Books about bird vagrancy, a Yellow Warbler’s journey, and more


The “On The Wire” section of our May/June 2022 issue featured reviews of several books, including a look at bird vagrancy, a fictional children’s book about a Yellow Warbler, a title about how the COVID-19 pandemic turned a Florida man into a birder, and more.

Vagrancy in BirdsBy Alexander Lees and James Gilroy, Princeton University Press, 2022, hardcover, 400 pages, $35.

What causes birds to stray from their typical ranges? Why do some places attract so many vagrant birds? Why are some species more predisposed to long-range vagrancy than others? The authors of this impressive book present readers with everything known about the subject, and they bring together different lines of evidence to make the case for vagrancy as a biological phenomenon with important implications for avian ecology and evolution.

The bulk of the book, which is richly illustrated with photos of vagrant birds, is devoted to accounts of vagrancy in each avian family around the world. Some families with no tendancy to wander require only brief entries, but others, like hummingbirds, falcons, and flycatchers, go on for pages.

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Solid Air — Invisible Killer: Saving Billions of Birds from Windows, By Daniel Klem, Jr., Hancock House

Solid Air — Invisible Killer: Saving Billions of Birds from Windows, By Daniel Klem, Jr., Hancock House, 2021, paperback,
224 pages, $24.95.

Daniel Klem, an ornithologist at Muhlenberg College in Pennsylvania, is the leading researcher into the extreme threat windows pose to birds. This book is an excellent look at the problem and an incredibly valuable resource that can help anyone reduce the risk that their windows pose. Klem explains the scale of the problem, his own research into it, and why it’s important to educate people and help them act. He also provides solutions, discussing certain products that can deter birds from hitting glass. And he writes about various legal protections that have been attempted, some more successful than others, and explains ways that individuals can make a difference. 

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A Warbler’s Journey, By Scott Weidensaul, illustrated by Nancy Lane, The Gryphon Press

A Warbler’s Journey, By Scott Weidensaul, illustrated by Nancy Lane, The Gryphon Press, 2022, hardcover, 32 pages, $17.99, ages 5-8.

It’s not often that we see a book about birds for children that tells its story without going over the heads of its intended audience. Scott Weidensaul delivers with this tale of a Yellow Warbler’s journey from Central America to northern Canada. The warbler is helped along the way by three different children and families: a Nicaraguan family whose traditional shade coffee farm sustains migrant birds, an African-American family who creates a garden in their backyard on the Gulf Coast to provide food for her, and a family from the Łutsël K’é Dene First Nation in Canada who have preserved land for all animals.

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Female Heroes of Bird Conservation, By Rosemary Low, Insignis Publications

Female Heroes of Bird ConservationBy Rosemary Low, Insignis Publications, 2021, paperback, 254 pages, $39.99.

This book profiles more than 30 inspirational women bird conservationists, past and present. Their stories and those of the birds they saved will touch your heart. The book, which is available in North America from Buteo Books, encourages women to make their own contributions to saving birds from extinction. It also covers social issues such as discrimination against women working in the field. Low, an avian expert in her own right, beautifully pulls together the stories, challenges, and remarkable achievements of an intriguing range of women, including Althea Sherman, Margaret Morse Nice, Lorin Lindner, and more.

Read more about Female Heroes of Bird Conservation here.

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A Little Birdie Told Me, By Matthew Papuchis, Fig Factor Media

A Little Birdie Told Me, By Matthew Papuchis, Fig Factor Media, 2021, hardcover, 344 pages, $29.97 (paperback $18.97).

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, Matthew Papuchis, a father of three from Florida, lost his job in the hospitality industry, and for the first time in his adult life, he was unemployed. In the uncertain early months, he happened upon a new hobby: watching birds. He tells the story of how he got started birding in South Florida and what he learned along the way in this enjoyable new book. Each chapter focuses on one lesson that he discovered in his reflections about birds — including those on perspective and positivity. Birds, he writes, “enabled me to find peace, find myself, and experience new joys” during a most challenging time. 

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The Condor’s Feather, By Michael Webster, September Publishing

The Condor’s Feather, By Michael Webster, September Publishing, 2022, paperback, 350 pages, $18.95.

This heartfelt book tells an extraordinary story of an English couple who packed up a Toyota camper and shipped it to South America, where they then spent years traveling the length of the Andes in search of birds. Michael and Paula Webster found penguins in Patagonia, hummingbirds of the equator, and flamingos of the Caribbean. They endured dust storms and thundering gales, and tested the limits of their physical and mental strength as they lived, month after month, camping under galaxies of diamond stars.

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Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher, By Marina Richie, illustrations by Ram Papish, Oregon State University Press

Halcyon Journey: In Search of the Belted Kingfisher, By Marina Richie, illustrations by Ram Papish, Oregon State University Press, 2022, paperback, 248 pages, $22.95.

Marina Richie has been fascinated by kingfishers for years. She wrote about them for BirdWatching in 2011 and has studied them, especially Belted Kingfishers, extensively. This book tells her story of observation, revelation, and curiosity about the birds. While the heart of the drama takes place on Rattlesnake Creek in Missoula, the author’s adventures in search of kingfisher kin on the lower Rio Grande, in South Africa, and in London illuminate her relationships with the birds of Montana. For all who love birds or simply seek solace in nature, Halcyon Journey is an inviting introduction to the mythic and mysterious Belted Kingfisher.

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This Is a Book for People Who Love Birds, By Danielle Belleny, Running PressThis Is a Book for People Who Love Birds, By Danielle Belleny, Running Press, 2022, hardcover, 152 pages, $16.

Danielle Belleny, a wildlife biologist, cemetery birder, member of the Black AF in STEM collective, and co-organizer of Black Birders Week, has just published this delightful, concise, and lovely bird book. Filled with fun facts and whimsical illustrations, the book features engaging profiles of a variety of birds, including Bluethroat, Masked Booby, Carolina Chickadee, and Elegant Trogon. Belleny presents info about bird behavior and biology and offers tips on how to find birds and become a birdwatcher. Along with the book, the publisher is also marketing a companion wooden magnet set depicting eight species and a 500-piece puzzle that follows the book’s illustration style.

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