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.
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.
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.
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.
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.