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As I’ve gotten more and more interested in birds, I’ve spent more time reading about them. I must admit that I’ve never gotten too excited about the nesting and parenting sections of most field guides. They so often seem to be about numbers: x amount of time to build a nest, x number of eggs, x number of weeks sitting on the nest, x number of days or weeks of fledging the young, etc.
My eyes would glaze over and it just wouldn’t stick in my mind. But I’m currently reading a book about just this topic and I’m completely fascinated. If you enjoy watching birds, I highly recommend that you check it out.
The book is called, “Into the Nest; Intimate Views of Courting, Parenting and Family Lives of Familiar Birds.” Authors Laura Erickson and Marie Read have fleshed out the topic beyond the usual string of facts. Instead, they have created a series of stories about the family lives of over forty North American birds. It is written in a light, easy to read style.
Part one provides an overview for birds in general, including courting, reproduction, nest making and caring for young. Part two is twenty-five short chapters, each focused on one species (or several related or similar species.)
Common Bird’s Stories
There are thousands of birds in the world and this book does not cover them all. Instead, the authors picked birds common to the United States with interesting stories. Most are birds I see daily in my backyard like Northern Cardinals, Tufted Titmouses, Carolina Chickadees (as well as Black-Capped Chickadees), Mourning Doves, Blue Jays, American Goldfinches, Downy Woodpeckers, etc.
Others are birds that, while not typically found in my backyard, can be seen in local parks, like Killdeer, Red-Tailed Hawks, Bald Eagles, and Herring Gulls. That they aren’t exotic birds, but are birds you are likely to see in many parts of the country, makes their stories all the more fascinating.
Even if you watch birds a lot at your feeders, what you are witnessing is just part of their story. It would be like only watching humans eat dinner at a restaurant and thinking you now know all about them.
This book gives you a peek at another big part of a bird’s life. Some of what is described goes on inside a nest or nesting cavity where you are less likely to witness it. But the authors also describe related behaviors that you may very well see if you pay attention. It’s very cool.
Paperback or Digital Format
This particular book is available as a wide-format paperback and in digital form. I first saw the paperback version in a store and it looked very nice, with an attractive layout and beautiful pictures.
I have gotten hooked on digital books, so I purchased the Kindle version. If you read a lot of digital non-fiction books, you know your mileage can vary on layout and ease of use. I found this digital book to be laid out fairly well, with lots of links to move around within the book easily. My only quibble is that I wish they had consistently put photo captions underneath photos instead of before and sometimes after them. I think this would make matching up photo to caption easier when there are several photos in a row.
Popping In And Out of the Book
This is the kind of book that you probably won’t read straight through like a novel. Instead, you might read the overview part and then pop in and out to read a story of one type of bird today and another on another day.
You could be watching a nuthatch zipping down a nearby tree and decide to look up his story. Or you might notice two mourning doves snuggled up together and decide to read about them.
Many birds are nesting now or soon will be, so this is a good time to be reading this book. I think you’ll enjoy it!
PS: Check out my post on House Wrens in the Bluebird Box for my experience watching this species nest.
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