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Books about birds from noted authors

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Whooping Crane. Photo by Mary Welty
Whooping Crane is one of the animals featured in Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction by Michelle Nijhuis. Photo by Mary Welty

The “Bookshelf” section in BirdWatching’s July/August 2021 issue features reviews of books about birds from noted authors J. Drew Lanham, Scott Weidensaul, Michelle Nijhuis, and John Faaborg.

A World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory BirdsA World on the Wing: The Global Odyssey of Migratory Birds, by Scott Weidensaul, W.W. Norton, 2021, hardcover, 400 pages, $32.

Scott Weidensaul, one of the masters of modern nature writing, follows up on his 1999 book about bird migration, Living on the Wind (which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), with this new instant classic. Drawing on Weidensaul’s extensive fieldwork, A World on the Wing brings readers up to date with scientists’ understanding of the navigational and physiological feats that enable birds to cross immense oceans, fly above the highest mountains, or remain in unbroken flight for months at a time.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Beloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of ExtinctionBeloved Beasts: Fighting for Life in an Age of Extinction, by Michelle Nijhuis, W.W. Norton, 2021, hardcover, 352 pages, $27.95.

In this new book, science journalist Michelle Nijhuis traces the history of the conservation movement, including luminaries such as Aldo Leopold, Rachel Carson, and Stewart Udall. She dives deep into the stories of the Whooping Crane, Bald Eagle, buffalo, and black rhino, among others. In a world where threats to wildlife abound and the effects of climate change escalate, this book offers valuable perspective on how conservation can protect all species, including our own.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Book of Birds: Introduction to OrnithologyBook of Birds: Introduction to Ornithology, by John Faaborg, illustrations by Claire Faaborg, Texas A&M University Press, 2020, hardcover, 472 pages, $65, also available as an ebook.

This book seems destined for a long life as a collegiate-level ornithology textbook, but you don’t have to be a college student to have an interest in it. Author John Faaborg, a renowned expert on avian ecology and conservation, has an approachable writing style that will engage students and birders alike while introducing them to the evolution, anatomy, physiology, and behavior of birds. Hand-drawn art by his daughter, Claire, brings the science behind the book’s concepts to life.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Sparrow Envy: Field Guide to Birds and Lesser Beasts, by J. Drew Lanham, Hub City Press, 2021, hardcover, 104 pages, $16.

This slim volume from J. Drew Lanham, a wildlife ecologist and Master Teacher at Clemson University, is a mix of poems and prose about his obsession with birds and all wild things. Lanham, a celebrated author and essayist and a recent recipient of an E.O. Wilson Biodiversity Award, offers fresh insights, often in just a few lines. We learn why he won’t refer to a flock of crows as a “murder” and what he thinks would bring a sparrow great joy. This is a book to be read and re-read with an open mind and heart. 

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

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Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall

Matt Mendenhall is the editor of BirdWatching magazine and You can reach him at

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