Here in Ashland, Oregon, I listen to our local radio station KSKQ. And for the past several years I’ve enjoyed the weekly, two-minute BirdNote programs.
So I was excited to find that there is now a BirdNote book. What the book lacks in audio, it makes up for in very high print production values; it is beautifully designed, with full-color illustrations and a handy bookmark tassel.
This will make an excellent gift for the would-be birder in your family. And even veteran birders will enjoy it. While I’d like to think I’ve learned a fair amount about birds over the years spent gazing upwards, I still learned plenty, such as:
- The Northern Flicker and Pileated Woodpecker rely heavily on ants that bore through the trees. A Norther Flicker was known to consume 5,000 ants in one sitting (or perching).
- The Green Heron may use a “bait” of twigs, feathers or insects to attract fish within reach of their bills.
- A barn swallow eats up to 850 insects a day — making this a wonderful bird to have around not just a barn, but any yard.
- There is a crow roost in Illinois that is home to 100,000 crows. I would love to hear that.
- The cardinal (who I sorely miss out here in the Oregon) was named after the red hats and robes of the Roman cardinals.
- And speaking of red, cars this color are most often targeted by birds doing their business, according to a study. Green cars are least likely to be targeted.
- And the much-maligned starling gets some deserved love. I find their symphony of sounds to be truly remarkable. And I was not alone; turns out Mozart had a pet starling that he wrote a poem about after it passed on.
My only complaint is that it would have been nice to see longer, more informative notes. A number of notes come in at just a few paragraphs.
Also, while some chapters do explain why certain species are threatened, such as the California Condor, I would have liked to see more of this, such as regarding the many species of albatross now under threat.
Quibbles aside, I recommend this book to anyone who loves birds (or anyone you think should love birds).
PS: All BirdNotes can be listened to online here
BirdNote: Chirps, Quirks, and Stories of 100 Birds from the Popular Public Radio Show
Publisher: Sasquatch Books
Author of the novels The Tourist Trail and Where Oceans Hide Their Dead. Co-founder of Ashland Creek Press and editor of Writing for Animals (also now a writing program).