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Books about extinction, pigeons, and more

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Rock Pigeon. Photo by John Pizniur
Rosemary Mosco explains why Rock Pigeons come in different colors and patterns in her book A Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching. Photo by John Pizniur

The “On The Wire” section of our September/October 2021 issue featured reviews of five books including a hopeful look at preventing extinction, a pocket guide on pigeons, and two new Peterson guides.

Dead Serious: Wild Hope Amid the Sixth ExtinctionDead Serious: Wild Hope Amid the Sixth ExtinctionBy Eli J. Knapp, Torrey House Press, 2021, paperback or e-book, 307 pages, $18.95. 

The latest book from Eli J. Knapp, a professor of intercultural studies and biology at Houghton College and a world birder, takes as its jumping-off point a 1983 essay about extinction by conservation biologist Michael Soulé. He listed 18 things we need to know about extinction — rarity, inbreeding, catastrophe, competition, predation, and the like. 

Knapp considers each of the 18 points, one per chapter, but he avoids the trap of writing about this heavy topic in a doom-and-gloom way. Instead, he tells personal stories of mishap and adventure, relates historical vignettes, and considers scenic detours that relate to the critical forces that lie behind the sixth extinction going on today around the globe. 

Full of humor, hope, and scientific savvy, Knapp’s book describes rare warblers in Kenya and the Chatham Islands, ocean-going tortoises, and other wonders worth saving on planet Earth.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Bird Talk: An Exploration of Avian CommunicationBird Talk: An Exploration of Avian CommunicationBy Barbara Ballentine and Jeremy Hyman, edited By Mike Webster, Comstock Publishing, 2021, hardcover, 192 pages, $29.95.

The beauty of birdsong is one of the joys of nature, and this book reveals how songs are learned and performed, why the quality of a male’s repertoire can affect his mating success, and how birds use song-matching and countersinging in territorial disputes. The authors, who are ornithologists at Western Carolina University, also illustrate how birds communicate through visual signals, from the dazzling feathers of a peacock to the jumping displays a Jackson’s Widowbird performs to show off his long tail.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests
Peterson Field Guide to WeatherThe latest Peterson guidesHoughton Mifflin Harcourt

In late August, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will publish the Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests (paperback, 512 pages, $24.99) and Peterson Field Guide to Weather (paperback, 552 pages, $27.99). The nest guide includes nearly 800 color photographs of nests and eggs of more than 650 species found north of Mexico, and it covers birds’ nest design, breeding behavior, and habitat preferences. The weather guide is a remarkable, nontechnical reference to all things weather: clouds, precipitation, storms, aurora, and halos, as well as hurricanes, blizzards, and other severe weather. 

Learn more about the Peterson Field Guide to North American Bird Nests at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Learn more about the Peterson Field Guide to Weather at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

A Pocket Guide to Pigeon WatchingA Pocket Guide to Pigeon Watching, By Rosemary Mosco, Workman Publishing, 2021, paperback or e-book, 240 pages, $14.95. 

If you have not had the pleasure of reading Rosemary Mosco’s previous books, such as Birding Is My Favorite Video Game or Butterflies are Pretty…Gross!, or if you have not heard a keynote speech of hers at a birding festival, then you’re in for a treat here. Pigeons, of course, are not the most beloved birds on the planet, but Mosco’s approach in this book is full of wit, reverence, and appreciation for the Columbidae family. She looks at the place of pigeons in human history, covers some of the various species around the world, explains why Rock Pigeons come in so many colors and patterns, and more.

Learn more at Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

Find more reviews of books about birds and birdwatching, interviews with authors, and book excerpts here.

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