There are very interesting case studies, stories, etc. He concludes that scientists have this hoary taboo against anthropomorphism which prevents detailed consideration of intelligence in the animal kingdom. I quite enjoyed these case studies. Another 4 star.

Attracting Backyard Wildlife by Bill Merilees is a guide to creating and maintaining a garden that will encourage regular visits from butterflies, birds, and other creatures. It has bird seed mixtures and recipes, which flowers and shrubs to plant, how to build and where to place birdhouses, birdbaths, etc., and lots more. A really nice book.

-Margy Roeck, Groton, Massachusetts

A Hummingbird in My House by Arnette Heidcamp is the story of how a hummingbird came to stay with Arnette for a winter. Makes a nice gift to someone who loves birds, or hummingbirds in particular. I give it five stars.

-Phyllis Bolding, Appleton, Wisconsin

Watchers At The Pond, by Franklin Russell is a great account of a year at a northern pond. Franklin Russell has an incredible eye and ability to describe the interworking of the ecosystem from the amoeba to the large animals. The saga of death and survival in the wild has never been told better.

The Secret Islands by Franklin Russell. In this book Russell visits Newfoundland and the Maritimes, visiting off shore islands, some of which are almost impossible to reach. His descriptions of life in sea and bird rookeries will make you fell like you are there.

Feather Quest by Pete Dunne. In this book Pete and his wife set off across North America to visit some of the great birding sites to find the rarest of the rare as well as to experience some of the premier sites. Immensely entertaining and informative.

Before the Echo by Pete Dunne is a series of essays on nature, the people who love it and those who will destroy it. Dunne, who is also a hunter as well as a premier birder, gives a non-sentimental assessment of where we stand in this country environmentally.

Wild Heritage by Sally Carrighar is a very entertaining account of animal behavior and similarities and perhaps origin of behavior in humans. This is a good book to read when trying to decide how much emotion to attribute to animal life.

The Singing Wilderness by Sigmund F. Olson. It has been a while since I read this account of the Quetico-Superior wilderness, but I recall it to be both a philosophical as well as descriptive account by a woodsman who spent his life in the wilds of Superior. I also enjoyed his book, The Listening Point.

A Sand County Almanac by Aldo Leopold. What Olson did for Superior, Leopold does for Wisconsin in a highly entertaining and thought provoking account.

The Outermost House by Henry Beston. Much like Thoreau, Beston goes to a small house on the outer beaches of Cape Cod to live for a year.

Northern Farm by Henry Beston. In this instance, Beston describes life on a remote Maine farm.

-Donald Tucker, Maine