Posted by: atowhee | April 17, 2013


THE WORLD’S RAREST BIRDS By Erik Hirschfeld, et al. Princrton Press. 360 pages. $45.
This fine book is a guide to all those hard to find and endangered birds around the world. It’s organized by continent with details, pictures(0r drawing) of each species and a range map.IMG_4863 (1280x960) This is a beautiful book with an unattractive story to tell. It lists all those species that are being driven to the brink of extinction or beyond. Too many are victims of humanity.
Small island groups in the Pacific, Hawaii, Madagascar, disappearing forests or grasslands–all have their rare and disappearing species. Some we’ve all heard of–Spoonbill Sandpiper, Spix’s Macaw. Others are so obscure their names are new to most of us: Maranon Spinetail, La Selle Thrush, Van Dam’s Vanga.
One specific piece of data on each species: estimate of population. When you see a ? there you know it’s not good news. It means the bird has not been seen recently.IMG_4867 (1280x960)
I’ve birded on five continents and I’ve seen only 9 of the birds in this book. Among them are Gray-crowned Crane, Whooping Crane, Tricolored Blackbird and California Condor which are all easy to see if you go to exactly the right place. The Condor and the Whooping Crane are both looking like conservation successes. The population of each is in the low 100s. Condors now top 400 and many are in the wild, not captivity. But both require constant human intervention to prevent population decline or collapse. IMG_4866 (1280x960)

My saddest birding experience ever was seeing the Hawaiian Crow. Over ten years ago my wife and I went to McCandless Ranch on the Big Island. And at dawn they took us into the forest where captive crows were kept and half of the remaining free population of crows came and sat on the cage to communicate with those inside. That means we saw 2 of the 4 remaining wild Hawaiian Crows. Now there are none in the wild. We can’t release the dozens bred in captivity because of human habitat destruction. We have intorduced mongoose, cats, rats and mammal feces with toxoplamosis. If they avoid the fatal toxoplasmosis, the captive born crows don’t know how to avoid the wild hawk and owl of Hawaii. This species may never fly free again.
If you’re a world birder or an armchair birder this is a fascinating if sobering book.

IMG_4868 (1280x960)————-
THE CROSSLEY ID GUIDE RAPTORS By Richard Crossley, Jerry Liguori, Brian Sullivan. Princeton. 304 pages (flexible, water resistant cover). $29.95IMG_4864 (1280x960)
This book continues the idea of placing real bird photos onto natural landscapes as the bird is seen in the wild. This book has some fascinating additions not found in the original field guide for Eastern US birdes. There are quiz pages and special pages that deal with raptor-ID issues. For example, there is a great montage of hawks flying away. No other guide had ever tried to help the birder who spies a raptor in front of him and the bird speeds away in full sight, showing perfect tail and back views. We’ve all been there, hooping the hawk circles overhead or at least turns to show us another angle. They don’t always do that. Especially not speeding falcons. Thank you, Mr. Crossley.
Perhaps just as fun are the quiz pages: all three accipiters compared in a single landscape for example. And to make it realistic, he occasionally throws in a Red-tailed Hawk or some such in a confusing angle. No raptor addict wants to be without this one.
IMG_4870 (1280x960)IMG_4871 (1280x960)

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