Birds of North America

Kenn Kaufman, Author, Rick Bowers, With, Nora Mays Bowers, With
Kenn Kaufman, Author, Rick Bowers, With, Nora Mays Bowers, With Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) $20 (383p) ISBN 978-0-395-96464-4
Reviewed on: 09/04/2000
Release date: 09/01/2000
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Every spring, tens of thousands of bird-watchers migrate across the country in search of vireos, towhees, and violet-crowned hummingbirds; these birders can be recognized by their binoculars, their respect for nature and their frequent stillness and near-silence. By next spring, many of them will be toting this guide. Author and illustrator Kaufman (Lives of North American Birds) has long been one of the birdwatching community's stars. His colorful, practical and very portable book aims to become the new standard in the field. The book is small enough for a big jacket pocket, and can be held in one hand; color-coded tags divide its 16 sections on 16 classes of birds (""Ducks, Geese, Swans,"" ""Chicken-Like Birds,"" ""Medium-Sized Land Birds,"" ""Flycatchers,"" etc.). Each left-hand page describes three to six related birds, with range maps for each, color-coded for season and frequency; brief phrases give most species' song, voice or call-note. The corresponding right-hand page offers bright, high-resolution color pictures of the same birds, on a perch or in flight. Short inserts help explain, for example, how to distinguish among many similar sparrows. Kaufman's guide is revolutionary in that it's the first to use digitally altered photographs (more than 2,000 of them) rather than unretouched photos or paintings - in practice the computerized images look like extremely detailed paintings. Though he pays more attention to common birds, Kaufman is happy to cover rare visitors and migrants: here are a brace of robins, but also bluethroat (restricted to northwest Alaska, and ""hard to see when not singing""), and 16 kinds of (introduced) parrots. The guide may not be the most comprehensive available, and its laconic descriptions deliberately avoid facts that won't assist identification. But Kaufman makes up for those limits with compactness, great design and ease of use - especially for beginners: an appendix leads new birders to further resources (some of them online). Major ad/promo; 22-city author tour. (Sept. 22)
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