SIBLEYS BIRDING BASICS
By David Allen Sibley
Alfred A.Knopf, Publisher of Borzoi Books, a Division of Random House,Inc.,
299 Park Avenue, New York 10171, www.aaknopf.com , 2002
ISBN 0-375-70966-5, 160 pp, USA $ 15.95, CAN $ 23.95
Very Highly RecommendedDavid Allen Sibley, artist, naturalist, and birder
has published two more books related to birds that have become bestsellers. The son of Yale ornithologist, Fred Sibley, he
was born in New York and has been watching and drawing birds since he was seven years old. His illustrations have appeared
in many publications, from newsletters to national magazines such as Bird Watchers Digest, Birding, The Nature Conservancy,
and Audubon.More of Mr. Sibleys artwork can be seen on his web site, www.sibleyart.com
He lives in Concord, Massachusetts with his wife and their two sons.
SIBLEYS BIRDING BASICS is a pocket-sized book, the first easily portable
guide to all the skills you need to identify a bird in the few moments its in your view! In this book, David is concerned
with the general characteristics that influence the appearance of all birds and give us clues to their identity. It includes
125 full-color illustrations and is specially designed for use in the field.
The book is divided into 16 chapters. At the Introduction, the author
explains what exactly bird-watching is and where it can be done.
This book is about interpreting what you see and hear in order to make better
judgments, David says. This is not a guide to the identification of any specific birds. It is designed to promote a general
understanding of the challenges of identification , and an understanding of how our impressions of the birds are shaped by
the environment and the birds behavior.
In the first chapter ,Getting Started, the author says:
Whether you can identify six birds or six hundred, youll be a better birder
if you have a grounding in the real nuts and bolts of what birds look like, and your skills will be even sharper if you know
exactly what to look for and how to record what you see.
He writes about the equipment necessary, where and when to go birding and
a lot of other useful information:
Browsing technical journals can provide insights and bits of information
that will help you to understand the birds and their identification.
is the second chapter , where David gives the readers useful tips and advice:
Of course, it is not essential to go out into the woods and marshes and stalk
birds. By providing food, water , and cover, you can bring many species of birds into your yard, where they can be studied
at close range and watched at leisure.
Keeping Records, Field Notes and Sketching are all valuable subchapters to
The Challenges of Bird Identification
comes next, dealing with the development of birding skills and its benefits.
For the birder, one of the practical benefits of studying birds more closely
is that the more precisely you define each species, the more accurate your identification will be, the author says. Sorting
Skills and Birds Differences lead to the right identification.
The next chapter is about Misidentification. Here the author tries
to sort out the problems of poor or brief bird observation.
Unfortunately, it is easy to bias your own observations through a sloppy
or casual approach, David says. Identifying Rare Birds, Taxonomy, and Using Behavioral Clues follow,
offering more details:
Birds are often seen in flight, and you can learn to identify flying birds,
but to do so you must know the Basics. Plumage patterns and bill shape can be seen in surprising detail on flying birds, as
can leg length, the author says.
comes next, and its very interesting to learn all about it:
Listen to the overall pitch and to changes in pitch, noting whether the song
varies widely from high to low pitch or is more even..., David goes on , explaining in simple graphs the song of several species.
The following chapter is about Understanding Feathers. The authors
sketches enlighten the description of several species. In the Feather Groups of a Passerine pages , David displays a detailed
description of the bird supported by his fine drawings , and labeling of feathers. Davids sketches fill up the next pages
and are explained in meticulous detail.
and Color Patterns , Structure of Tail and Wings and Bare Parts follow, while in chapter thirteen, Molt,
the author explains everything about the process by which birds replace their feathers. More colorful sketches appear in this
section, while moving to the 14th chapter, Feather Wear, the readers get informed about the wear of feathers
and the changes in plumage throughout the year.
follows, with more details on how to determine the age of a bird:
You can see how the progress of molt leaves clues that allow a birder to
determine the age of a hawk. A complete set of juvenal feathers indicates a bird in its first year of life, David says.
In the last chapter, Ethics and Conservation, David Sibley motivates
the readers to support habitat preservation work locally. Your support of local, national, and international conservation
organizations is also important, he says. He also displays some addresses related to conservancy , as well as their URLs.
The book ends with a list of Latin Names for Species Mentioned in the
Text, and a note about the author.
SIBLEYS BIRDING BASICS is a well-organized pocket-guide book, clearly laid-out,
scientifically precise and beautifully illustrated.
It caters for everyone, not just the ones who take up Birding as a hobby.
It is highly educational and children can equally enjoy it and benefit from it , as well as adults.
I wrote and illustrated this book to help every inquisitive birder, from
novice to expert, the author says.
The sketches throughout the book are not only helpful but show the authors
exceptional talent in fine arts , too. It is worth having this book, not only for the interesting information on birds, but
also for keeping it on your bookshelf as an art book.
David Allen Sibley is available for interviews. He is willing to lead you
on a walk, show you his painting technique, or simply whistle. Please contact us if you are interested.
Kathryn Zuckerman Kzuckerman@randomhouse.com
Allison McGeehon firstname.lastname@example.org
By David Allen Sibley:The Sibley Guide to Birds, 2000
The Sibley Guide to Bird Life and Behavior, 2001