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8 top books about bird behavior, habitat, hummingbirds, and more

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A juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird spotted in Springfield, Missouri. Hummingbirds are the subject of the new book The Glitter in the Green. Photo by Steve Ricketts
A juvenile Ruby-throated Hummingbird spotted in Springfield, Missouri. Hummingbirds are the subject of the new bookThe Glitter in the Green. Photo by Steve Ricketts

The March/April 2021 issue of BirdWatching features reviews of the following eight books, including a new Peterson Reference Guide about bird behavior, a look at the world’s hummingbirds, and a tour of cities creating safe urban habitats for our feathered friends.

A Most Remarkable Creatureby Jonathan Meiburg, Knopf Doubleday, 2021, hardcover, 384 pages, $30.

In this book, ornithologist and musician Jonathan Meiburg tells the story of the Striated Caracara, a bird that captivated Charles Darwin during his voyage around South America. Meiburg, who leads the acclaimed band Shearwater, reveals the wild, fascinating story of the caracara’s history, origins, and possible futures. He takes readers from the fog-bound coasts of the Falklands to tropical forests in Guyana to falconry parks in the English countryside, where captive caracaras perform incredible feats of memory and problem-solving.

Learn more about A Most Remarkable Creature on Amazon!

Birds of Maineby Peter D. Vickery, illustrated by Barry Van Dusen and Lars Jonsson, Princeton University Press, 2020, hardcover, 664 pages, $45.

This overview of the birdlife of Maine covers all 464 species found in the state. Written by the late Peter Vickery in cooperation with a team of leading ornithologists, the guide offers a detailed look at the state’s dynamic avifauna — from the Wild Turkey to the Arctic Tern — with information on migration patterns and timing, current status and changes in bird abundance and distribution, and how Maine’s geography and shifting climate mold its birdlife. The book was edited by Scott Weidensaul and Barbara Vickery. 

Learn more about Birds of Maine on Amazon!

The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirdsby Jon Dunn, Basic Books, 2021, hardcover, 352 pages, $16.99.

In this book, British natural history writer, photographer, and wildlife tour leader Jon Dunn takes readers on a journey throughout the range of hummingbirds: from near the Arctic Circle to near-Antarctic islands. He encounters birders, scientists, and others as he unravels the story of one of Earth’s most charismatic bird families. The birds, revered by humans, exist on a knife-edge, fighting for survival in boreal woodlands, dripping cloud forests, and subpolar islands.

Learn more about The Glitter in the Green: In Search of Hummingbirds on Amazon!

Peterson Reference Guide to Bird Behaviorby John Kricher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2020, hardcover, 360 pages, $35.

John Kricher, a professor at Wheaton College who taught ecology, ornithology, and vertebrate evolution for 48 years, has produced a vital new volume in the Peterson Reference Guide series with this comprehensive look at bird behavior. The easy-to-understand text covers topics such as birds’ annual cycles, feathers and flight, social behaviors, pair bonding and nesting, and much more. If you have questions about why birds do what they do, this book has the answers. 

Learn more about Peterson Reference Guide to Bird Behavior on Amazon!

Odd Birdby Lee Farnsworth, Farrago Books, 2020, paperback, 320 pages, $12.99.

If you enjoy fiction that incorporates birding and ornithology, check out this romantic comedy from British author Lee Farnsworth. The main character, Simon Selwood, studies the courtship behaviors of birds but is hopeless when it comes to finding human love. Along comes Kim, who doesn’t have an interest in birds and doesn’t seem too interested in Simon either, but he is keen on her. The student of the Pied Flycatcher and other species uses his knowledge of how birds attract mates as well as some advice from his best friend Phil to pursue a relationship with Kim. 

Learn more about Odd Bird on Amazon!

The Love Lives of Birds: Courting and Mating Ritualsby Laura Erickson, Storey Publishing, 2020, hardcover, 152 pages, $19.95.

Our friend and Contributing Editor Laura Erickson’s latest book is a survey of the breeding behaviors of 35 bird species, including Greater Prairie-Chicken, Satin Bowerbird, and Great Horned Owl. Erickson’s brief and informative prose about the varied ways birds pair up and breed complements stunning illustrations by artist Veronica B. Lilja. For example, we learn that for a female Limpkin, apple snails brought by a male “heighten her romantic impulses,” and that Adélie Penguin pairs spend six weeks building a platform of stones that the female then lays her eggs upon. 

Learn more about The Love Lives of Birds: Courting and Mating Rituals on Amazon!

The Bird-Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitatsby Timothy Beatley, Island Press, 2020, paperback, 272 pages, $35.

The author of this book is an expert in environmental planning and policy at the University of Virginia and a longtime advocate for intertwining the built and natural environments. Here he takes readers on a global tour of cities that are reducing the risks birds face in urban areas. We visit Phoenix, New York, Toronto, and many others. Beatley argues that it’s not enough to simply minimize harm for birds: We need to design cities so that birds are actively welcomed as part of the urban fabric.

Learn more about The Bird-Friendly City: Creating Safe Urban Habitats on Amazon!

When Birds Are Near: Dispatches from Contemporary Writersedited by Susan Fox Rogers, Cornell University Press, 2020, paperback, 304 pages, $22.95.

In this dazzling literary collection, writers explore and celebrate their lives with and love for birds — detailing experiences from Alaska to Bermuda, South Dakota to Panama. The book gives us the chance to walk alongside luminaries such as J. Drew Lanham, Jonathan Rosen, Rachel Dickinson, Katie Fallon, Jonathan Franzen, and Donald Kroodsma, reading their field notes as well as their reflections on life, love, loss, and the wonder of birds. 

Learn more about When Birds Are Near: Dispatches from Contemporary Writers on Amazon!

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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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